Friday, January 06, 2006

Keeper of the Springs

I found this sermon by Peter Marshall, to be a needed message in today's society. As you read it, keep in mind that it was written around 1942. How much more necessary is this message today?

As a disclaimer, I don't agree with his bit on Sunday School and thought it did not meld well with the rest of the sermon. Maybe I'm missing his purpose in placing it there:

There remains only one place where it [religious education] may be obtained, and that is in the Sunday School, but it is no longer fashionable to attend Sunday School.

I would submit that the home is the best place for religious education, as the rest of his article seems to support. I am not a stalwart family-integrated church advocate, although I do strongly believe that children should remain with their parents during services. I also think that Sunday School is not necessary, and often detrimental. Unfortunately it can be a false safety net for parents who choose to leave their children's religious education to the church, rather than accepting their primary God-given responsibility in their children's religious training. I have not been greatly impressed with most Sunday School programs I have come across, and am distraught to find that it is often the primary religious training children receive. I do not think age-segregated Sunday Schools are prohibited by scripture, but I think they are overrated and usually not helpful.

Other than that, I greatly enjoyed his sermon and found it heavy stuff to ponder. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

The modern challenge to motherhood is the eternal challenge--that of being a godly woman. The very phrase sounds strange in our ears. We never hear it now. We hear about every other kind of women--beautiful women, smart women, sophisticated women, career woman, talented women, divorced women, but so seldom do we hear of a godly woman--or of a godly man either, for that matter.

I believe women come nearer fulfilling their God-given function in the home than anywhere else. It is a much nobler thing to be a good wife than to be Miss America. It is a greater achievement to establish a Christian home than it is to produce a second-rate novel filled with filth. It is a far, far better thing in the realm of morals to be old-fashioned than to be ultramodern. The world has enough women who know how to hold their cocktails, who have lost all their illusions and their faith. The world has enough women who know how to be smart.

It needs women who are willing to be simple. The world has enough women who know how to be brilliant. It needs some who will be brave. The world has enough women who are popular. It needs more who are pure. We need woman, and men, too, who would rather be morally right that socially correct.
I encourage you to read Peter Marshall's sermon in its entirety.

Hat tip: Lady Lydia's blog.


Mrs.B. said...

Hi Susan, Glad you're back! (o:

Very interesting topic and you make a good point that the home is the best place(and where the bulk of teaching should take place) for religious education but there are MANY children who don't get this at home so the Sunday School is the ONLY place they get ANY Christian teaching....and many parents I know use the Sunday School and Church teaching as reinforcement. Our Church has a bus ministry where children come and many of them accept/receive Christ as their Saviour and some have even been able to win their parents and the whole family is saved and changed for the glory of God. Yes, you're right, the home is where the BULK of teaching should be done but it doesn't hurt for the Church to reinforce what's being taught at home.

I also wanted to comment on the family-integrated Church subject. At first when I heard about it I was ALL for it...but then I can also see some of the downside. How much learning is going to be going on for a young child who is listening to adult-level teaching?....and on the flip-side if it is understandable for the kids how deep is it going to be for the adults. Also, unfortunately MANY parents have not taught their children how to behave and sit still and I'm trying to imagine how well a Church service would go with whole room full of wiggly, noisy children....and then there is the visitor aspect....most visitors children aren't used to behaving and having to sit still for an hour. On the other side of the coin I do see MANY 'programs' directed at the youth as a waste of time and not good for them either. I also believe that MOST teen programs and classes aren't necessary...a teen should be able to absorb most of what an adult can.

My husband and I attend an Independent Baptist Church so I realize that I'm different in theology than most of the blogs I visit. I must say though that I like the focus being more family-centered that I've seen with the Reformed theology....I just think we have to be careful to not think that something is bad because it's not just focused on the family.....we can learn from the whole body of Christ, not just our blood relatives.

zan said...


I totally agree with your Sunday School assessment. I used to teach Sunday school and I never really saw a big change in the kids. Most of the parents just dropped them offf because they felt obligated and wouldn't even go to the adult Sunday School.

My sister was very active in her church and sent her children to Sunday School. Every Tues or Wed one of her kids got sick. Last winter they were sick all winter. It is the same as sending your kids to nursery at church. There are always sick kids there. We have one Down's little girl in church that got a cold everytime she came to church and it would turn into pneumonia. That family doesn't come anymore.

I do wish that more congregations would be a little more tolerant to noisy children. Our pastor actually asks children to leave if they are disrupting the service and that usually causes families to leave the church. It is very embarrassing for parents with young children to be spoken to that way.

