Wineskins Archive

January 21, 2014

An Unrepentant Dedication (Jan – Feb 2009)

Filed under: — @ 6:49 pm and

by David E. Smith
January – February, 2009

Fonda came to see me after service one Sunday morning. She had painted on a smile but it seemed more of a nervous smirk. Her body language was tense.

“Pastor, I want to have Kaila dedicated to the Lord,” she grinned.

“Please sit down,” I said as I moved to close the door. Just as I did someone knocked. I cracked it open ready to reject the intrusion. James was standing there, her boyfriend and the father of Kaila. No smile.

“Is Fonda here?”

“Yes, please come in,” I said.

James sauntered over and plopped down beside Fonda, arms flung over the back of the couch like he was watching a football game.

“Sorry I didn’t make it in time for church, preacher. I just couldn’t pull myself out of bed.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re here James. Fonda was just asking about having Kaila dedicated.”

“Yeah, I know. We kinda talked about that last night. Thought it might be a good idea,” he said.

They sat there looking at me like a calf staring at a fence post. I’d seen this look before from this couple on the very same couch. I bit my lip trying to hold back the wrong words.

Fonda was a long time member. She was practically raised in the church by faithful Christian parents. But Fonda had not acted faithfully. Even though she professed a relationship with the Lord she had run after all the world’s pleasures.

Her Sunday School teacher took an interest in her. She tried to guide her and show her that her current choices would lead to ruin. The more mercy was demonstrated toward Fonda the faster she ran in the opposite direction. Her experimentation with drugs and the party crowd had produced constant trouble for her and her parents. Her car, apartment, and even her locker at work had been vandalized. Godly friends, church members, and even I had confronted her about her choices. At times it helped and other times it was like trying to mix oil and water.

After a few hard knocks she seemed to be making right decisions. Then she met James. Soon after they started dating she brought him to church. He had no faith background and no commitment to Christ. The members loved him and tried to model Christ before him.

Regardless of the efforts, poor decisions were being made again. One Sunday evening after church they came to my office hand in hand. I thought they were going to ask me to marry them.

“Preacher, we have a question,” Fonda said. “Do you think God would be upset if we moved in together?”

They just looked at me. Their blank expression told me they were serious. I was shocked. I’ve had some hard questions come my way but never one as honest and plain as this.

“Fonda, you know the scripture teaches sanctity of marriage. Why would you want to live together instead?”

James spoke up. “We just don’t feel like we’re ready for marriage.”

“But you’re ready to move in together?”

“Yeah, we just really want to be together and don’t want to wait. We’ll still get married but we need time to work out the kinks,” James said.
They extolled the depth of their love and how confident they were that this was God’s will. All they needed me to do was affirm their choice. I didn’t.

“This is not God’s will for you. The Lord would have you wait until after you’re married to have this kind of relationship. Please don’t make a mistake that will embarrass your parents, your church and create problems for your future together,” I said.

They walked out, hand in hand, ignoring my plea. Fonda and James didn’t want to know the truth. They wanted me to join them in an elaborate rationalization that created a new truth just for them.

Eighteen months had passed since that time. Here they were again, looking at me, waiting for me to validate them. As I sat there I remembered how devastated her parents were. I recalled their tears, sitting there on my couch, praying for their straying daughter and her boyfriend/live-in companion. Other members of the congregation came to me as well to share their hurts and prayers. We all made a commitment to do what we could to be redemptive and loving.
But now they were asking the church to place their blessing on Kaila. At Kaila’s birth the church actively demonstrated love toward the parents. Kaila’s arrival was celebrated. She was the sweetest baby ever to grace a bassinet.

Kaila needed to be dedicated to the Lord and raised in a Christian environment. The church wanted to publicly make a commitment to assist her parents in her spiritual formation. But at what price? Were we supposed to look past the continual rebellion? What commitment would these parents make? They had demonstrated a lack of faithfulness thus far. How could I be sure they would uphold their end of the bargain?

