Nathan Schneider


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Family Ministry and God’s Mission

Genesis 12 marks a significant shift in the biblical narrative, from the beginning of our world (and its brokenness) to the calling of a man God promised to make a “blessing to the nations.” The man called of God was Abraham and the promise was through his descendants. The Lord, through an angelic encounter with Abraham makes the specifics of the plan clear:

The Lord said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” Genesis 18:17-19

As the church moves to a model of ministry more aligned to equip families, it must not lose sight of the ultimate goal. Although protecting our children and teaching them solid, moral values are noble tasks, they cannot be the ultimate motivation for our resurgence of intentional family ministry. The goal of partnering with parents has to be aligned with God’s design for families and discipleship: the advancement of the gospel to the nations.

It’s not that our intentions are misguided; they are too small in light of the God who thinks about and cares deeply for all people in every nation. Churches and leaders must think about encouraging parents toward a role grander than could be imagined by parents outside of God’s mission, which is attested to throughout the biblical narrative.

How can churches intentionally move parents to think more strategically about the way they raise their children to be missionaries?

  1. Teach the Missio Dei. Christopher Wright, in his book The Mission of God, argues that a central theme of Scripture is God’s mission.[1] From the original blessing to mankind to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28) to the command to “Go and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19) to the promised, multicultural experience of worshippers of every nation and people group in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10), God is a God who thinks and operates globally. Our parents need to be inspired by this vision.
  1. Give Families Opportunities to Serve and Go Together. Operating as silos within the church will not result in shared experiences in the home. Children who participate with their parents will see that mission matters for their parents. Recently, a mom and her 13-year-old daughter went on mission together to South Africa. Upon returning, they were already making plans to return the next year. As they began check in at the airport the mom was restricted from traveling because her passport would expire too soon after returning from traveling. Having already made the trip together once, the mom (along with her husband) signed papers to release their daughter for travel. Now, at 14, she has caught a glimpse of God’s glory among the nations, first seen in her mom traveling and now, seen in her parents’ willingness to risk safety and comfort for the advancement of the gospel.

Family ministry models do not go far enough. Churches and ministries must think globally in their attempt to encourage parents towards greater faithfulness in raising their children.

[1] Wright says, “Mission is what the Bible is all about; we could as meaningfully talk of the missional basis of the Bible as of the biblical basis of mission.” Wright, Christopher J. H., The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 29.

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Sex, Dating, and Relationships

In Sex, Dating, and Relationships Gerald Hiestand and Jay Thomas point out that our marriage relationships were created to be illustrations of the greatest marriage relationship, between Christ and His church (e.g. Isa. 62:5; Matt. 25:1-13; Eph. 5:22-33). With this in mind, the authors write:

The need for romantic responsibility relates back to the image of Christ and the church. To romantically woo a woman, or to give your heart away to a man, prior to a marriage commitment is to paint and unclear portrait of Christ and the church. From the beginning of time, Christ has reserved his deepest affections and desires for the church, even before he met her. And from the earliest days of creation, the saints have waited with monogamous longing for the coming of the Promised One. This image must be expressed with our own wait for marriage. Christ was faithful in body and heart to a bride whom he had not yet met. He reserved his deepest affection for the one whom God had given him, and, likewise, we are called to the same faithfulness.

The implications of the Bible using marriage as a metaphor for our relationship with Jesus are huge. Marriage being created to point us and others to Jesus means that sexual intimacy has to be reserved for marriage (Christ reserves Himself for the church) and faithfulness in marriage is the standard (Christ is faithful to keep His covenant). Hiestand and Thomas also point our the implications for dating relationships, a term they argue against (they prefer the term “dating friendships”).

The standards set forth in this book, which are based off of the marriage metaphor, seem difficult to adhere to. The truth is: in our own strength these standards are too difficult. That’s the beauty of the gospel!

The ability to live a God-pleasing life, indeed, to inherit eternal life, does not stem from our dedication to God or vows of our wills; rather, it flows to us from the power of the divine life granted to us through our supernatural union with Christ. The very life of God through Christ via the Holy Spirit has taken up residence inside us.


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Reflections from The Vow

I’m not a big fan of chick flicks and not for the typical guy reasons. I don’t mind a love story, but Hollywood’s version of love is usually defined by emotion and not commitment. It’s usually about following your heart to find the one you love, which is often at the expense of wisdom and devotion. This is why I’m writing that I was pleasantly surprised by The Vow, which stars Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) and Channing Tatum (Dear John).

The Vow chronicles the life of a couple that has been affected by great tragedy. Leo (Tatum) and Paige (McAdams) are in a car accident that leaves Paige in a coma and upon recovering, without much of her short-term memory. She has no recollection of marrying Leo, dating him, or even meeting him. Family situations complicate the matter as Leo strives to pursue his bride. In addition, Paige’s last memories include her engagement to a different man. This obviously adds to the drama.