I leave when George is very disruptive but I don't want to put him in the nursery because I don't want him to get sick. I really haven't listened to a sermon since he was born because I am in and out of the service and I am paranoid that the pastor might speak to me during the service if George is too loud.

I also feel a lot of pressure from the pastor to attend Sunday School, morning service and evening service and Bible study. What ever happened to Sunday being a day of rest? To me, Sunday is the most exhausting day of the week. When number two comes along I don't know what I'm going to do.

Right now we are just going to the morning service. I know the pastor probably thinks we aren't as spiritual as other people but that is what my husband and I feel we should do.

Esther said...

Awww...I love that sermon. Soooooo good! Peter Marshall is one of those men for which I have deep respect. I remember reading the biography on his life, written by his wife Catharine Marshall. He was an amazing man.

I wish more women realized what a precious and high calling it is to be a wife and mother.

Mrs.B. said...

"I used to teach Sunday school and I never really saw a big change in the kids."

I used to teach Sunday School too and I think the kids learned a lot. They memorized the books of the Bible and lots of Scripture. Kids sure can memorize A LOT easier than adults can! (o: I was listening to a missionary tape by a lady named Darlene Rose and she said while she was in a Chinese prison, during WWI,(they had killed her husband) all the songs she learned in Sunday School came back to her and helped her to get through her time in solitary confinement.

Zan, I've heard people say that the 'No Greater Joy' people have a way for parents to teach their kids how to sit still. I guess you practice at home little by little. Also, does your Church tape their sermons? That might be an option for you or you could buy some sermon or Bible study tapes from other sources and listen to them throughout the week.

I like what I've seen in some Churches where in the back of the auditorium there is a room where a parent can take their child and still listen because there is a speaker in the room.

Maybe some older women who have children could give you some ideas, if not here then maybe on Crystal's blog.

Susan said...

Hmm, odd that I didn't get an e-mail notification of Esther's or Zan's comments, only Mrs. B's. Ah well.

Heh. Interesting how posts can take an interesting turn. I originally was just going to post the sermon because I thought it was uplifting and encouraging to women, and because it's a message that needs to be heard. I did feel that I needed to make a slight disclaimer concerning Peter Marshall's comment that the Sunday School is the only remaining place where religious education may be obtained. So, of course that brought on a whole other topic. . .

Mrs. B,

I think the issue of family-integration (be it children's church, youth groups, or Sunday school) is rather complex, and does depend partially on one's system of theology, as you mentioned. I think the reason family-integration has such a following in reformed circles is because reformed folk have a high view of preaching, regarding it as a special means of grace to God's people. This naturally leads to the view that children should not be removed from the presence of this means of grace. I'd rather not get into a huge theological debate at the moment, though :). Also, I shaped my views on children's church before I became reformed in doctrine.

Like I said, I don't think Sunday Schools are prohibited from scripture, and I think in and of themselves they are not wrong, but unfortunately the mindset accompanying the Sunday School movement is often flawed. "The parents aren't doing their duty, so let's do it for them." I'm glad my parents didn't use the same philosophy for me when it came to chores :).

I don't doubt that Sunday Schools are doing a lot of good, but as one who has taught Sunday School in the past, the hardest children to teach are those from Christian homes who are not instructed at home - unfortunately most of my past students. I would not have a problem with my (future and hypothetical) children attending Sunday school, provided my husband is in favor of it and provided it is a supplement and reinforcement to home training.

I do think the "need" for Sunday School is a very perceived need. One thing I really like about reformed theology is the stress on a historical perspective, looking at Christianity down through the ages. Funny that Sunday School, which has only been around for a few hundred years, is "necessary" in our society today.

The idea of removing children from worship is more recent still. Crystal has some good blogs on training young ones (largely through family devotions) to sit still in service. Young children can comprehend more than we give them credit for.


Yes, it is unfortunate that the Lord's Day, which is supposed to be a day of refreshment, can often become so hectic with all the programs and such that many churches offer.


I haven't really read much on Peter Marshall, but I would like to read his biography sometime. Are you referring to A Man Named Peter or something like that?

Mrs.B. said...


I agree with the article as a whole and DID find it encouraging. I'm sorry if I took your post in a direction that you didn't intend for it to.

I agree with you about not debating theology because I'm pretty sure my husband would not want me to do so.

You mentioned Church history. The very few things I've read seemed to indicate to me that children didn't attend Church until they were able to sit still and behave. And also, Sunday Schools were mainly started for non-Church kids to teach them to read so that they could read the Bible. That's my limited knowledge on the subject.....I'm sure MANY could do much better. I don't know what the answer is because one of the things I have really taken to about the Reformed theology is their emphasis on the home and family and the importance of children.....I REALLY like that! But I must admit that disruptive children are a BIG distraction in a service....I know when I sit near them I am so distracted by them that I get little from the service.

