but don't ever take sides with anyone against the family again ... ever.
Today I was reading some comments by Al Mohler, president of SBTS, with regard to family activities eclipsing church life. They got me to put "pen to paper" some thoughts I've had for a while now.
In his post entitled, "The New Family Trump Card" -- Family Time vs. Church Time, Dr. Mohler speaks to families prioritizing extracurricular activities (e.g., sports) over church activities.
At the same time, when Christian parents take their kids to Little League games rather than worship on the Lord's Day, these parents teach their children that team sports are more important than the worship of God.Dr. Mohler speaks of the activity becoming an idol, but I'm concerned it goes deeper.
Every kid has a "thing" going on virtually all the time. That is the condition of life today, it seems. But when that "thing" keeps the child -- or the whole family -- away from church, we need to name that thing what it is . . . at best a snare, at worst an idol.
He references an article in Leadership, "Shifting Family Values," wherein we read:
The increased emphasis on "family time," even at the expense of meaningful involvement in church life, is a sign of the times. It's one way Generations X and Y are making up for the hands-off, latch-key childrearing styles that characterized their Boomer parents: heavy investment in the kids, and everything else takes a back seat—including church.I think that's it in a nutshell. In a reaction to what came before (a perceived minimization of the family), they really have an overreaction that prioritizes the physical family above the spiritual.
Jesus does the opposite, for spiritual ties should trump physical ties:
31And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you." 33And he answered them, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" 34And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother."This may sound counter-intuitive, but we learn in Matthew's account of the same interaction that the same day Jesus started telling the people parables.
-Mark 3:31-35 (ESV)
50For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." 1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.In other words, He appears to have blown off His physical family to go do ministry and there's no indication in any of the accounts that Jesus stopped what He was doing to have a family conference.
-Matthew 12:50--13:1 (ESV)
I'm not saying people in general, nor clergy in particular, ought to blow off their families. They are to be good stewards of those with whom they have been entrusted. My point is that you will search high and low to find Jesus preaching the good news of the family instead of the good news of the kingdom. In other words, the family exists for the advancement of the kingdom (the church, the bride of Christ in the world). The church does not exist for the family.
While Mohler primarily speaks to church families not attending church services due to preoccupation with other activities , I think that is merely symptomatic. What concerns me is what I consider to be idolatry of the family. To put it another way, the individual family unit becomes the most important community for the average American professing Christian.
Hillary wrote that it takes a village to raise a child. Others have noted that it takes a church. Most American parents thinks the church is an ancillary supplemental component, not the crucial mechanism whereby sanctification occurs.
This is a disturbing trend, but just seems an extension of the American bastardization of the notion of priesthood of the believer. Instead of "just me and my Bible; I don't need anybody else" it becomes "Just our family and our Bible devotions; we don't need anybody else." While they might attend church, church is more of an elective than a core course in the Christian curriculum.
I intentionally try to minimize Providence Church programs to not be "enabling" parents where kids are concerned. I don't want families preoccupied with busyness to the point of not having healthy family relationships. I realize many churches are prone to go to extremes, having something multiple nights during the week whereby they expect full participation.
Our church only expects one night a week, but you'd be surprised how few make that. I realize many have many things going on, but most families make a much greater effort to get to the soccer game (on time) than to church (on time).
Yet, churches need to be family-friendly, as Mohler noted:
When "church time" is seen as a competitor to "family time," something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.It's important to have family activities and fun things that build community. If church activities are too age-segregated, I can see how some would see church as non-conducive to family time. My response to that would be for the parents to get involved in the ministries in which their kids participate.
Just as I'd suggest a public school parent become a room parent, I'd suggest involvement in ministry. It demonstrates to the child the priority the parent puts on church by not only being there, but serving and investing his/her time.
I said all that to say this. The family is important, but God ordained the church as the primary entity for spreading His glory through the justification and sanctification of people. The human, physical family plays a role in that, not the other way around.