What is a T.P.R.? It is a Termination of Parental Rights. It is what happens when a parent is unfit to care for a child and it becomes apparent their parental rights must cease so the child can find a new home. This allows the child to be adopted.
If we believe parents who abandon their children are criminal, what does it say that our churches abandon newborn babes in Christ? They are often neglected to fend for themselves, to find their own spiritual food, and raise themselves. This is an eternal crime!...
One of the first things we noticed about our adopted children when they came to live with us was their inability to do several age-appropriate skills. They were missing many basic skills and abilities. It could range from how to tie shoes to how to cope with basic emotional situations. They had gaps in their upbringing and they had not been nurtured in an intentional and progressive way that prepared them for their future. It wasn't their foster parents' fault. When children go through several foster homes in a few years, inconsistency will naturally occur and skill sets will get missed.
We have newborns in the Church, adopted into the family of God. They can be of all ages, from childhood to adult. Obviously, they do not come with the basic skills Christians should have. They must learn these skills. We get very excited when they are born and adopted, but then we are not intentional about nurturing them in a progressive way that prepares them for their future. Instead, we act as if they already know how to live for Christ. Why?
Perhaps it is because several generations in many churches (not all) have lived this way. Much like the generational patterns of dysfunction seen in many families (many of whom are often subject to TPR's), we have generational dysfunction in our churches. "That's just the way we've always done it," is often the excuse.
Is that what we are going to say when we stand before God? That's just the way we've always done it? Perhaps, many churches are shrinking and closing their doors because God has signed a TPR for them. They are no longer allowed to raise His children. This isn't to say every growing mega-church is parenting any better. Often they struggle to improve their ratios of decisions to disciples also. The Church across America is dysfunctional.
But I am thankful that a remnant of churches, large and small, are stepping up. God always has a remnant at work. They will have the task of fostering many of God's children until more churches get healthy enough to parent again. It's not just the pastor's responsibility. It is the job of every one of us who call ourselves a Christian, a follower of Christ. We are to make disciples, teaching them to observe all that Christ commanded. This means we must observe (that means "do") all that Christ commanded so we can teach others to do the same. We can't give what we don't have.
We must have intentional strategies for leading people through the growth process. We must understand what the stages of growth are and help folks identify where they are in that process. Then we must lead them to the next stage until they reach a level to do the same for others. Perhaps, resources like Putnam's book Real Life Discipleship will help.
Let us end the generational dysfunction in our churches so God can stop issuing the TPR's.