Posted by: pastortomvabeach | July 16, 2019

Thought For The Week July 21, 2019

I read an intriguing article last week by Blake Laberee, who is a husband and father and the lead pastor of a Baptist Church in the Pacific Northwest.  The article was entitled When Church Is Optional, You Set Up Your Kids to Fail.  Pastor Labaree poses some very challenging and searching questions that parents and all Christians today face.  This is a lengthy article, and I don’t want anyone to miss the point by leaving something out so I’m going to divide it into part 1 and part 2.  Hopefully, part 1 will whet your appetite for part 2.  Here’s the first part:

“’Hey Pastor, I just wanted to let you know that we won’t be at church for the next three months because my girl is playing ball and they have games on Sunday and practices throughout the week.’  My heart sank into my stomach. I wouldn’t call it shock, because I had heard this statement, or at least something like this, dozens of times from different parents over the years. Sports, plays, bands, fundraisers, on and on went the list of programs and distractions that would inevitably take the family out of church for a season.

“’Well, let me encourage you to reconsider that,’ I began.  But there was no talking him down. I explained in a hushed tone the importance of his role as a father to set the standard for his children.  I talked about the importance of putting the Lord first.  I talked about the importance of attending the local church (Heb 13:17).  But, standing before me was a father and husband who, instead of leading his family in holiness, was choosing to inflict them with spiritual wounds.

“’Well, they are saved, so what else is there?’ he said, jovially.  I felt my face go flush.  ‘What else is there?’ I asked.  ‘Life!  The Gospel is for all of life; not just a “get-out-of-hell-free” card.  Being here as a family will do far more for them in the long run than this sport. Trust me.’  He snapped back, this time with a more serious tone, ‘Well, they [his kids] need to learn teamwork and stuff.’ We exchanged a few more words and then he walked out – his children and wife in tow.  We saw the kids at a couple more youth events and then never again.

“Pastorally I still ache thinking about that exchange and others like it.  As a believer who considers the gathering of the saints as a commanded, valuable, necessary privilege of grace; I had always struggled with these talks – I suppose I still do.  I am stupefied at how readily professing believers throw God on the backburner – especially when the heart of their children is on the line.

“Where did we go wrong?  How can we sing on Sunday morning that Jesus is my ‘all-in-all’ and then decide to sacrifice the glorious, life-giving truths of the Gospel on the bloody altar of hobbies?  At what point did so many professing Christian parents exchange the instruction, ‘Keep your eyes on Jesus’ for ‘Keep your eyes on the ball?’ 

“Oh great, another blog post about the evils of hobbies.  I should say this, there is nothing inherently wrong with sports or any other kind of hobby, so long as it doesn’t violate God’s law.  I am a huge Phillies baseball fan and an avid hunter (If you didn’t dislike me up to this point – you probably do now).  I wrestled with the tensions between hobbies and church for years.  Swinging from one end of the pendulum – it doesn’t matter, to the other – all hobbies are evil and pull people away from God.  I would like to think today, through studying God’s Word, I now have a more biblical understanding.

“I do not believe that skipping out on the Lord’s Day services is ever appropriate unless divinely organized (sickness, hospitalization, etc.).  Sunday is a special day for God’s people and ought not be treated like a second Saturday.  This means that hobbies should fall second to the things of God.  This thought is certainly counter-cultural.  My unsaved family thinks I’m crazy, because every hunting season I come down out of the mountains with my wife and daughters, shower at a truck stop, and attend the service at a small rural church in the nearest town – effectively ‘wasting’ the entire day, and I love it every time.

“Admittedly, there are times when I am driving down the mountain pass and thoughts of the big muley bucks I’m missing out on trot through my mind, but then the truth hits me, Glorious are you [God], more majestic than the mountains full of prey (Psalm 76:4).  Hobbies and convenience are no reason to disobey clear commands (Hebrews 10:25) – not even hunting season.  I don’t ever want my girls thinking that we vacation from God.  I believe that the problem is not the sport or hobby itself – the problem is often the forgetfulness of the parents.”

That’s part 1.  I must say, Pastor Laberee’s comments brought up some strong feelings.  I’m sure that most of the readers would say the same.  I’ll reserve my comments on his ideas until you’ve had a chance to read part 2.  Stay tuned.  Meanwhile what do you think about his thoughts?  Just a thought.

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