Toward the beginning of the movie, Leo makes this vow to Paige on their wedding day, I vow to fiercely love you in all your forms, now and forever. I promise to never forget that this is a once in a lifetime love.” “All your forms” can probably be considered an adaptation of “for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” No matter how it was said, though, Leo made a commitment to love his wife no matter the situation in life (something often promised, but rarely kept). The rest of the movie, then, follows Leo and Paige as Leo seeks to win back his wife. The Vow pulls you in different directions, but leaves you ultimately rooting for Leo and Paige, which is probably the best part.

Not everything in the movie was something to cheer about, but I think most people can appreciate the level of commitment portrayed. Unfortunately, though, the movie does not chronicle the real life story quite as accurately as I would have liked. The couple that inspired The Vow, Kim and Krickitt Carpenter, were believers and remained faithful to their marriage because of their commitment to Christ (there is no mention of religion whatsoever). However, like Leo and Paige, Kim and Krickitt worked hard at their marriage (the Carpenters had to work at rebuilding their marriage for three years before they finally renewed their vows). Krickitt has never regained her memory of being with Kim before the accident, but the couple has found a renewed passion for one another. They currently live in New Mexico with their two children.

You can read about the Carpenters story here. There is also a book that chronicles their journey.


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Reflections on Being Home: Spiritual Markers

On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Joshua 4:19-24

My wife, Michelle, and I traveled to Pennsylvania this past weekend to see my family. While we were there I began to notice all of the reminders of God’s activity in my family, sometimes referred to as “spiritual markers.” These markers were everywhere, but there was one particular thing that stood out to me – the tree our family planted almost two decades ago.

We planted this tree because of God’s grace in sparing my dad’s life. He was in a horrible car accident when I was in the first grade. It happened on his way to work one morning when a driver veered into his lane and hit him head on. The accident nearly killed him, put him in a coma for many days and has caused him many physical difficulties. Yet, in spite of all of this, I have never heard my dad complain about the accident (or the physical pain he continues to endure). Instead, even when pressed by my brothers and I, he would only offer forgiveness and give credit to God for allowing him to live.

In an effort to bring God glory through the experience, my parents decided to plant a tree in our front yard. My brothers and I were told that the tree was to be a reminder of God’s grace. I have not forgotten the meaning behind the tree. Amazingly, it has stood the test of severe weather that has wiped out other trees in our yard. Now, every time I travel back to see my parents, I see the tree and I am instantly hit with a deep appreciation for the love and mercy of God.

God knows the impact a special reminder can have. This is probably why He commanded Joshua and the Israelites to set up memorial stones after crossing the Jordan River. These stones were to be a reminder, not just for those who had seen God’s work first-hand, but also for the generations to come. In fact, God instructed them that they were to be ready to answer questions from future generations. We actually find this pattern throughout the Scriptures. God’s people are setting up “markers” that remind them of God’s activity in their lives.

Christian parents have the responsibility of passing on the faith to their children. This is done most effectively in the day-to-day, life-on-life discipleship process that takes place in the home. There is also a place for parents to set up “spiritual markers” for their children; a place where a personal experience with God is marked by something clearly visible for all to see. This could mean so many different things, such as a Scripture verse that is significant to the family, a photo from around the time you or someone else in the family came to Jesus, a note that you write to your child, or anything else that reminds the family that God is active. The idea is to put something before the eyes of each family member that always reminds them of God’s faithfulness.

This blog post was originally posted on CalvaryKids.


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I Love My Wife!

I love my wife!

It seems that everyday I’m reminded of how much she means to me.  I’d like to think there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make her feel special.  I hope I never forget our wedding day and how I felt watching her walk down the aisle toward me.  This was one of the most exciting moments of my life.  My bride, the one who I had pursued for years, was finally about to enter into covenant with me.  We were about to join together for a life-long relationship, which I now know, is the greatest thing.

What is most amazing about the wedding picture is that God has chosen it to illustrate His love for His people.  The prophet Isaiah prophesied “as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.”  What a great picture of God’s love!  He is at the alter waiting for each of us to make the decision to enter into an everlasting relationship with Him.  Although no man or woman can be the perfect spouse, God is good and promises to be our perfect loving Lord.  When we enter into a relationship with Him, we can be sure that He will never let us down.

This is the video Michelle and I made and played during our wedding to illustrate this picture:


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Praise for My Parents, an Encouragement to Others

With a thankful spirit this holiday season, I’m going to acknowledge two people who had the biggest impact on me, my mom and dad. I want to give a word of praise to two parents who did their best, and for the most part, raised a decent human being. Now, my parents aren’t perfect, but no one’s are.  However, I’ve come to realize, more and more, how much my upbringing has prepared me to be the person I am today.

Unfortunately, many children don’t have a model home, because of such things as divorce and incarceration, among other factors. Sadly, though, many kids with both a mom and dad at the home are also struggling. There is a lot be said about proper parenting. Solomon, the wisest man to ever live, said this in the book of Proverbs (22:6) says:

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

Let’s be careful not to place all blame on the parents. Because this is a proverb, and it deals with general truths, there are exceptions to the wisdom suggested. Sometimes, youth rebel despite of the great efforts of their parents. However, most often, this proverb proves itself to be true. People grow up to be a result of their upbringing. Think of the implications, if you haven’t already reached the conclusion on your own, that one’s method of parenting matters.