And I agree, too, Susan that PREACHING is the most important aspect because God says in I Cor. 1:21b that ' pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.' Maybe adult S.S. came to be because people stopped reading the Bible and utilizing the Holy Spirit to learn it for themselves.

On the subject of Sunday as a day of rest, didn't the Church in the Bible go to Church all day long? I think they ate together in the afternoon and then had Church again. I think that's how we came to have Sunday a.m. and Sunday p.m. services.

Susan said...

Mrs. B,

I don't mind that you brought the topic in this direction. I was just remarking how interesting it is how posts can tend. By putting my disclaimer for the Sunday School quote, I chose knowingly to open that up for debate.

Hmm, that's interesting what you had to say regarding the history of children in church. I've heard quite the opposite, but don't know enough on the subject to firmly challenge your findings. You are absolutely right about Sunday Schools started for non-church kids. That's what I find so interesting; now Sunday Schools are seen as "necessary" for churched kids as well.

As far as Sunday being a day of rest, I think that is only part of what the Lord's Day is to be. Note in my comment I used the term "day of refreshment" - not "day of rest" - because I don't think that Sunday is strictly a day to do no work. The Lord Himself "finished all that He had created, and rested on the seventh day." It is a day to set aside to do the Lord's work and a day to refresh ourselves in Him. I am the first to admit I fall short in this area.

As for as the New Testament, I'm not really sure how extensive church gatherings were. My understanding is that the Lord's Day was a fellowship time of feasting and covenant renewal. I really am not sure, though. I'd love to hear from someone who is more versed in church history. In my case it is merely an amateur hobby.

The purpose of Sunday (worship and otherwise) is to rejoice in the Lord, not to check off a "to-do list" of morning worship, Sunday School, evening worship, choir, etc. I'm not saying that any of these things are wrong, but if they become rote and a drudgery then they no longer contribute to a refreshing day in the Lord.

I think in Zan's case, in her season of life, these extra activities may subtract from her keeping the Lord's Day a refreshing time, rather than helping her fulfill it. That's all I meant by my comment. I was merely sympathizing with her overwhelming feeling of "responsibilities" to attend extra activities.

Mrs.B. said...

"Hmm, that's interesting what you had to say regarding the history of children in church. I've heard quite the opposite, but don't know enough on the subject to firmly challenge your findings."

As I was thinking back, I'm not sure I am correct in this either so I will gladly concede that I very possibly might be wrong.

"The purpose of Sunday (worship and otherwise) is to rejoice in the Lord, not to check off a "to-do list" of morning worship, Sunday School, evening worship, choir, etc. I'm not saying that any of these things are wrong, but if they become rote and a drudgery then they no longer contribute to a refreshing day in the Lord."


Esther said...

Yes, the book was titled A Man Named Peter. Fascinating book...even more fascinating man! :) His wife has a way with words - she did an incredible job sharing his story.

I also found the way they met, married and lived their life together to be so sweet!

And I was soooo sad when he died at such a young age. :(

Susan said...

My friend Emily found that book while we were thrift store hopping for used books. It looked interesting. If I find another copy I'll have to get it :).

Ashley said...

I'm sure this doesn't surprise you, but wiggling children in church bother me a lot!! Actually, when I was little my parents left their church because children 2 and up had to sit in throughout the sermon, and my brother was too hyperactive. I went to one church where they had Sunday School during the service, so any kids 8th grade school and under left. My parents wouldn't let me go to Sunday School. :-)

I've never read "A Man Called Peter", but my mom had the book when I was growing up, and I've read Catherine Marshall's other books - "Christy", and "Julie". I wonder if my mom still has it, or if it was one of the (many) books we got rid of when we left Peru?

zan said...

I didn't know that Catherine Marshall was married to Peter. Wasn't she the one who wrote "Christy," and isn't that book based loosely on her life? I read it a long time ago.

Mrs B.

We do have a crying room but I am trying to teach George to sit with the congregation and be quiet. When I go into the crying room it is a time where he can be noisy all he wants and not disturb anyone. So I am simply reinforcing that if he is loud he goes in the crying room where he can be as loud as he wants. I liked being in reformed services better becasue they had more grace when it came to babies and noisy children. However, I think that too many reformed churches have sermons that are way too long. It is very hard to sit through a two hour service with little ones getting up and down. Sometimes I wishe that pastors would understand that they can say what they have to say in half the time. I went to one reformed church where the pastor thought it was his duty to have an hour + sermon and he simply repeated himself for a half hour.

