This was a banner week for letters to the editor and I had a lot of them to read through and select from. In the end, I’ve chosen ones that speak about sleepovers, the ESV, problems with modern worship, and Roman sexual morality. I hope you find them helpful!
Letters on Why My Family Doesn’t Do Sleepovers
Tim: Far more people have read my article on sleepovers than any other article I’ve written. Not surprisingly, then, I receive far more letters to the editor for this one than any other. I’d estimate that about half of those who write agree with the article and the other half do not. Many of the ones who do agree with me explain in the most painful terms why they have made that decision.
I raised my children in the early/mid 90’s. It was the decade of the sleepover. Against my better judgement I let them have sleep over at their friends homes. I wish I hadn’t. My son was exposed to pornography and molested by the other boys. My daughter was exposed to horror films and other things and began cutting herself.
—Tomi B, Missouri City, TX
I know the world is bad and scary too. But, as parents we need to teach our children to trust people, trust humanity. It is not right to teach the kids to always look at everybody with a suspicious eye. Having said that, we also have to teach our kids to be safe, and if they feel unsafe, what is the appropriate thing to do. I beg to disagree that sleepovers are bad. No. It actually is a way of saying to our kids that, “We trust you will take care of ourselves in all situations possible.” Sleepovers are fun for the kids and it is not right to take away that happiness from a kid.
—Anita A, Issaquah,WA
Although I agree with your article, being a mom now myself I know I can’t protect my son if I’m not there. However, I’m a victim of pedophilia. I appreciated so much to get away from my home to sleep without worry of my mom’s boyfriend coming into my room at night. I would spend entire summers away at my friends’ houses. I never had to worry, I didn’t have to sleep with a knife under my bed. I’m forever thankful that my friends parents allowed me to basically live with them through elementary school. Nobody knew. I couldn’t tell anyone, but when I was away, I was free.
—Amber G, Vancouver, BC
Thank you for your insight on ‘sleepovers.’ After a recent discussion with a fellow mom/friend, I too have decided to not allow sleepovers, nor play dates at homes of parents I do not personally know. All children are welcome at our house instead. My friend’s son was invited to a birthday sleepover. It was presumed they were all boys but she later found out that a girl was there because she identified as a boy. These kids are 11 years old. Some parents think that is harmless but I do not. Kids are curious and a lot could happen that ones family does not agree with. In today’s genderless society, sleepovers are a whole new game, one in which I am not willing to participate in.
—Jocelyn L, Bellingham, MA
I agree with the article and have the same rules in my home. My children are allowed to attend the party until it is bed time and then I will come get them. I had a cousin who was molested the whole time she was growing up at her best friend’s house and didn’t say anything about it until she was 18 and had a breakdown. I vowed at that point that my children would never be put in that situation. I allow sleepovers at my home if their friends parents allow, I know myself and wouldn’t allow anything to happen to their children. In fact, boys downstairs girls upstairs if there are other children in my home. I just don’t trust other people with my children enough to take that risk.
—Tanya L, Montpelier, ID
I’m a mother of two now fully grown men. When they were children I too was faced with the question of sleeping over at friends or even relatives. My response was no because like you, even back then, 26 years ago, the reality of the “bad things” that could happen to your child, especially boys, was a frightening thought. The horror stories I were privy to as a teacher made my desire to protect my sons even more fiercely. I therefore never succumbed to the peer pressure and thankfully they’re grown and free. Truthfully, if I had to do it all over again, I would make the same choice.
Letters on You, Me, and the ESV
Like you, I appreciate the ESV and I would also agree that Crossway made the right decision to reverse their decision about a permanent text. My concern is with the level of ‘elitism’ that is common among its proponents…exactly like how you described it in the last section of your article.
One cannot argue that a certain level of elitism have popped up among ESV proponents. Just think of the ‘Why we use the ESV’ articles from celebrity reformed pastors. It’s a bit odd and seems unique to the ESV phenomenon. I think it’s unfortunate. Good thing we have guys like D.A. Carson and Douglas Moo to keep things from moving to another KJV-only movement. My hope is built on nothing less than the ESV and Crossway Press!
—Alan D, Halifax, NS
Letters on 3 Awful Features of Roman Sexual Morality
Reading this article, I found myself reflecting on a key difference between the lives of early Christians within a pagan Roman culture and ours within a pagan “post Christian” culture. Our spiritual forebears weren’t trying to change the tide of the culture, rather they were choosing to allow their own lives to be transformed by the Spirit and vigorously inviting others to join in this experience. The culture of their day was dramatically altered as a result.
We today are often more about seeking enforcement of our Christian cultural heritage, hoping to retrench the tectonic changes which have already occurred, than in living out that rich heritage. In fact, statistics tell us that our own behavior (that of American Christians) is more aligned with the current culture than with Christ. Are we unconsciously trying to help ourselves by means of the law? That didn’t work so well for the Israelites; why would we expect different results ourselves?
