During my own youth, which really wasn’t long ago, stuff didn’t happen on Sunday mornings, evenings, or Wednesday nights. Sports, music events, whatever.
And if it did, I missed it. I didn’t get to play baseball. I didn’t get to sing. I didn’t get to go. Or, at least, I’d get there late or leave early. No questions asked. In general, at least in the buckle of the Bible Belt, the prevailing culture respected this. Though there is much about my religious background I’d rather forget, this is one of those important things that has stayed with me.
I’m not going to be the one that will condemn anyone for missing a Sunday here or there. Even in my current life as a professional Christian (i.e. one who is paid to be in church), I get to take an occasional mental health Sunday, though I will generally worship somewhere else on that day.
I respect the fact that church is extraordinarily difficult for many. There may be seasons when Sunday mornings are a non-negotiable for work. Don’t forget that there are plenty of churches offering services and Masses at other times over the weekend. It might not be convenient, it might be exhausting, but it’s certainly possible.
Seeing as how this is something we do every week, you can’t argue, as some might wish, that once or twice a month constitutes regular church attendance. Or attending whenever dance competition season winds down. Or when baseball season winds down. Or when the show closes. Or when out-of-town family leaves. What you’re teaching your kids is that you should go to church if no other important things are happening in your lives. In other words, you’re teaching them that church really isn’t that important.
(Oh, and as a fan myself, I’m here to tell you that baseball is not meant to be a year-round sport. Tommy John surgery at 16 is not normal. For the love, stop burning your kid’s poor arm out.)
Regular church attendance is being there practically every time health and weather permit. The church’s liturgy, regardless of popular opinion, isn’t merely one particular way in which a person of faith can worship or find strength. It isn’t supposed to be just another church ministry, a way in which we bait and switch outsiders into nominally aligning themselves with us for a time, before they too stop coming regularly.
No, friends. The worship gathering is central to the Christian life. Your children need to participate in worship more than they need all those other activities. Imperfect as each individual body is, the church is perfected by the work of Christ. It’s the only place in which you and your children can be fully nourished as gospel people. And if they have to go without some extracurriculars, even if they are otherwise valid pursuits, so be it. That’s a sacrifice God’s people are called to make.
The church is complicit in this, no doubt about it.
By refusing to catechize people on the importance of liturgy, we’ve de facto taught them the opposite lesson.
By creating a smorgasbord of “worship” options, we’ve made worship completely optional.
By making worship all pop music and no Word and Sacrament, we’ve taught them that they can get everything they think they need from a podcast and some jesusy records.
But we parents ought to know better. It’s our duty to know better, even. If our kids don’t understand the discipline of weekly worship, that’s completely, unequivocally on us. If we don’t teach them the importance of liturgy, especially as it grows more into the counter culture, who will?
Look around you, parents. There’s nobody else.
(I encourage you to check out this similar post on another Patheos Evangelical blog for more on this discussion.)