We go to a Baptist church but the pastor is reformed. The congregation is very diverse. The pastor is a dear man and is trying to change the church into a reformed Baptist church but he doesn't want to join the Reformed Baptist because he thinks they are too legalistic.

I spend most of my time in the crying room and I can hear the sermon but I don't feel like I'm worshiping very well. I am not with the congregation when they sing or during the praying I am trying to keep George quiet. I feel like I am 1/2 there. Alot of reformed sermons are hard to follow and once you lose 10 minutes it is hard to keep up with what they are talking about. I love theology but sometimes I wish sermons would be a little more simple to follow. I am just a mom going through a very troubling time. I figure until my children a re no longer little babies I just won't be able to really participate in church 100%.

I do agree that Sunday School can be very good to young children with memorization. I just had a bad experience. Sunday School is not babysitting.

Susan said...

Wiggling children in church bother you??!! j/k ;)

Yes, Catherine Marshall wrote Christy, but I don't know if it was based on her life. I did have to chuckle about your comment on the length of some reformed sermons :).

Ashley said...

"Christy" is based on the story of Catherine Marshall's mother.

Mrs.B. said...

Hi Zan:

What you had to say was very interesting to me because since I've been saved the only Church that I've attended on a regular basis is Independent's what my husband thinks is the most correct, doctrinally, so that's where we go. (o: I never knew that reformed services were so long...I bet it IS hard with small children when the service is long.

I must say though that I really like the emphasis on the family that the reformed people have....reading Crystal's (and other's) blog has opened my eyes to some things about children so I'm glad I found it.

You have seemed a little down lately, Zan, I hope things get better for you and I hope I didn't offend you with anything I said.....sometimes I sound harsher than I mean to.....I've been trying to work on it.

Susan said...

Mrs. B,

The length of reformed services varies quite a bit, actually. More conservative reformed services tend to be a bit longer than others, with lengthier sermons. There is one RPCUS church near us where the pastor gives 1 1/2 hour sermons, but they are very meaty! I've heard other reformed sermons that approach 1 hour, and they vary as to whether they are an hour by necessity or by lack of condension. I grew up in (and am still in) the PCA, which is more mainline and generally favors sermons closer to 20 or 30 minutes. I most enjoy a meaty, non-rambly sermon about 45 minutes long.

Mrs.B. said...

Susan, What does 'PCA' stand for?

I too like meaty sermons that range from 30-60 minutes. I've been in services that are longer at times and don't mind that if there is a purpose for the length.

Susan said...

PCA stands for Presbyterian Church in America and RPCUS stands for Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States.

Make up a random three or four letter acronym that includes some of the letters R (for reformed), P (for presbyterian), A (for America), and C (for church), and you've probably stumbled upon the name of a reformed denomination :). There are zillions of them.

Ashley said...

I go to an ARP (Associated Reformed Presbyterian) church and our sermons are short compared to what I'm used to... the whole service is a little over an hour, so I guess the sermon would be about 30-40 minutes. In Peru (where I grew up) the norm is like 2 hours long, and the pastors get very passionate about their subject. It was hard for a little kid like me to sit still that long!

Susan said...

See, a random combination of the aforementioned letters, and voila - ARP - a reformed denomination! Just couldn't resist ;).

Recently our sermons have been 30-35 minutes long, and our services are about 75 minutes, but our services used to be shorter, right at an hour.

zan said...

I used to go to a OPC (orthodox presbyterian church). My husband and I were married in that church. We left after my son was born mainly because of the baptism issue. My husband is a believer's baptism only guy. He couldn't in good conscience become a member of that church. We now go to a baptistic type church with reformed leanings.

Our pastor isn't as long as the OPC ministers were. The service is 1 1/2 hours. Another reason we left the OPC is because we thought the church we were in was dead. There were some nice people but no real fellowship. There were no older wiser women to go to. Everyone seemed too busy. For instance, I am going to a baby shower for one of the young ladies at that church. The elders wives aren't putting it on. Instead, two young ladies with little children 5 and under (they both have babies about 6-8mos old) are putting it on. I think it is very unloving to pressure these busy young moms to put on a baby shower. It is the responsibility of the elder's wives to do this. The two young moms are just at their wits end trying to balance home and put on this shower for their friend. This happens whenever there is a shower at that church. WHo knows where the elder's wives are. I will be surprised if they even show up. It is a very cold environment.

Anyway, Mrs. B.

I am doing a little better. Just really overwhlemed with getting everything ready for little man #2. I had a very refreshing weekend so I'm doing much better.