Monthly Archives: June 2008

Where Have All the (European) Babies Gone?

This past weekend, the New York Times magazine featured a startling piece called, simply, “No Babies?” by writer Russell Shorto. The very long and engrossing article spans ten pages (in a web sense) and includes the following notable quotations and ideas.

The plummeting global birthrate–

“[A]round the world, even in developing countries, birthrates have plummeted — from 6.0 globally in 1972 to 2.9 today — as populations have shifted from rural areas to cities and people have adopted urban lifestyles, and the drop has perhaps lessened the urgency of the overpopulation cry.”

Some said in the 1980s that the world was vastly and dangerously overpopulated. What the above comment notes, in typical understated highbrow fasion, is that this thesis was wrong on a massive scale. In fact, it would be fascinating to study this thesis to see if it had a discernable effect on the desiccated global birthrate. I would guess that it might have. I would further guess that it was used to enfranchise the selfish lifestyles of (perhaps) millions of people around the world in encouraging them, for the first time in trans-cultural history, to see children as a curse, not a blessing. If this is so, what bitter fruit this ideology has reaped.

The scale of this disastrous trend–

“To many, “lowest low” is hard evidence of imminent disaster of unprecedented proportions. “The ability to plan the decision to have a child is of course a big success for society, and for women in particular,” Letizia Mencarini, a professor of demography at the University of Turin, told me. “But if you would read the documents of demographers 20 years ago, you would see that nobody foresaw that the fertility rate would go so low. In the 1960s, the overall fertility rate in Italy was around two children per couple. Now it is about 1.3, and for some towns in Italy it is less than 1. This is considered pathological.”

Again, in layman’s terms, this translates to “cultural cataclysm.” In other words, Europe is dying before our eyes. We are literally watching the slow, agonizing death of much of the Western world.

The dangers this trend poses–

The spiritual concerns aside, though, the main threats to Europe are economic. Alongside birthrate, the other operative factor in the economic equation is lifespan. People everywhere are living longer than ever, and lifespan is continuing to increase beyond what was once considered a natural limit.

Here the writer, Shorto, shows his worldview undergarments, so to speak. The chief cause and effect here involves economic rather than spiritual concerns. This is a classic move of leftist thought–to briefly acknowledge the spiritual dimension of life and then move hurriedly on to the really important stuff, the financial matters that truly drive life. Well, this is in reality a pretty bad idea, in the end. Why do people make economic decisions? Shorto makes much of the changing workplace in his article, and he attempts to argue that two-income families actually help birthrates to rise in many countries, over against the traditional logic that one-income families produce relatively more children. Why, though, do people choose to make the decisions they do? Do not spiritual concerns factor in heavily on this question? What good does it do Shorto and the rest of us to ignore the philosophical tides of nihilism and epicureanism that swept over Europe in the second half of the twentieth century? He ends up looking a bit silly for his refusal to take spirituality seriously, given the massive cultural shifts in twentieth-century European philosophical and religious thought.

On this quirky matter that two-income homes are actually better for birthrates, Shorto asserts that “even conservatives like Willetts acknowledge that societies that support working couples have higher birthrates than those in which mothers are housewives.” He goes on to conclude rather triumphantly that “The old conservative argument — that a traditional, working-husband-and-stay-at-home-wife family structure produces a healthy, growing population — doesn’t apply, either in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world today.” Hold your horses. It may well be that in certain countries that feature more two-income families, more children are birthed. But this does not answer all questions. For example, women in more egalitarian countries may have more babies than women in other societies merely because they are paid to do so. It may also be true that they have more babies because their husbands invest more in childcare, as Shorto suggests. But this discussion masks a larger point–women in Europe are not having babies, regardless of the structure of the home. There clearly is no major birthrate increase in more egalitarian countries. Furthermore, when the traditional model is itself suffused with selfishness in many quarters, as we can see, women do not want to have children, though they may be at home in the traditional manner.

Beyond this, much of the U. S., which Shorto cites as a “sparkling exception” to this trend, adheres to a decidedly traditional worldview. It’s conservatives, in many cases, not liberals, who are having babies. This would seem to directly contradict one of the central assertions of this article.

The final word on the matter–

“When European women age 18 to 34 were asked in another study to state their ideal number of children, 16.6 percent of those in Germany and 12.6 percent in Austria answered “none.””

