My 10 year old son is playing youth baseball this spring. The team’s regular practice day and time is Sunday afternoon at 2 o’clock. After church our family heads home and eats lunch together. Then I take my son to his practice. It’s a relaxing time for me. I sit with book in hand, looking up once in awhile to watch my son field a ball or swing as the coach pitches to him. The sound of balls being hit, boys running bases, and balls popping into gloves, provide background noise for my reading.
I catch enough of the coaches lessons to reinforce them to my son on our way back home.
“When you’re playing second base, and the ball is hit to third base with no runners on, what are you to do?”
“Make sure to watch the third base coach for signs when you reach first base.”
There are other lessons, much more important, which the coach isn’t teaching my son. Reinforcing the baseball lessons is fun for me to do, and hopefully helpful for my son, but not urgent or necessary. Other lessons I teach my son are urgent and necessary. An opportunity to teach one such lesson came recently when I read an email from his coach.
The baseball league scheduled team pictures to be taken on a Sunday. The assigned time slot for our team was 10 a.m. Our church service starts at 10:15 a.m. and is on the other side of town. Besides, we attend the Sunday School hour which starts at 9 a.m. Joining the team for pictures at 10 a.m. would mean my son would miss church. He wouldn’t just be late to church, it would mean missing the church service altogether that day.
I read the email and paused for a moment, but only for a moment. That’s all it took. My decision was made. If I skipped church and took my son to have his picture taken, what lesson would I be teaching him? The lesson wouldn’t be good. I would be saying that youth sports are more important than fellowship with the saints. I’d be teaching my son to weigh sport’s pictures against listening to the preaching of God’s Word.
That wasn’t going to happen in my home.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying it’s a sin to take a day off from church on a Sunday morning. We all need rest and Sunday afternoon is often a good time for it. But it’s not a command we need to keep under the new covenant.
So then, what’s wrong with sports activities which cause one to miss church once in awhile? Maybe nothing. Then again, maybe everything. After all, we are commanded not to neglect meeting together with the local church (Hebrews 10:25). This is a command we should not ignore.
Dads need to take the lead in teaching the importance of the local church in the life of the believer. How can we teach our sons and daughters to love the church, the bride of Christ, if any other trivial event takes precedence on our calendars?
The league actually did me a favor by scheduling pictures on a Sunday morning. They gave me an opportunity to stand on my convictions and to let my son see me do it. They gave me an opportunity to teach my son a lesson more important that anything his coach is teaching him about baseball. I was given the chance to teach the importance of the local church, the bride of Christ.
I didn’t give my son a long lecture on the importance of the church. I didn’t complain about the league scheduling pictures on Sunday morning. I kept the lesson simple, “Lincoln, church is more important the team photos. I’m sorry you won’t be able to participate but we are not going to miss church in order to take pictures. I hope you understand.”
He didn’t say much and didn’t seem disappointed. Our habit of attending church had created an expectation for him. He’s learning about the importance of the local church by our actions as a family.
Maybe thirty years from now he will be looking back at old photos. And maybe he’ll find a picture of his baseball team in a shoe box and his own son will ask, “Dad, where are you in this picture?”
That’s the day I’m looking forward to. That’s the day the lesson I’m teaching my son today about the importance of the church will be passed on to his children. That’s the day when my son will tell my grandson, “I didn’t join the team for pictures that morning. Let me tell you why?”