Instead, we (that is, I) should be loving Jesus and allowing Him to love others through me, following His heart and commands with grateful delight, remaining so excited about what He’s done for me that I just can’t help telling everyone else. Does that mean Christians should withdraw from the political realm as many pagans fervently wish? I don’t think so, but that should neither be our primary focus nor our hope for the future. Trusting in any man who is not The Man, or in mankind, or any political/legal solution to our problems is essentially a form of idolatry.
—John K, Hoschton, GA
Letters on Missing Elements of Modern Worship
Thanks for your article. We follow the regulative principle of worship at our church. Many of our new members joined us simply because they “wanted to feel that they had truly worshiped God.” They left their old churches because they were tired of being entertained. If you readers are interested, there is a great article by Derek Thomas on Ligonier’s site with the Scriptural proof text for how God has laid out how He is to be worshiped.
More to your point; it grieves my heart over how it appears we have replaced what God requires of us in worship, with what man thinks will bring in and help keep those within the church. You made the point of how you walked away from the churches you visited with a sense of what was missing in their worship and like you, I don’t think we can any longer call those gatherings churches under the care of our Lord Jesus Christ. Too much has been replace by a man-centered focus.
Thanks for the article and we’ll continue to pray and ask God to restore to His people what is the height, depth, length, breath of His greatness and glory, so that we once again will have eyes to see anew and follow what God Himself has called us to. I think then our culture will change as common and saving grace covers the land once again.
—Daryl B, Katy, TX
I wanted to weep when I read this piece because it captured all the losses I have observed in he last 20 years as Christian when my pastors gradually prioritized that the Sunday service be seeker-friendly. I struggle with resentment when the mandate to fulfill the Great Commandment and the Great Commission is put forth as the justification for these changes. I am viewed by elders as raising impediments to building the Kingdom of God by asking for corporate prayer, doctrinally rich music and true expositional preaching. God has helped me accept the things I cannot control, but I grieve what we have lost and the fact that newcomers will probably never know what they are missing.
—Louise P, New York, NY
Thanks for that helpful article. The Anglican Book of Common Prayer helps to address most of those issues. There is always a confession, numerous well-thought prayers, normally three Bible readings, and an expositional sermon based on one of the readings. The lectionary needs to be adapted if you want to preach through books of the Bible consecutively, but otherwise the BCP will help address many of these issues.
—Nick J, Drung, Ireland
I have often appreciated your writing, but I took issue with this post.
First, what is the modern mega church service on a Sunday morning? Truthfully, one church looks very different from another, so we’ll have to speak in generalities but there is a valid point of view that says that the mega-church is the true successor to Billy Graham and the Crusade/Revivals of the past. If that is the point of the Sunday service at those churches is a.) gospel preaching b.) vision casting and Bible teaching/discipleship, prayer, etc happens at other points in the week then its no wonder that it’s missing elements that TC thinks they should have.
Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa for example, which has arguably been an epicenter for verse by verse biblical exposition for the past 40 years didn’t teach expositionally on Sunday mornings, rather verse by verse Bible Studies happened on Sunday evenings and at other points of the week. Could the same thing be happening at other mega-churches or perhaps in classes during the service so you attend one service and then go to a class in a way reminiscent of the old Baptist Sunday Schools?
Second, most of what you argue for seems to be a return to the traditions of the past. While not right or wrong, traditions of previous generations aren’t what we should base our liturgy on. Even where I agree with you, for example, wanting to see more prayer in service (my church has active prayer happening during song worship on Sunday mornings), you seem to lament that there isn’t a sort of prayer list: “please be with Mrs. Baker’s hip” etc, which would have all kind of issues in a mega-church setting. What a smaller church looked like in days gone by shouldn’t determine what a church (large or small) looks like today should it?
Third, congregational singing struck me as personal preference. As someone who leads song worship and spends a good deal of time thinking, writing and even speaking about worship leading, the problem of congregational engagement is a problem in churches both small and large, and more often I’ve heard concerns on this subject coming from smaller churches rather than larger ones.
This is a title that will Google search well and it will be well received by people who have a problem with this or that in the mega-church world. But is it really true? and if so, how is this helpful to the conversation? You are a pretty well known guy; and I’m sure that you could have gotten someone who was widely respected from the mega-church world and asked questions. it seems to me that two-way conversations are better.
—Adam D, Napa, CA
I would agree whole-heartedly with the article about what is missing in modern worship. Fortunately, I do not attend such a church—ours is quite traditional, really, centred on bible readings, prayer and a good range of hymns. Sadly the scenario you painted is more likely what you’ll meet in many churches here, too. As to why this is the case, a trend away from the lectionaries and liturgies of the church and a completely misguided attempt to make the church more attractive and acceptable to the youth has only served to dilute modern worship to a formula which provides little or no spiritual sustenance or fulfillment. In my view the church needs rebuilding and restoring to its former glory. I think it needs to take the lectionary seriously again and emphasize Eucharistic liturgies fully. Better to challenge the new Christian with a depth of worship which will sustain him or her for life, maybe even involvement in something extra like altar service, choral singing, campanology or lay-reading. This might stand a chance of attracting people in, but more seriously, prevent the exodus of faithful worshippers to whom the church is no longer the kind of Christian community they joined in the first place.
—Douglas J, Sheffield, UK