This is a frightening situation, indicative of a wider, world-spanning movement that sees children as a curse. Though Shorto strongly concludes that America has fallen under no such spell, one wonders whether his research is accurate. All around us, people want to live for themselves, and not for their families, or on a much broader level, their societies. They want to do what they wish to do, not what is right and good to do as defined by tradition and, I would argue, biblically informed tradition. So many young people want nothing more than to chase their dreams and live narcissistic lives of self-indulgence. Of course, there are some out there who desperately want to have children but cannot for a variety of reasons (illness, singleness, etc.), but these people are more generally the exception, it seems.

Having a child is almost the fundamental good of the family (which is itself nearly the fundamental good of existence!). It is not, in the Bible, a mere option, one of a number of fun things to do if one wants. It is what married people do (when they can). Children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127). Our culture and many others across the world believe the opposite, giving Christians the opportunity to demonstrate that we do not live for ourselves, first and foremost. We do not live to gratify our passing fancies. We live to do something much larger than this, to build something far greater than ourselves, to involve ourselves in the awesome task of physically and spiritually shaping the destiny of a living being we create, and of doing this not only for ourselves, but for our societies, and far, far beyond this, for our God. Having children, in the end, is not a box to check on a laundry list of entertainments; it is an act of worship that enters us into a work almost too great to comprehend and too awesome to carry out.

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The Week-est Link, June 28, 2008

1. Here’s a PDF copy of the 9Marks eJournal I mentioned yesterday. It’s on marriage and pastoral families. A terrific issue, as I said. Thanks, Z, for the note.

2. Did you miss the audio download from the 2008 Band of Bloggers session? If so, here it is. Some of the best commentary from Christians on blogging that I’ve heard.

3. A Nashville church recently hosted a conference on the church and theology. Speakers included D. A. Carson, Tim Challies, and Steve Lawson. The audio material looks tremendous. Download it and see your vision for the church expand before your eyes. So exciting to see churches, not seminaries, do this kind of thing!

4. If you are in the market for faith-building music that just happens to be elegantly played and beauitfully sung, check out Red Mountain Church’s cd “Help My Unbelief.” I recently downloaded it and love it.

–Have a great weekend, all.

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New 9Marks eJournal on Marriage Is Online

The new issue of 9Marks looks very helpful. It covers a variety of topics including marriage, being a pastor’s wife, and books on marriage. I have a brief review of Danny Akin’s book God on Sex in this issue. Here are a few highlighted resources from the latest journal.

There’s much more to peruse and benefit from. Yet another excellent journal by 9Marks.

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New Trends in Education That Really Aren’t New

Everything new is old again. So is the case in certain American schools, which are overturning sacred modern educational ideology by re-instituting special classes for below-average students. In “Holding Back Young Students: Is Program a Gift or a Stigma?“, Winnie Hu briefly reports on this trend and shows how it is igniting a firestorm among educators who have long rejected the traditional idea that students should be, in some cases and in certain subjects, educated according to their intellectual level. Here’s the current scene:

With the increasing emphasis on standardized testing over the past decade, large urban school systems have famously declared an end to so-called social promotion among youngsters lacking basic skills. Last year, New York flunked 6 percent of its first graders, and Chicago 7.7 percent.

Now the 8,400-student East Ramapo school district in this verdant stretch west of the Palisades is going further, having revived a controversial retention practice widely denounced in the 1980s to not only hold back nearly 12 percent of its first graders this spring but to segregate them in a separate classroom come fall.

Predictably, Hu blames this situation on the Left Behind Act, favorite whipping boy of many education professionals:

[W]ith the federal No Child Left Behind law and a battery of state mandates increasing pressure on schools to raise test scores, efforts to end the longtime practice of promoting children based on age rather than achievement have taken on new urgency. Districts in Milford, Del., and Lakeland, Fla., are among a handful nationwide that have been experimenting with transition classes in recent years, though both dropped them in the face of parental resistance and, in Florida, concerns among teachers.

Hu provides a very telling quote that reveals why so many contemporary teachers and educators buck against the more traditional system:

“I had a hard time putting just the low-achieving kids together,” said Betty Fitzgerald, principal of Lakeland’s Churchwell Elementary, which ran a separate class for repeating third graders for two years in response to tougher state standards. “It’s like saying, ‘You all are low kids, and you all didn’t pass.’ ”

Here’s the central problem, then: self-esteem. It’s not so much the bottom line–in this case, what students actually learn–but what students feel that drives the ideology of many contemporary educators and teachers. Now, I’m by no means in a hurry to put students in situations where they feel bad, but my first concern for students is not that they feel good, but that they learn. Funny how our system sometimes loses sight of this aim, which I believe it is intended, funded, and tasked to fulfill.

