Last Wednesday my wife had a bit of a toothache from a recent filling and so I offered to take our 3-year-old to Wednesday night Bible study. Now, we are just now transitioning back into in-person services so I knew our attendance would be low as we also continue to live stream for those unable to make it right now.
My wife wisely commented that she didn’t think he would be able to manage sitting by himself with his siblings while his daddy was preaching. And she was right. While I was preaching he found some gum and was stretching it from his mouth to his ankles. And he was talking loudly to his siblings. And he was rather fidgety.
Thankfully, two brothers in the congregation took him and helped him make through the rest of the service all the while I continued preaching.
A few days later I began to think about that little incident. And I began to think, “I wonder what my son thinks about church?” And I thought this would be a good question to consider as Father’s Day 2020 quickly approaches.
COVID-19 is going to mess up some of my math here. But on May 9, our youngest turned 3. Basically “every time the doors are open” he’s at church. So, that’s 3 hours every Sunday (Sunday School, Sunday Morning, and Sunday night) and 1 hour every Wednesday.
That comes out to about 624 hours of his life has been spent at the church building (52×3 plus 52×1 multiplied by 3 years).
Granted, he has certainly spent his fair share in nursery classes. Yet, when you say “church” to him, something comes into his mind. I wonder what it is?
He would never articulate it this way, but I hope a few things would be rooted and developed in the recesses of his little brain and heart however it is a little 3-year-old might communicate such things.
I can say “tomorrow is church day” to him and he knows what that means. Since he’s never missed a Sunday in his life except maybe due to illness here or there or COVID-19, a routine has been established. When he thinks of “church” I hope he thinks of something we do all the time.
I’m sure when he hears “church” he thinks “people”. No doubt he does think about the physical building. But he has names and faces in mind too. I know because he talks about them. And he especially loves the other ones at church that are as small as he is.
One of the things I hope he things about church is its connection with the Bible. Whenever we go to church, we discuss the Bible. The God we serve has spoken to us in this Book. I hope his coloring pictures of Bible stories, his learning about Bible stories from his teachers, and hearing his dad teach from the Bible have resonated with him.
The other Sunday night he actually prayed at church. I didn’t realize what was happening! Basically he stuck his hand in the air and so I said “Yes, Haddon?” And he put his head down and started praying! We all thought it was cute, but more importantly for me, was that he connected one of the things we do together at church is pray.
I hope the church is a place he associates with love. That when we come to gather with the church, it is a place he is loved and can love others well.
It’s amazing how fast kids pick up on songs. I hope when my son thinks of church that he thinks about all the songs we sing about God and the work of Jesus.
But Wait, There’s More
Of course, there’s so much more I want our youngest son, as well as his siblings, to know about the church. I want them to understand the gospel. I want them to understand the ordinances rightly. I want them to see that Christ died and rose again to redeem a people, not merely individuals.
I want them to understand the purposes and value of the local church. I want them to understand church membership. I want them to understand church discipline. I want them to understand the great commission and its intrinsic connection to the local church.
I want them to understand the priority of the local church. I want them to see that nothing in our lives takes precedent over gathering with the local church every week.
What This Will Take
But if I want my children to understand these realities, I must see them myself. And I must be committed to them myself. Not just in word but also in deed and truth.
I must be a dad resting in Jesus. I must be a dad regularly saturating myself in the Scriptures. I must be a dad who talks to God. I must be a dad who gives up certain things – maybe even “fun” or “good” things – on Sundays in order to guard the importance of the local church.
If I don’t love the local church, how can I ever expect my children to? If I don’t prize the weekly and regular meeting of God’s people, how can I expect my children to?
Of course, this is ultimately up to our sovereign and gracious God. But as a dad, I have no right to expect my son to think of the awesome glories of the local church if I don’t.
May this Father’s Day we commit ourselves toward this great endeavor, namely, passing on a legacy of local church lovers onto our children, grandchildren, and beyond.