Children are a heritage and a blessing from the Lord (Ps 127:3-5), and as gifts from the Lord they are to be handled and cared for as precious beings made in His image (Gen 1:27). It is the parents that are commanded in scripture to discipline their children (Prov 25:19) and teach them what they are to know about God (Prov 22:6, Duet 6:7). It is the parent’s responsibility to introduce their child to the scriptures, “…which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 3:14-17).
“Hey Pastor, I just wanted to let you know that we won’t be at church for the next three months because my girl is playing ball and they have games on Sunday and practices throughout the week.”
My heart sank into my stomach. I wouldn’t call it shock, because I had heard this statement, or at least something like this, dozens of times from different parents over the years. Sports, plays, bands, fundraisers, on and on went the list of programs and distractions that would inevitably take the family out of church for a season. “Well, let me encourage you to reconsider that”, I began.
But there was no talking him down. I explained in a hushed tone the importance of his role as a father to set the standard for his children. I talked about the importance of putting the Lord first. I talked about the importance of *GULP* attending the local church (Heb 13:17). But, standing before me was a father and husband who, instead of leading his family in holiness was choosing to inflict them with spiritual wounds.
“Well they are saved, so what else is there?” he said, jovially.
I felt my face go flush. “What else is there?” I asked. “Life! The Gospel is for all of life; not just a ‘get-out-of-hell-free’ card. Being here as a family will do far more for them in the long run than this sport. Trust me.”
He snapped back, this time with a more serious tone, “Well, they [his kids] need to learn teamwork and stuff.” We exchanged a few more words and then he walked out – his children and wife in tow. We saw the kids at a couple more youth events and then never again.
Pastorally I still ache thinking about that exchange and others like it. As a believer who considers the gathering of the saints as a commanded, valuable, necessary privilege of grace; I had always struggled with these talks – I suppose I still do. I am stupefied at how readily professing believers throw God on the backburner – especially when the heart of their children is on the line.
Where did we go wrong? How can we sing on Sunday morning that Jesus is my “all-in-all” and then decide to sacrifice the glorious, life-giving truths of the Gospel on the bloody altar of hobbies?