In the process of education, one often feels bad. I’ve always felt bad when I didn’t do well in school. To this day, I hate getting bad grades. It’s unpleasant, furthermore, to have to work hard on difficult subjects. I’ve currently got a ton of books to read for a PhD class. Is that pleasant in the same way that, say, a basketball game is? No sir. Definitely not. But is the process of reading multiple books on an academic topic hugely helpful to me? Absolutely. Were other self-esteem challenging, character-building educational exercises of similar help to my mind and heart? They certainly were. If difficult educational tasks are navigated with care and support from parents and teachers, great rewards will be reaped by many students (though in today’s massive schools, one can understand how teachers and educators would struggle to provide the help many challenged students need–are many of our public schools, perhaps, far too large for their own good?)

Will today’s students reap similar benefits, or will they suffer from a system that often seems to care more about their feelings than their minds?

You tell me.

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Filed under children, education, new york, new york times, public school, winnie hu

New Trends in Education That Really Aren’t New

Everything new is old again. So is the case in certain American schools, which are overturning sacred modern educational ideology by re-instituting special classes for below-average students. In “Holding Back Young Students: Is Program a Gift or a Stigma?“, Winnie Hu briefly reports on this trend and shows how it is igniting a firestorm among educators who have long rejected the traditional idea that students should be, in some cases and in certain subjects, educated according to their intellectual level. Here’s the current scene:

With the increasing emphasis on standardized testing over the past decade, large urban school systems have famously declared an end to so-called social promotion among youngsters lacking basic skills. Last year, New York flunked 6 percent of its first graders, and Chicago 7.7 percent.

Now the 8,400-student East Ramapo school district in this verdant stretch west of the Palisades is going further, having revived a controversial retention practice widely denounced in the 1980s to not only hold back nearly 12 percent of its first graders this spring but to segregate them in a separate classroom come fall.

Predictably, Hu blames this situation on the Left Behind Act, favorite whipping boy of many education professionals:

[W]ith the federal No Child Left Behind law and a battery of state mandates increasing pressure on schools to raise test scores, efforts to end the longtime practice of promoting children based on age rather than achievement have taken on new urgency. Districts in Milford, Del., and Lakeland, Fla., are among a handful nationwide that have been experimenting with transition classes in recent years, though both dropped them in the face of parental resistance and, in Florida, concerns among teachers.

Hu provides a very telling quote that reveals why so many contemporary teachers and educators buck against the more traditional system:

“I had a hard time putting just the low-achieving kids together,” said Betty Fitzgerald, principal of Lakeland’s Churchwell Elementary, which ran a separate class for repeating third graders for two years in response to tougher state standards. “It’s like saying, ‘You all are low kids, and you all didn’t pass.’ ”

Here’s the central problem, then: self-esteem. It’s not so much the bottom line–in this case, what students actually learn–but what students feel that drives the ideology of many contemporary educators and teachers. Now, I’m by no means in a hurry to put students in situations where they feel bad, but my first concern for students is not that they feel good, but that they learn. Funny how our system sometimes loses sight of this aim, which I believe it is intended, funded, and tasked to fulfill.

In the process of education, one often feels bad. I’ve always felt bad when I didn’t do well in school. To this day, I hate getting bad grades. It’s unpleasant, furthermore, to have to work hard on difficult subjects. I’ve currently got a ton of books to read for a PhD class. Is that pleasant in the same way that, say, a basketball game is? No sir. Definitely not. But is the process of reading multiple books on an academic topic hugely helpful to me? Absolutely. Were other self-esteem challenging, character-building educational exercises of similar help to my mind and heart? They certainly were. If difficult educational tasks are navigated with care and support from parents and teachers, great rewards will be reaped by many students (though in today’s massive schools, one can understand how teachers and educators would struggle to provide the help many challenged students need–are many of our public schools, perhaps, far too large for their own good?)

Will today’s students reap similar benefits, or will they suffer from a system that often seems to care more about their feelings than their minds?

You tell me.

Leave a comment

Filed under children, education, new york, new york times, public school, winnie hu

New Trends in Education That Really Aren’t New

Everything new is old again. So is the case in certain American schools, which are overturning sacred modern educational ideology by re-instituting special classes for below-average students. In “Holding Back Young Students: Is Program a Gift or a Stigma?“, Winnie Hu briefly reports on this trend and shows how it is igniting a firestorm among educators who have long rejected the traditional idea that students should be, in some cases and in certain subjects, educated according to their intellectual level. Here’s the current scene:

With the increasing emphasis on standardized testing over the past decade, large urban school systems have famously declared an end to so-called social promotion among youngsters lacking basic skills. Last year, New York flunked 6 percent of its first graders, and Chicago 7.7 percent.

