I want to start a conversation by asking a question…not a debate…not an accusation…I have no interest in lighting a fire and contributing to a firestorm of opinions, but just an honest moment of personal introspection that the Holy Spirit might use and will ultimately be determined between you and the Lord.
Just how important is your Christian Faith? Really?
I have found that what we say contrasted with how we prioritize demonstrates where our hearts truly land. We can say, “Jesus is Lord of my life and our family”, but how does that really look?
As my boys and daughter were growing up I wanted them to be active in sports. Each one would participate in all the seasonal sports and I was happy to get them to practices and games. It was a point of connection between a dad and his kids. Add on top of that, all my children were pretty good athletes (exceptional athletes in some sports) and they were usually “starters” on their teams, so it was all the more fun and exciting as a parent to watch. It was all the more critical, in the coach’s estimation, that they be “there” for practices and games. My wife and I were, at various times, “team mom or dad”. We took our turn at the concession stand and drove miles to support the team when they played an “away” game. We were by all standards engaged and invested in their extra-curricular life. However, for each of my children there ultimately came a bridge to cross involving their Christian Faith and our priorities with regards to what came first. What do you do when coaches call practices or schedule games in direct conflict with your children’s worship participation? What do you do when their extra-curricular activities take them away for weekends; sometimes multiple weekends in a row? What are you, as a parent, communicating and establishing when any alternate activity for their extra-curricular participation trumps the priority of worship and participation in the church which the Lord says to not forsake (Hebrews 10:25)?
Let’s paint another picture. How much does your job and hobbies get to trump your faith? Is there any line in your heart where the spiritual well-being of your personal life and family trump the power of your employer to constantly demand you miss participation in worship and the practice of your faith? Before I give you any wiggle room in these illustrations, I want you to wrestle with the questions. How are you prioritizing your Christian Faith in your household? Of all the inheritances you are preparing to leave your kids, what are you doing to leave a spiritual legacy of faith in an adverse culture?
All across America the same scenarios are being replayed untold multiplied times as Christian parents taxi their children to all their scheduled weekend events wanting to make sure that their children have every “experience” possible, as well as, working untold hours to meet employer expectations or achieve a greater financial status. Don’t misunderstand my point. There is nothing intrinsically evil in most of these things. In fact, the beguiling point is that you can make the case that many of these events are “good” and healthy activity. Whether it is work, sports, arts, camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, skiing, get-aways, or vacations; each can have an important and exciting part of a family’s life. The question isn’t, “Can a Christian do those things?”, but rather, “How does a Christian prioritize those things?”
Just how important is your faith? Where on your priority chart does the consistent discipline of worship, service, prayer, and teaching really fit? What gets to trump your worship of God? What signal do you think that sends to your kids when the slightest scheduling conflict automatically means that your family doesn’t have to be in the house of God?
Please don’t react and simply say I am some sort of legalist. I can assure you, I am not. I understand that Christianity is a grace-based faith. I totally understand that there are times, even seasons, when people must work on Sunday, kids have a special event they need to attend, and everyone gets a vacation (me too!). I’m not referring to those moments when there might be a legitimate exception to your faithful Sunday participation and worship. What I am talking about is a secular culture which intentionally challenges your commitment to your faith by scheduling all their gatherings to coincide with your worship and you simply yield to it. At what point, instead of putting our faith on “hold”, do we look at the culture and say, “Sorry, you are not the highest priority in our family’s life”? At what point do we teach our kids that their faith can and will at times, trump the rest of life?
If you think the pressure of yielding to your employer or the coach’s schedule is somehow easier for a pastor to challenge, then you obviously don’t know human nature or your kid’s nature. If you think that my priorities are somehow different because of my calling than your priorities in your calling, then you have been sadly mis-discipled. Please read the next lines slowly and deliberately…
WE ARE CHRISTIANS.
JESUS IS LORD OF OUR LIVES.
JESUS ISN’T A SMALL PART OF OUR WEEK…HE OWNS OUR LIVES.
JESUS ISN’T LOOKING TO FIT INTO OUR ALREADY PACKED SCHEDULE…THE SCHEDULE IS CLEARED FOR HIM.
As I typed those above sentences in upper case, I marveled at how radical they sounded despite how basic the truth is that those sentences communicate. Honestly, those sentences aren’t really radical; they are foundational. And while I admit that the application of His Lordship might “look” different in every person’s life, the question is not out of bounds. Does the activity of the world ever get second place? Do your children clearly understand that in the pursuit of developing their talents and extra-curricular skills that their spiritual life and “soul” are a priority? What kind of an example are they watching (and will implement in the future) from mom and dad when it comes to their spiritual journey?
Do they hear you pray? At meals? At bed time? In devotional moments?
Have they seen you serve the Lord by serving others and participating faithfully in His Church?
Have you demonstrated what generosity and giving look like?
Have there been moments when various schedules conflict when you say, “The Lord comes first kids. He is our priority.”?
Do you model consumer Christianity or committed Christianity?
Does everything trump the practice of your Christian Faith?
The Christian family is crumbling in America because we have not prioritized the place of our faith. Our foundations are being built upon the same priorities as our non-believing neighbor’s and we wonder why the repercussions in our lives mirror those very same people. I do not claim to have made every family decision in my household perfectly, but I can share with you several moments I faced and how I chose to navigate the challenge to our priorities as a Christian family.
1. I have personally called coaches and asked that practice times be changed to accommodate our Christian commitment as a family. Better yet, have that discussion before the season starts. The coach may assign you for devotions or team Chaplin. “You have not because you asked not”. (I know, a little flexible in my hermeneutic, but you get the point.)
(And by the way, all of my children were involved in sports at the collegiate level, so these appeals never hindered their future participation or scholarships.)
2. When on vacation and church was not available, I have gathered my family for corporate worship and Word. Yes, we sang and I shared (albeit short) from the Word. You would be amazed at how friends and extended family will respect your devotion and witness.
3. I have interviewed for jobs and when asked, as you usually are, “Do you have any questions about this position?”, I have responded, “My Christian Faith is important to me and I wonder if in your scheduling you (or this company) might be flexible in how I might need scheduled?” (Why not? Our Islamic friends have no problem prioritizing their faith several times a day.)
4. I have asked for time off in order to participate in worship services or events. Could I have used the money? Sure, I can always use more money, but my prioritization says something to my household, my employer, and most of all to God. (Remember Matthew 6:33…go look it up.)
One last time…I “get” that kids like extra-curricular activities and that parents need to work and support their family and there are moments when that can conflict with a worship service or special church event. Nobody is asking American Christians to sign-up for life at an evangelical monastery. However, that liberty we enjoy as believers cannot be used as an excuse to prioritize incorrectly. The grace of God which liberates us from religious tradition and the law of man cannot be used as the means to neglect our faithful service or worship. If millions of self-identified Christians simply prioritized their faith first, then many of our cultural challenges would be instantly addressed.
How about it?
What does it really mean in your practical family life to declare that you are a “Christian”?