All this played through my mind as I considered my next words. I excused myself, got up and walked over to my filing cabinet. I needed a moment. Slowly searching through the files I prayed as my fingers rummaged. I knew I was in the wrong drawer but they didn’t. I moved with deliberate purpose, finally opening the right drawer and finding my objective – “Child Dedication Services.”

I pulled the file, walked back to my seat and opened it on my lap.
“During a Child Dedication service I will call for the parents and children to come forward. At that time I will ask the parents a series of questions. I’m going to read those question to you now. Tell me how you would respond.

“Yeah whatever,” James said. Fonda was silent.

“First question. Parents, will you raise this child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?”


“Let me read the rest of the questions and then you can respond. Will you strive to provide a loving Christian home life? Will you promise to exemplify the disciplined Christian life? Will you take leadership in teaching this child about the Savior and the Word of God? Will you bring this child to church with you when the body of Christ meets for worship?”

If looks could kill I’d be dead.

“We just thought it would be a good idea to have her dedicated. Can we do that or not?” Fonda said.

“How would you answer those questions Fonda? I’m not going to invite you to lie to the church. You will be standing before this congregation and the Lord. When you answer those questions you will be making a promise to Him. This church will expect you to keep your promises.”

“I’m a Christian! Do you doubt me? Answer that question, preacher.”

“Fonda, if I were to answer those questions about you I’d have a hard time finding reasons to answer in the affirmative.”

“What do you mean?”

“Right now you don’t demonstrate a disciplined Christian life. You have ignored your faith and done just exactly what you wanted. Is that going to change suddenly after the dedication service?”

“We’ve talked about marriage . . . some,” Fonda said.

“A loving Christian home is one where the parents are married and both are believers. You don’t have that and I’ve seen no desire on your part to have it.”

“We come to service here don’t we?” Fonda said.

“Once or twice a month, on Sunday morning, and always without James. The body of Christ meets for worship every week. Is that what we can expect for Kaila’s future? If it is then I don’t think you should have her dedicated.”

“Why don’t you love my little girl?” Fonda started tearing up.
This had James’ attention.

“I do love Kaila. She’s stolen every heart here. But this isn’t about Kaila. A Child Dedication Service doesn’t guarantee Kaila heaven. This service is more for the parents than for the children. Both of you will be making a vow before the Lord. I don’t see any evidence to suggest you will keep it.”

“Fine then!” James shot up. “We’ll just take our little girl somewhere else. You have the nerve to question our Christianity? Preacher, you should look in the mirror sometime. Anyone who would deny my daughter isn’t much of one. You can believe everybody will hear about this!”

They left me sitting in my chair.

This is a scene that is repeated monthly in churches all over America. In the case of James, Fonda and Kaila it’s my fault. Somehow, somewhere in the past, we became too smart or too compassionate to exercise church discipline. As Fonda’s pastor, if I had taken a firmer hand with her early on much of this heartache could have been avoided.

I preach responsibility and commitment but there are no consequences when holiness is discarded. The church simply grieves the loss and then we go about our business. We’ve become timid. The culture has told us that everyone has a right to their rights. Who are we to say what’s right and wrong?

I know who we are. We are the bride of Christ. We live according to a higher standard starting with the commandments. We must examine ourselves and be willing to judge when gross sin is demonstrated by one of our own. The apostle dealt with just this issue in 1 Corinthians.

“But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11 KJV)

We must stand against backsliding and rebellion among our members. Pastors, like me, have to set a higher standard and demand that those who confess Christ represent Him well.

Two years after they walked out of my office James and Fonda split up. Fonda and Kaila are not in church. James lives in Canada and is not interested in being daddy any longer. And the icing on the cake – it’s all my fault.New Wineskins

Rev. David B. SmithRev. David B. Smith writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.
He is a pastor, freelance author and proprietor of All These Words.
You can find him at his blog []
or on his Web site at [].


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