Now the 8,400-student East Ramapo school district in this verdant stretch west of the Palisades is going further, having revived a controversial retention practice widely denounced in the 1980s to not only hold back nearly 12 percent of its first graders this spring but to segregate them in a separate classroom come fall.

Predictably, Hu blames this situation on the Left Behind Act, favorite whipping boy of many education professionals:

[W]ith the federal No Child Left Behind law and a battery of state mandates increasing pressure on schools to raise test scores, efforts to end the longtime practice of promoting children based on age rather than achievement have taken on new urgency. Districts in Milford, Del., and Lakeland, Fla., are among a handful nationwide that have been experimenting with transition classes in recent years, though both dropped them in the face of parental resistance and, in Florida, concerns among teachers.

Hu provides a very telling quote that reveals why so many contemporary teachers and educators buck against the more traditional system:

“I had a hard time putting just the low-achieving kids together,” said Betty Fitzgerald, principal of Lakeland’s Churchwell Elementary, which ran a separate class for repeating third graders for two years in response to tougher state standards. “It’s like saying, ‘You all are low kids, and you all didn’t pass.’ ”

Here’s the central problem, then: self-esteem. It’s not so much the bottom line–in this case, what students actually learn–but what students feel that drives the ideology of many contemporary educators and teachers. Now, I’m by no means in a hurry to put students in situations where they feel bad, but my first concern for students is not that they feel good, but that they learn. Funny how our system sometimes loses sight of this aim, which I believe it is intended, funded, and tasked to fulfill.

In the process of education, one often feels bad. I’ve always felt bad when I didn’t do well in school. To this day, I hate getting bad grades. It’s unpleasant, furthermore, to have to work hard on difficult subjects. I’ve currently got a ton of books to read for a PhD class. Is that pleasant in the same way that, say, a basketball game is? No sir. Definitely not. But is the process of reading multiple books on an academic topic hugely helpful to me? Absolutely. Were other self-esteem challenging, character-building educational exercises of similar help to my mind and heart? They certainly were. If difficult educational tasks are navigated with care and support from parents and teachers, great rewards will be reaped by many students (though in today’s massive schools, one can understand how teachers and educators would struggle to provide the help many challenged students need–are many of our public schools, perhaps, far too large for their own good?)

Will today’s students reap similar benefits, or will they suffer from a system that often seems to care more about their feelings than their minds?

You tell me.

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A Feminist’s Daughter Curses the Movement

The daughter of feminist poet and writer Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, penned a revealing piece in London’s Daily Mail today (HT: Challies). The following quotations from the piece shed much light on the practical effects of feminist ideology. They are, in sum, quite tragic. Walker is not a Christian, and she lives with her child’s father, but “How My Mother’s Fanatical Views Tore Us Apart” is nonetheless worth reading.

How Walker’s mother saw her–

I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill and the Brontes died prematurely. My mother had me – a ‘delightful distraction’, but a calamity nevertheless. I found that a huge shock and very upsetting.

How sex was tied to empowerment in feminist ideology (and still is today)–

But the truth was I was very lonely and, with my mother’s knowledge, started having sex at 13. I guess it was a relief for my mother as it meant I was less demanding. And she felt that being sexually active was empowering for me because it meant I was in control of my body.

Although I was on the Pill – something I had arranged at 13, visiting the doctor with my best friend – I fell pregnant at 14. I organised an abortion myself. Now I shudder at the memory. I was only a little girl. I don’t remember my mother being shocked or upset. She tried to be supportive, accompanying me with her boyfriend.

Although I believe that an abortion was the right decision for me then, the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I’d never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

How Alice Walker mothered her child (or didn’t)–

My mother was the polar opposite. She never came to a single school event, she didn’t buy me any clothes, she didn’t even help me buy my first bra – a friend was paid to go shopping with me. If I needed help with homework I asked my boyfriend’s mother.

Rebecca Walker’s assessment of the leaders of the feminist movement–

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women’s movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them – as I have learned to my cost. I don’t want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

I hope that my mother and I will be reconciled one day. Tenzin deserves to have a grandmother. But I am just so relieved that my viewpoint is no longer so utterly coloured by my mother’s.

I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters – a happy family.

