By Tim Bentch, Pastor at Souderton Mennonite Church (originally published in the Souderton Mennonite Church November 2016 newsletter)
As I write, this article, I am already feeling guilty about my own deficiencies as a parent – all the ways I could have helped my children excel in sports, music, and academics. I could do more! All the missed opportunities to help my children become successful in life! We parents are plagued by guilt and we also feel the constant pressure from our society to be super parents and to turn out super kids.
But, are these pressures and expectations in balance with what we know is the ultimate goal of Christ-following parents – to help our children find Jesus? Are we helping our children find God and doing all we can to model a pursuit of God for them?
One area we need to take a strong look at is the current sports obsession (though there are many obsessions in other areas). With this in view, I ask the question: Are you driving your children away from God – literally? When you drive your child to a soccer match or practice on Sunday mornings, what is that teaching your child?
My wife and I served in Eastern Europe beginning a few years after the fall of Communism. In many of the countries under Soviet domination, Christians faced discrimination and persecution. In Moscow, I met a talented young musician who played the clarinet beautifully. He was in his late twenties. Why, I asked, didn’t he go to the conservatory of music or to a university for formal studies? He looked at me with a puzzled expression that said, don’t you know? Under Communism, there was no way he could be accepted into a conservatory or a university because he was active in the church – automatic disqualification. But, he chose to be faithful to God by staying active in the local church even though it meant that ‘success’ for him in a musical career or in any other field that required a college education was not possible.
I met an outstanding singer in Timisoara, Romania. He had one of those voices you usually only find in the east – a deep, dark, profound, resonant voice. When I heard him sing, I was incredulous. “Why aren’t you a leading soloist in the opera?” I asked. Again, that puzzled look; don’t you know? He told me that when he finished conservatory, he was offered a contract to be a soloist with the opera. But, they said, there’s one thing, “You will have to give up going to church. A soloist in the opera cannot be known to be a Christian.” He told them immediately, “No way,” and turned down the contract. Instead, he took a position with the choir of the philharmonic – not nearly as prestigious, but he stayed active in his local church.
I think about many others who made huge sacrifices in order to be faithful to Jesus and to honor him by serving in church. Yet, we choose sporting events over church? Really? When we are driving our children to a practice or a game instead of worship or instead of a Wednesday night youth meeting, what message does that send to our children? Are we saying, we only go to church when there’s nothing better to do? Are we placing sports, or work, or leisure, above knowing and serving God? The Bible calls this idolatry.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” The patterns that we give to our children will stay with them the rest of their lives. If we are communicating that church is not important now, how can we expect that they will go to church when they are older? If we are modeling for them a faith that requires no sacrifice, then what good is it? What could be more important than our children’s eternal destiny?