VBS Gone Wild (Part 3)
Anytime potential problems exist with the activities of the Church Biblical authority must be the chief concern. Question after question must be asked. Souls rest on the truth and doubt or presumption cannot excuse them when they choose profane instead of holy. Previously questionable activities examined and discussed in this series are: VBS Decoration, dress up, craft time, and drama. These are based on the VBS description, ““They decorated the entire Church building to look like the ocean and the teachers dressed like crabs. We made crafts, watched a play, heard a Bible story about a guy who got eaten by a whale, sang songs – I clapped and stomped my feet with my favorite one – I won a prize in kickball, and we ate hotdogs and hamburgers afterward.”
“Heard a Bible story about a guy who got eaten by a whale” No, not exactly the message taught, but the likely retelling of it by a child. The Los Angeles Lakers NBA basketball team maintains a loyal informed fan base. The fans look forward to each season with one mantra in mind. “What do we play for? RINGS!” In other words, they understand Championships represent the goal of playing games. Similarly, “Why do congregations hold VBS? To achieve crowns. 1 Thessalonians 2:19 – For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? How does man build a faith so that he might make it to heaven? He hears of God (Romans 10:17). For all ages, a properly run VBS focuses on imparting a sound understanding of the gospel so souls can reach heaven.
Healthy children continually demonstrate the ability to absorb data. They can do so at an astounding rate. My son at an early age could just about verbally repeat entire movies after watching them once or twice. He could hum practically every level of every video game he played. Though he has a good mind, he cannot be described as the brightest bulb in the room. My son is an average boy. Yet, when it comes to Biblical instruction at a VBS, he and other children often find themselves treated like morons incapable of learning anything of any depth. If lessons were water the depth wouldn’t cover the students ankles. No one seems to expect children to be capable of great learning. I Corinthians 3:1-2 shows the apostle Paul stating, “And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, as unto babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not with meat; for ye were not yet able to bear it: nay, not even now are ye able;” Most children growing up in the church are turning out exactly this way. A lack of edification exists. Jude tells Christians to “contend” for the faith once delivered. Contend means to struggle. Individuals cannot struggle for the faith if they don’t even join the fight.
The teaching received in and out of VBS can frequently be condensed into a thimble. Untaught children turn into untaught spiritually feeble adults. Twenty minutes of watered down Biblical instruction seems to be the common amount for most VBS programs. Why even conduct a VBS for only twenty minutes of instruction? Vacation Bible SCHOOL! Extend your VBS beyond a few days or a week. Increase the teaching time. Drill, memorize, read, instruct in the doctrine of Christ. When children find little or nothing expected of them they will return the exact amount – little or nothing. Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.” VBS represents such a small time in the life of an individual, yet, teachers can make a great impact if they choose. The child may never be in church any other time in their life than VBS. Do we want to spend that time truly teaching or just killing time (and a soul)? Congregations start treating VBS as a valuable opportunity. Develop your own in depth material. Challenge the children. Studies show when children leave the Church following high school (and most do), they do so stating they never felt challenged. Most of these children cannot articulate their faith or defend it. VBS represents the perfect time to enable our children for spiritual success. Is your VBS truly teaching or does the congregation revere God enough to really care?
“[We] sang songs – I clapped and stomped my feet with my favorite one” Years ago, a teenage girl came to me with a concern. She did not understand why we praised God without instruments. She pointed out that the congregation she attended taught children songs with clapping from the very beginning. Father Abraham, the B.I.B.L.E., and others all used parts with clapping. Then she stated, at some point, the clapping stopped and became a negative thing. I sympathized with her and explained to her why the Church only sings and that it was a mistake for any age class to encourage clapping. However, she eventually left the Church over this issue. The early false practices enabled in children’s classes impacted her greatly. A number of VBS programs use songs which engage clapping. It is as if the congregations never read Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16. When Christians approach God in song, they sing by command and nothing else. Worship does not only occur on Sunday morning. God does not go on holiday during VBS, camp, Sunday through Saturday, or at any other time. There are no exceptions. The fruit of the lips (Hebrews 13:15) stands as the only acceptable praise in song God desires. Nowhere does he encourage, stomping, thumping, tapping, drumming, playing, clapping, slapping, snapping, popping, or strumming (save the heart strings). When man transgresses God’s directive he shows a lack of reverence toward God. He finds himself not edifying, but attempting to tear down the foundation of Christ. Ultimately, such these actions turn into stumbling blocks for future worship.
“I won a prize in kickball” Kids enjoy playing. Playing can be fun and healthy. If a VBS runs all day long and the children take breaks, they may decide to play games. However, a relationship between the Lord’s money and prizes for games does not exist. Organizing play activities also does not represent a function of the Church. If parents or children, on their time, wish to do so, wonderful! Such activity does stand as a family responsibility. Christians provide funds for items such as widows indeed (I Timothy 5:6), needy saints (I Corinthians 16:1), and evangelism (I Corinthians 9:4-12), but nowhere in scripture can the funding of folly be found. No authority exists for such an undertaking. Still, many VBS gatherings will advertise the giving away of prizes and the playing of games. God never endorses social amusements and worldly bribes to draw mankind to him. A game playing atmosphere represents a lack of reverence to God. Have they not homes to play games in? Jesus never advertised “Come hear the gospel, play games, leave with a new bicycle!” Understanding this, we now turn to the final VBS aspect to be examined.
“We ate hotdogs and hamburgers afterward” The draw of the feast. How many VBS flyers promote “the feast”? Does this relate to the gospel in any possible way? No. This week I saw a number of Churches advertising free meals to the public in hope of drawing them in. What does this say about their faith in the gospel? Acts 7 records Stephen sharing the gospel to the Jews. They rush him and stone him. The persecution against Christians which follows causes them to scatter throughout the world (Acts 8:1-4). Fortunately, everywhere those Christians went they handed out free food and the Church grew. No! They did not go out handing out food. They preached the Word! In the face of persecution, they didn’t try to appease or use gimmicks. Christians relied upon the Gospel! To put trust in social gimmicks instead of God can only be identified as completely irreverent. Does this kind of action edify the church? No. Does using “the feast” result in an expedience to learning the gospel? In no manner whatsoever does it do this. Is the social gospel as demonstrated by “the feast” good stewardship? Again, No!
A number of problems existing with VBS have been mentioned in this series of articles. It’s not as if each of these problems does not fail in multiple ways according to Biblical Authority. Yet, many folks “poo poo” such warnings and move full steam ahead. When and if continued objections arise a different attitude often pops up. “If we can’t do it our way then we just won’t have a VBS!” Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goeth before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.” Instead of acting the way Apollos did when he received correction (Acts 18:24-28), folks decide to act the way of Cain (Genesis 4). Woah! That is a strong accusation. Yes, when men decide to add their own devices to the teaching of God’s Word, they put others in danger of spiritual death. Great opportunity exists to educate when holding a VBS. Yet men design their plan by counting the number of warm bodies in a building attracted by their contrivances, rather than making a concerted effort to instruct souls and let God provide the growth (I Corinthians 3:6). Teaching the gospel is a very simple action. When congregations add more than what is written they do so at their own peril. Why do they do it? Don’t be guilty of VBS gone wild. Stick to God’s pattern and everything will work as it should.
Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”