Little Theologians in Worship

In titling both my blog and my first book Housewife Theologian, I am constantly trying to get the message out that everyone is a theologian. That is, we all have a knowledge of God, even the layperson. Atheists also have a knowledge of God, it’s just wrong. We are all theologians in a sense. The question is whether we are good theologians, who learn about God through his revealed Word in Scripture, or bad ones, who form our opinions from our own thoughts. Jesus prayed for us to be good theologians. We have his beautiful prayer for the unity of believers recorded in John 17. In verse 3 we read, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Knowing God is an eternal matter! And so we should all take our responsibility to know him seriously. Knowing God isn’t just a pursuit for the academics. One thing that I have appreciated is the support that I have received from pastors and professors. Rather than snub their noses at a mere housewife theologian, they have encouraged me as a someone who takes learning about God seriously. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen? The seminary’s teachings and pastoral teaching should trickle down to ordinary households, to everyday people living according to what we believe. Our theology shapes our behavior. Hyde_Final-e1409075047686But when I say everybody is a theologian, I mean everybody---children included. That’s why I was happy to endorse Daniel Hyde’s new book, The Nursery of the Holy Spirit: Welcoming Children in Worship. Like I said, we live according to what we believe. Well, do we believe that children are part of Christ’s body? Are they included in the call to worship? And what do we believe about the worship service? Is it merely a special time for adults and children to be educated according to their learning abilities, or is there a liturgy by which we are all summoned to worship? This is a small book with only three chapters and a conclusion. Parents, pastors, elders, and congregants without children should all take the time to read it. The first chapter contrasts children’s church with children in the church. Hyde gives some history of worship in the early church, as well as the more recent ideologies that led to separating children from the worship service. He then turns to both Scripture and the Westminster Confession to discuss the covenant of grace and the visible church. Hyde concludes, “The children of believers, therefore, are children of the church and belong in the Holy Spirit’s most child-friendly nursery---public worship” (15). The second chapter is chock full of examples of “Children in Worship in Scripture.” This is a great section, highlighting the continuity from the Old Testament to the New. Here the reader will gain a better understanding of “children friendly,” and the clear teaching from Jesus that little children belong to his kingdom and should be welcomed. It also becomes clear that children were sitting under the preached Word by the fact that children are addressed in the epistles. And the third chapter gets practical. Let’s face it, it’s easier for parents to wave goodbye, “kiss, kiss!”, and have some uninterrupted peace while they are trying to listen to the sermon. Even now that my kids are old enough to be quiet, I still have to worry about getting them to actually pay attention. And I see those paper airplanes my son makes out of the bulletin. And for those who do not have children, it is a much more pleasant atmosphere when there isn’t a 3-year-old turned around in the pew trying to win a staring contest with you. I get it. So does the author. So he ends with helpful teaching and exhortation for “Parenting in the Pew.” How’s this for an appeal:

Parents, if I may be direct and to the point: I hope you realize that the most important thing you can ever train your child to do is to worship the Triune God of grace. (36)

It is our responsibility. And privilege. And like most other things that are important in life, it can be pretty hard sometimes. It’s embarrassing when our kids act up, and we don’t want to be disruptive to the other congregants. In discussing the difficulties, and recognizing the exhaustion, Hyde makes to great points: “When you remember the nature of public worship is not merely what we do and what we get out of it, but instead and foremost God’s service to us, then all the difficulties are put into their heavenly and eternal perspective.” After explaining how the Lord serves us in his prescribed sacraments and our proper response, he challenges again: “Let me put it before you in a very pointed question: Do you believe your children interfere with God’s purposes on his day to serve us?” (39). But Hyde doesn’t leave us there, the rest of the chapter is filled with edifying and helpful advice on the task of parenting in the pew. This involves more than the evil eye I have mastered, but also helping our kids to prepare, participate, engage, and comprehend. The book is only 60 pages. I think we owe it to our little theologians to take them seriously. Make sure your church has this book, it will be a blessing.   **As a side note, I love Daniel Hyde’s dedications. To the children he dedicates this book to he says, “May your childhood be filled with the joyful noises of Jesus.”