Friday, April 22, 2011

We only go to church for the prizes

Since starting my maternity leave, we’ve managed to get the girls to church all of four times; all Wednesdays, never on a Sunday. And that’s just the kids – my husband and I have made it only once, and we ended up leaving half way through the program. This probably will strike you in one of two ways:

a) Wow, for a minister, you sure bailed the first excuse you got. There are plenty of hardcore church devotees, and women who want to ogle the baby, who harbor at least a little resentment for our prolonged absence. If they had a new baby, they’d be in church praising the Father, and letting their church family hand it around and give it RSV, as soon as they could walk without assistance. My assertion about this is substantiated by an email received when the baby was ten days old, lamenting our failure to attend, and the dashed hopes of many in the congregation who had anticipated seeing us that Sunday.

b) Wow, you took your kids to church when you could have been home sleeping with the newborn? For those who either don’t go to church, or only go to church when they want to go to church, it’s nearly unimaginable that we would make such an effort when we clearly don’t have to. Especially when being on staff means that coming within a three mile radius of the building makes us a target for people to wrap us up, demanding face time with the baby or help finding things, organizing things, or handling their personal woes.

Another indictment against our choice not to come every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, is that we’ve been in the holiest season of church life, Lent. While Baptists don’t always make a big deal about Lent, we want our kids to understand the incredible significance of the crucifixion and resurrection, so we usually set these six weeks apart in our family. We avoid meat on Fridays, do some sort of daily or weekly family devotions, and give something up or commit to a short term spiritual practice. It is completely out of the ordinary for us to spend the entire season of Lent away from corporate worship and Bible study. Let alone, eating meat on Fridays and failing to make a significant sacrifice (although we both agreed that we are giving up sleep for Lent this year).

More than largely neglecting church during Lent, we probably wouldn’t have gotten the kids there as much as we did, if it weren’t for the end of the year incentives they would have missed. They made it for the Pajama Party; Talent Show; to complete a book, thus earning a trip to Incredible Pizza; and to spend their Bucks at the last AWANA Store. We didn’t attend Palm Sunday worship; we skipped the Maundy Thursday communion service. We will, however, be in attendance this Sunday. I like to believe it will be for the exceptionally special celebration of Christ’s Resurrection, but some will probably notice that the Sunday we finally chose to attend included an Easter Egg Hunt after worship for the kids; meaning, of course, that we are still attending only when there are freebees to be had.

In addition to our failure to attend so far, I will go ahead and confess now that, despite our return to church this Sunday, we are likely to miss most, if not all, of the Sundays in May, as well. I don’t equate neglecting church with neglecting Christ, but I probably could put more effort into getting there; if I really wanted to go. I guess in all honesty, while I’ve missed church and don’t want our congregation to feel neglected, being there – and therefore being their youth pastor – while sleep deprived and worried about caring for and protecting a newborn is a hassle I just don’t want to endure until I have to.

Jesus finished by saying, "People were not made for the good of the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for the good of people.” Mark 2:27

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