I do love a comfortable recliner. My wife and sons bought me a new one a while back, and I really do like it. The one I had before I had for many, many years, and Latina had finally decided that it was just not suitable to be in the house anymore. Of course, the way she did that was to paint it gold so that it could function as Pharaoh’s throne for VBS last year!
Oh well, it was a great chair for a long time. It had been broken years before, on a Saturday night when the teen guys decided to spend the night at my house. Some time after we went to bed, shenanigans occurred and the chair was broken. Now, I didn’t know the chair was broken for about a week, since none of the guys bothered to tell me. I found out when I hit the lever to relax and the back of the chair fell off in the floor. Not such an “easy” chair after all.
We like being comfortable. And, we are willing to work hard, if we believe at the end of that sweating and difficulty there will be a more comfortable place to exist. Mankind has always been willing to work, for the chance at ease and relaxation at a later date.
Do we take this mentality with us into the church? I think that the answer would have to be “Yes”. I think we often serve and work for a period of time, and once we have decided that it is enough, or we get a little burned out, we sit back and become spectators. We just reach down and flip that handy lever and assume the position in our recliner, our “easy” chair. And, some Christians remain in that chair for the remainder of their time on this planet. It is also easy from that chair to play the “arm chair quarterback” for the folks doing the work at church.
Not only that, but we begin to teach the next generation to do the same as we talk to our children in the car on the way home from church. We talk about church as though we are critics, evaluating the next movie that Hollywood has produced. We talk about what we like, and what we don’t like. We also sometimes get very personal, nit picking particular people or groups that we aren’t very close to. It makes it seem like we go to church somehow separated from what is happening there. It can cause a young person to think, “Yeh, the church is kind of awful and I don’t want anything to do with it.”
They seem to be learning that lesson. A large number of our children these days are getting to college and deciding that no church is good enough for them. No church is “earning their business.” They don’t say it that way, but they talk about going to church and that it just wasn’t what they were expecting. And they have a high level of expectation. They are savvy consumers that need to be pleased very early or they are not going to stay.
If we teach our children that the church is a place to receive rather than a place to serve, it can create a “consumer” attitude in them that harms their faith and spiritual growth.
We need to be cautious about having them in a place that is almost always about them and their experience while they are there. Yes, this helps the child “want to go to church”. But, it also creates the expectation that the church exists to attract them. It habituates them to evaluate everything that happens at church in terms of what it means to them.
Jesus in John 12:32 said, “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” Draw all men unto Him. Really it is all about drawing people to Him, not us. This includes our children as well as all others. And that means that while I still think the church should be attractive to us and others, it doesn’t place me at the center of the spiritual universe. It places Christ there. He must stay there.
This is where involvement in a church plant, a smaller church, can bless your children in ways that you might not expect. You see, the new church doesn’t have the resources and people that a larger church can afford. If we see something that is needed, we have to make time and find workers for that ministry instead of approaching someone else about making that happen. That means that people start to be more slow and gradual about forcing the church to do something or creating a new ministry. They realize that if that “new thing” is going to happen it is going to require work and energy from them!
This means that your child, at a younger age, realizes that they are actually “needed” at church. What also assists this idea is that Mom and Dad in a church plant almost always have some role or responsibility. And, when everyone is a part of the “team” the comments made about church change. When there is something that needs doing, we start to look at each other instead of looking for the store manager.
A church plant can take a family from the bleachers and get them into the game. It teaches new skills and demonstrates how much harder it is running the plays on the field than criticizing from the stands.
It also shows them the rewards of participating in kingdom work. No, it is not always a beautiful building, and sometimes we might have to clean the bathrooms for our church since we don’t have a janitor. But, what happens there is authentic and real. The church needs me, and my involvement matters to the people who come to worship. We are a family, and we are thankful for those who come to support and encourage the work. We need them as well!
Church planting really does lead toward enormous growth for the people who will take the challenge and push themselves. They can do new things and involve themselves in the work of the church like never before. It pushes us out of our comfort zone and asks new things of us. It has for me. And, although I haven’t always liked it, it has really been good for me, and for our family.
Consider being involved in a church plant, and talk to your family about it. Let them know what you are thinking and praying for them as they grow in their spiritual lives. Love your kids, love the church, and stay centered around Jesus.
Keep the recliner at home. Enjoy the rewarding, hard work.