Courtney Tarter, a student at Southern Seminary, reflects eloquently on the piece at GenderBlog: “When women completely deny their God-given right and ability to bear children we are seeing a complete giving over to the desires of the flesh (Romans 1). To see children as a burden to be thrown off is a reversal of the created order and a sinful repression of the desire that probably once burned bright. It should make us weep for them.” Amen to that.

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Filed under alice walker, biblical womanhood, daily mail, feminism, motherhood, rebecca walker

A Feminist’s Daughter Curses the Movement

The daughter of feminist poet and writer Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, penned a revealing piece in London’s Daily Mail today (HT: Challies). The following quotations from the piece shed much light on the practical effects of feminist ideology. They are, in sum, quite tragic. Walker is not a Christian, and she lives with her child’s father, but “How My Mother’s Fanatical Views Tore Us Apart” is nonetheless worth reading.

How Walker’s mother saw her–

I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill and the Brontes died prematurely. My mother had me – a ‘delightful distraction’, but a calamity nevertheless. I found that a huge shock and very upsetting.

How sex was tied to empowerment in feminist ideology (and still is today)–

But the truth was I was very lonely and, with my mother’s knowledge, started having sex at 13. I guess it was a relief for my mother as it meant I was less demanding. And she felt that being sexually active was empowering for me because it meant I was in control of my body.

Although I was on the Pill – something I had arranged at 13, visiting the doctor with my best friend – I fell pregnant at 14. I organised an abortion myself. Now I shudder at the memory. I was only a little girl. I don’t remember my mother being shocked or upset. She tried to be supportive, accompanying me with her boyfriend.

Although I believe that an abortion was the right decision for me then, the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I’d never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

How Alice Walker mothered her child (or didn’t)–

My mother was the polar opposite. She never came to a single school event, she didn’t buy me any clothes, she didn’t even help me buy my first bra – a friend was paid to go shopping with me. If I needed help with homework I asked my boyfriend’s mother.

Rebecca Walker’s assessment of the leaders of the feminist movement–

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women’s movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them – as I have learned to my cost. I don’t want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

I hope that my mother and I will be reconciled one day. Tenzin deserves to have a grandmother. But I am just so relieved that my viewpoint is no longer so utterly coloured by my mother’s.

I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters – a happy family.

Courtney Tarter, a student at Southern Seminary, reflects eloquently on the piece at GenderBlog: “When women completely deny their God-given right and ability to bear children we are seeing a complete giving over to the desires of the flesh (Romans 1). To see children as a burden to be thrown off is a reversal of the created order and a sinful repression of the desire that probably once burned bright. It should make us weep for them.” Amen to that.

Leave a comment

Filed under alice walker, biblical womanhood, daily mail, feminism, motherhood, rebecca walker

A Feminist’s Daughter Curses the Movement

The daughter of feminist poet and writer Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, penned a revealing piece in London’s Daily Mail today (HT: Challies). The following quotations from the piece shed much light on the practical effects of feminist ideology. They are, in sum, quite tragic. Walker is not a Christian, and she lives with her child’s father, but “How My Mother’s Fanatical Views Tore Us Apart” is nonetheless worth reading.

How Walker’s mother saw her–

I was 16 when I found a now-famous poem she wrote comparing me to various calamities that struck and impeded the lives of other women writers. Virginia Woolf was mentally ill and the Brontes died prematurely. My mother had me – a ‘delightful distraction’, but a calamity nevertheless. I found that a huge shock and very upsetting.

How sex was tied to empowerment in feminist ideology (and still is today)–

But the truth was I was very lonely and, with my mother’s knowledge, started having sex at 13. I guess it was a relief for my mother as it meant I was less demanding. And she felt that being sexually active was empowering for me because it meant I was in control of my body.

Although I was on the Pill – something I had arranged at 13, visiting the doctor with my best friend – I fell pregnant at 14. I organised an abortion myself. Now I shudder at the memory. I was only a little girl. I don’t remember my mother being shocked or upset. She tried to be supportive, accompanying me with her boyfriend.

Although I believe that an abortion was the right decision for me then, the aftermath haunted me for decades. It ate away at my self-confidence and, until I had Tenzin, I was terrified that I’d never be able to have a baby because of what I had done to the child I had destroyed. For feminists to say that abortion carries no consequences is simply wrong.

How Alice Walker mothered her child (or didn’t)–

My mother was the polar opposite. She never came to a single school event, she didn’t buy me any clothes, she didn’t even help me buy my first bra – a friend was paid to go shopping with me. If I needed help with homework I asked my boyfriend’s mother.