I really believe my parents did a great job in raising both my brothers and me.  I hope that if you are a parent and still have children in the house, or even if their grown up, that you will see what mattered most for me and really, what matters most for the majority of teenagers – having great parents. Don’t believe me? These are comments from young people who watched an episode of World’s Strictest Parents (where the parents set rules!):

“I’d actually love to be in that family.”

“In retrospect, I wish I had parents like these.”

“I wish I had the opportunity to experience their lifestyle… their three kids are lucky to have someone who loves them unconditionally.”

“I am an atheist and I have to say, that makes no difference on how I view this. The family values and trust instilled by the parents here are just great. I admire the father for his commitment to his children. It is so refreshing to see such love and trust/responsibility given to kids in an age where all of that seems to have gone away and the kids are in charge.”

This generation of young people seeks parental influence. They desire for their parents to be involved in their lives. There must be a proper balance between being a friend to your children and being an authority figure. Here are some things I admire most about the way my parents parented:

My parents let me know, verbally, that they loved me and had taken great interest in me. I have had more than one friend who has told me, “I don’t ever remember my dad telling me ‘I love you.’” Notice, it’s usually the dad that has a hard time expressing this. My parents did more than just say “I love you.” They told me they cared for me, asked questions that showed interest, and they bragged about me behind my back (I’m far from perfect, so this last one was a big deal). The truth is: words do make a huge difference. I had a professor at college use the phrase “words create worlds.” Well, my parents showed me they loved me by the world created by their words.

My parents made my interests a priority in their own schedules. As most boys, I loved sports. On the hierarchy of important things to me as a teenager, sports were at the top. By the way, as I write this, I am really trying hard to think of a time my parents were not at one of my sport’s event, and I cannot think of one. Had they missed one it wouldn’t be the end of the world, but I bet that if they had missed one, they would have at least took the time to ask me about the game or event. This was no small task as I participated in baseball, basketball, football, and track and field. If your children play video games, play video games. If they love learning, find a way to learn their favorite subjects and interact with them. Most importantly, TALK TO THEM, and I guess more importantly, LISTEN. Take advantage of time at the dinner table (eating dinner as a family was a big deal to me) or time before they go to bed. The more you have conversation with them, the easier it will be to do everything else.

My parents communicated to me a healthy model of both manhood and womanhood. There are many things I learned from my parents about being an adult (i.e. my dad was big on hard work). The important thing, however, is how I learned these things. I learned by watching. My parents modeled characteristics of healthy adulthood by living it themselves. Scott Moreau says, “It is impossible for any person to stop communicating. From a sigh to a wink, from a laugh to a yawn, every word, every gesture, and every action of yours can be seen to have meaning by another person, whether you intend it or not.” Remember, as Doug Fields says, “children are like ‘sponges’ and they will soak up EVERYTHING you say and do” (This is why I can say my parents aren’t perfect =)).

My parents invested in my spiritual life by instituting an atmosphere of spiritual growth. This, the most important thing, I appreciate most. Neither of my parents have a background in theological education, but they both understood their role as spiritual leaders. Check out Deuteronomy 6:4-9:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

In other words, parents, constantly be modeling and teaching the things of God. This is not an either/or, but an issue of both teaching them the right things and actually living out those things. It wouldn’t be a help to tell your kids how important it is to follow Christ and then abandon that walk yourself. Remember, they’re like “sponges.” Teenagers today are looking for something worth following. Are you modeling a faith that shows genuine passion for God, the church, and for others? I will always remember the spiritual disciples my parents taught my brothers and me. We attended church on a weekly basis, had family devotionals nightly, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus every Christmas evening. Simple, yet these memories will always be a reminder of the spiritual influence of my parents.

Now, I’m married and my wife has also been blessed with great parents. I appreciate the influence of both sets of parents. This holiday season should be great!

To conclude this thought, my parents were not perfect, but that’s the beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He loved us while we were rebellious and gave up His life so that one day we could be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to Him, our Creator. Through a relationship with Christ, we can live out His grace in all areas of our lives, including parenting.

I love you mom and dad!

-Nathan


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Engagement!

Feeling the pressure, I’ve decided to write my first blog.

This last month has been very exciting for me as I’ve been planning to propose to my girlfriend, Michelle.  All my planning came to a close this past weekend when I asked Michelle the question, “Will you spend the rest of your life with me?”  After being shocked initially, Michelle declared “Yes!” and jumped into my arms.  This is a moment I wish to cherish for a very long time.

Engagement!

What a joy it has been these last couple of days to sit with Michelle and discuss plans for our wedding.  I can’t even imagine my feelings on the wedding day when I watch her walk toward me, knowing that we are about to connect for a lifetime adventure.  It’s so amazing to think that this is the image God wants us to keep of our relationship with Him.  He is anxiously waiting for His church to join Him in everlasting joy.  Oh, what an awesome God we serve!  One who cherishes each and every one of us as though we were His chosen bride!

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” -Isaiah 62:5