Once when Jacob was boiling stew, Esau came in from the field hungry and said to Jacob, “I’m starving! Let me devour some of this red stuff…” …Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles; and he did eat and drink, and rose up, and went his way: thus Esau despised his birthright. – Genesis 25:19-34
These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. – Deuteronmy 6:6-7
This morning’s post is going to involve social commentary, a lot like the approach I took when my column ran in the Tribune.
At the church I attend, you can’t help but notice the young families. It’s almost our defining demographic. With a large youth group, a very active children’s ministries team, a bustling preschool, and a busy scouting presence, our kids are omnipresent and highly visible. There is a lot going on and they make tons of lovely noise!
Sometimes a family will get involved, make a commitment to join the church, plug their kids into activities, and then disappear. These are people who love the church, love God, had great experiences, made good friends and insist they want to be more active every time someone follows up. But life just – increasingly – seems to get in the way.
But life just happens, right?
We all know this is just a fact of the times we live in. So why write about it now? Well, this past weekend a group of the second-graders finished their twelve-week “prep for worship” class and received their Bibles during the 11:15 service.
What a beautiful group of children! So full with life and love and an emerging sense of faith and trust in God. These children are beginning to understand at the root of who they are how important it is to live in a faith community.
Then as I noticed who was not there, I felt a sense of loss on behalf of the families. I couldn’t help but remember the story of Esau, who gave away his birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew. I want this right now, the heck with the consequences! The stew, the soccer tournament, the sleeping in, the brunch, the recreation activity – all good things, nothing wrong with any of them. But meanwhile, one Sunday at a time, the birthright is slipping away.
The parents may remember the beauty of Christian Community and eventually find their way back. But the children are being raised with a clear message that being an active part of a faith community is not important, and certainly not any kind of a priority given pretty much any other choice.
Choice always comes with results:
Please don’t mistake me for a legalist in this column; I am all about “freedom in Christ,” and God’s grace is so much wider than my sometimes narrow interpretations. But I am – just like I did all day long in my series of lectures Saturday – advocating for an ongoing investment in being a disciple that involves the root word, and that word is “discipline.”
Given all the alternatives (and the fact that the number of days, hours, and minutes in every single week is a constant), the choice to invest in being part of a worshipping community is absolutely the best choice, most especially over the long haul. Also, that choice is imperative for our children if we want them to be well equipped to live full and complete lives.
Look at these children! “This is God’s word, for you!” Rebekah says to each child as they come up to receive their Bible. But it is a lot more, it is “God’s community of faithful disciples, for you.” These children are receiving nourishment that they cannot get anywhere else. Not anywhere!
This is the choice for every family. This is what is a stake when we make a decision to be active in church. This is the beautiful truth that is possible for everyone!
Don’t miss this opportunity – DEREK
enjoy the photos!
Yes yes a thousand times yes! Great post! (I shared this on fb.) I’ve written about this several times, including this one https://aileengoeson.com/2014/06/30/the-top-10-list-of-comments-id-love-to-hear-parents-say-about-church-attendance/ thanks for a great post!
Derek, thank you so much for this post! I totally agree, and I worry about all that the children are missing. Yet I struggle with how to share this with the families under our small congregation’s wing. They truly struggle with many issues including sheer exhaustion. They already feel guilty for not coming to worship regularly, and more guilt isn’t going to help. Their kids aren’t involved in sports on Sundays. They enjoy worshiping with us when they do come. I wonder what we could do concretely to support them and help them make the choice to be with the worshiping community regularly. That is likely to be different in their different circumstances.
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You are right. Guilt is not helpful for anyone! I think that the more light we let spill over and out and into the world, the more people will be motivated to choose to be in fellowship. Jesus said that the most effective witness we have is the way we love one another. Thanks, Mary
That’s true, today’s generation runs away from such things, Guilt will take anybody anywhere. We need to motivate them to be in fellowship regularly, So that they can feel what the peace is. Thank you so much for sharing this.