Rebecca Walker’s assessment of the leaders of the feminist movement–

Feminism has betrayed an entire generation of women into childlessness. It is devastating.

But far from taking responsibility for any of this, the leaders of the women’s movement close ranks against anyone who dares to question them – as I have learned to my cost. I don’t want to hurt my mother, but I cannot stay silent. I believe feminism is an experiment, and all experiments need to be assessed on their results. Then, when you see huge mistakes have been paid, you need to make alterations.

I hope that my mother and I will be reconciled one day. Tenzin deserves to have a grandmother. But I am just so relieved that my viewpoint is no longer so utterly coloured by my mother’s.

I am my own woman and I have discovered what really matters – a happy family.

Courtney Tarter, a student at Southern Seminary, reflects eloquently on the piece at GenderBlog: “When women completely deny their God-given right and ability to bear children we are seeing a complete giving over to the desires of the flesh (Romans 1). To see children as a burden to be thrown off is a reversal of the created order and a sinful repression of the desire that probably once burned bright. It should make us weep for them.” Amen to that.

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Comments on God Delighting in Small (New England) Churches

From Paul Buckley in Methuen, MA (check out his excellent, Christ-exalting blog)–

“I pastor a Sovereign Grace Ministries Church in New England, King of Grace Church. Thanks for your encouraging post! Pastoring in New England has been a wonderful adventure of learning to glory in Christ and the precious folks he does give us and not in our relative church size. It is one thing to say I am pastoring for God’s glory, it is another to be tested with small success yet still labor. There are many here as Josh said who have labored faithfully for years (far beyond mine). They are my heroes.

I trust their faithful prayers and labors will indeed be answered in time with new converts, new church plants and a region full of disciples who will surpass them in zeal, knowledge and faithfulness. We intend to labor for Christ and His glory regardless of outcome yet we continue to ask for a greater harvest.”

From Mike Freeman in Ohio (formerly of Maine)–

“Having grown up in a Maine small church, I agree with Owen. Additionally, I have labored as a lay youth leader for the past six years at at a church in southwest Ohio. I can say with certainty that the folks in Maine, by and large, “get it.” In Ohio, the bible belt, many people go to church because that’s what you are supposed to do- even fundamental evangelical churches. In Maine, most people don’t go to church; the ones that do come actually seem to want to be there.”

Are there other pastors out there who want to comment on the original blog I wrote? I would love more testimony on what it is like to pastor a small church and how you handle it.

To my knowledge, this subject is not often talked about. Small churches are something of the elephant in the room in many evangelical circles. We all know they’re there (in large numbers), but as our environment is suffused with notions of success and grandiosity, we don’t want to talk about them much or really even acknowledge they’re around. We’d much rather talk about the “success stories” than the churches who are, in their quest for faithfulness, achieving a certain numerical mediocrity.

This (extended) blog is no attempt to demonize large churches. Far, far from it. I give thanks to God for large churches that are faithful to the gospel. God often uses them in special ways. God blesses many, many people through them. For Bethlehem and Covenant Life and other churches of similar size and gospel focus, I am thankful to God. But we must not think that these churches alone are faithful and glorifying to God. If our definition of God’s glory is measured along metric lines, we are surely off. If faithfulness must in some way equal numerical prosperity, we are certainly wrong. The very message of the Bible is that God takes pleasure in the few. God, unlike men, does not need recognizable size and prosperity–in terms of His followers–to be delighted. The message of the Bible is that God loves His people. He loves the few. He loves the remnant. He delights in the faithful, self-sacrificial lives of His people. It is not massive size that He searches the earth for. He searches it for faithfulness.

The Bible is rife with stories that support this basic idea. Try it out–test this theme out. Read through your Bible, and see how often God delights in a people who are small in number but great in devotion. See how little emphasis there is on the mere size of things. Tiny Israel, puny David, Gideon’s 300, the faithful remnant, the mustard seed, the scattered disciples, the overmatched apostles, the slain martyrs–this is just a tiny selection of biblical matters that show with clarity the joy God takes in the few. In so many of these things, in fact, it is God’s explicit design for His numbers to be small.

When a church is small, then, we must not rush to feel bad for it, or wonder what has gone wrong, or contrive many ways to fix it. Perhaps change is needed. But it may well be that God is delighting in the small size of the congregation, taking joy in their gathered worship, smiling as they evangelize and celebrate His supper and struggle to fill an oversized room. Knowing God’s character from the Bible, wouldn’t it be just like Him to do so?

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