Hebrew worship was family integrated. In the Bible we see families worshiping God together. They listened together as the Word of God was read and explained. The children heard the adults discussing and debating the meaning and application of texts. They sang together. They attended the feasts together. The younger walked with the elder and the young grew wiser. I believe this practice needs to be restored to the churches in the United States. We have tried age segregation for over a century now. The results have been less than satisfactory.
If you read from the Operation Save America reading schedule for 2017 this scripture was included in your reading.
Lu 2:41-52 "Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. 51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.(KJV)
Looking back on the traditional Sunday school classes I attended as a child, I see that they set low expectations for me. I learned a lot more by sitting and talking with my elders. I would hear their stories and ask them questions. This is what Jesus did when he was twelve years old in the temple. He dialogued with the elders and they were astounded at his level of understanding. These were not just elderly gentlemen hanging out in the temple. These were the "Doctors," the theologians of the day. They were astonished at his answers. At the age of twelve he had great wisdom.
Don't just dismiss this as an attribute of the deity of Christ. Don't say, "Well, sure. That was Jesus. He is God in flesh. That is why he knew so much." Verse fifty-two is clear that, "Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man." I believe this points to his perfect humanity. One result of Jesus being sinless was that he learned and matured very quickly. Sin stunts growth. Instead of being proud and obstinate, he soaked in the wisdom that was around him. By the age of twelve he had acquired a high level of intellect and wisdom. Do you think Jesus would have had this level of wisdom if he had spent the majority of his time with children his own age? I seriously doubt it. Children have very little wisdom to teach. Jesus heart was to walk with the wise. The foolishness of youth did not appeal to him. This leads us to a biblical principle found in Proverbs 13:20, "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
When Children spend time with adults they grow in wisdom. What they understand delights them. What they don't understand fuels their hunger for understanding. Infants learn their mother tongue within two years without previous linguistic training. Children are like sponges soaking up information in the context of their environment. Speak to them in mature language with good grammar and they will be articulate. Have them spend the majority of their time with small children and their growth will be retarded. The same is true in other facets of their intellect and spiritual maturity.
Hebrew culture did not have the modern concept of adolescence. They were not rearing children to be children. They were rearing children to be adults. Boys worked with men and studied with men and learned how to be men. Girls were learning to be women. As soon as a child was old enough they became a contributor. The youth felt the social expectation to be be mature. Being accepted as a man was more important than being accepted by peers. They did not spend inordinate amounts of time with children their age. They had their time of play. But they spent most of their time with adults.
Time spent in the synagogue was no exception. Worship in the synegogue did not divide up the family by age. The family listened to the reading of the Torah and heard the text expounded and applied. (See Nehemiah 8:1-8) This elevated the mind and created a culture of respect and honor for elders. In Hebrew culture, no generation gap existed.
We live in a culture that attacks the Christian faith at every point. Intellectually and spiritually our faith is under attack. Our children need spiritual food. They need to know more than Bible stories. They need to know God. They need to have a biblical worldview. They need to know theology so that they can think about God accurately. They need to hear the Word expounded and applied to every area of life. Children's church just isn't cutting it.
At Church of the Word our families worship God together. We do not divide up the family. We have observed that children understand much more than adults give them credit for. Children need the meat and potatoes of Gods word so that they can grow in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. As we look at the culture around us we believe that we see bad fruit from the modern modifications to biblical discipleship. Huge numbers of young people are leaving the faith. Some statistics say as high as eighty-seven percent. Young people need to be equipped to overcome the world and challenged to do so by the churches they attend. The songs that are selected are songs that have substance. We pray together as a church. The word of God is read, explained and applied every week. This is why we expect our children to understand the gospel. We expect Adults to know God. We expect young people to overcome the world.
1 John 2:12-14 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. 13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. 14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.