Last year I wrote a series of posts called Raising Gifted Children in the Christian Faith (first post here and all posts here). If you haven’t read that series, I encourage you to read it first because this post about discipling children will make much more sense in that context.
In this post, I’m talking about the Christian faith outside the box. I recognize that this post is going to make some Christians reading it uncomfortable. I understand that. But I also believe this post is going to be incredibly freeing for some Christian parents, especially some of those with gifted or 2e children. Also please know that this post wasn’t written on a whim or off the cuff. It’s the results of years of wrestling with these issues.
Full of Faith But No Church
My faith in Christ is central to my life, brings joy and meaning to my life, and drives the choices I make. God has done amazing things in my life. I find the Bible an incredible book full of riches for those who are willing to come to it in faith and do the work of studying and mining out those truths. But as I wrote in my previous series, we have struggled as a family to find a way to make church work for us. And by church I mean showing up at a building on Sunday. Even if we are not in a church building each week, I am confident in our place in the body of Christ, the Church. (There are other issues that have impacted our struggle to attend such as my health issues.) But really since Caroline’s birth, church attendance has not worked for us except in a few scattered periods.
The lack of church attendance in our lives has been troubling for me on a number of levels. It troubles me because we don’t have a community of believers to participate with on a regular basis. It troubles me as a parent wanting to raise my child in Christian community. In fact, I would say that the “need” to raise Caroline “in a church” has been the last big issue I’ve dealt with on this journey.
The question I have asked myself over and over again is this: Can it truly be God’s best will for us as a family and for her as an individual to raise her outside of a traditional or institutional church?
Many times over the past few years I’ve told God, “God, I want to be in a church if you want us in a church. Just show me where it is. If we’re wrong, show us.” I know the joy and blessing of being where He puts me. I don’t want to miss out on that. I know that I am not responsible for my child’s salvation, but I also don’t want to be a stumbling block to her faith. But month after month and now year after year there has been nothing to move us in that direction even though we’ve tried on numerous occasions. In fact, I would say it has been just the opposite. We’ve had a growing conviction that God is moving us in a different direction and taking us on a different path than we would have expected.
Walking in God’s Love Outside Church Structures
Last week someone shared a link to the following two videos and it was like it all came together. The speaker even addressed my questions about children in Sunday School and church which I was not expecting at all when I started watching. In these videos, Wayne Jacobsen presents the story of how God drew him out of the institutional church after being a pastor and set him on a different path of walking with God. You will need to listen to both parts to get the full picture.
What was striking to me as I listened is how well this understanding of walking with God dovetails with the two views of homeschooling I have repeatedly found myself gravitating toward for Caroline – Charlotte Mason and unschooling. Those two views come together in our home in a form of relaxed homeschooling. Neither Charlotte Mason nor unschooling alone fully expresses for me the fullness of how I see God working in the life of my child, but somehow the intersection of the two does.
I appreciate the fact that Jacobsen does not insist that this is the only way to faithfully walk with God. He recognizes that traditional church structures do work for some people (as do I). But as I think of the parents of gifted/2e children who struggle to make church “work” for their family, I see that this is a real and authentic way to disciple our children in Christ.
It also fits so well with families who homeschool outside the box because it is rather like walking with Christ outside the box. It’s real, it’s authentic, and it’s meaningful, but it’s not going to be completely understood by many who are perfectly happy within traditional structures whether they are schools or churches.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these videos in the comments below and how this might play out in your own family’s faith walk with Christ.