My wife wasn't allowed to be a cheerleader. Her mom wouldn't allow it. When my wife was younger she always wanted to be a cheerleader. When a boy at school that she had a crush on said that cheerleading wasn't a sport her feelings for him quickly dissipated and turned to rage. Cheerleading was a sport and even if she wasn't allowed to play it she'd defend it. For Halloween one year, her mom bought her a cheerleader uniform and she wore it proudly.
Why couldn't she be a cheerleader?
Church Was Not an Elective.
Whether you think cheerleading is a sport or not, we can all agree on one thing - cheerleading is a commitment. As far as Ruby's mother was concerned they were already committed to church. That generation of believers wholly believed that God came first and received our best. Their faith was priority number one. Maybe sometimes to a fault.
At some point the pendulum swung in the opposite direction.
Most parents nowadays see church, Sunday school class, and small groups as an elective. As a result, it comes afterward. It comes when there isn't anything else to do. Some parents mow the law, water the grass, buy groceries and any number of other errands. Students see this in their Christian parents and they model the same.
Benjamin Kerns from Orange once wrote,
"And now church, youth group, and actually any spiritual discipline are firmly on the bottom of the pecking order. This means that if homework, sports, vacation, being tired, practice, fill in the blank, don’t conflict then both students and their parents might consider attending some gathered Christian event like church or youth group."
I spoke with a student recently who continually texts me because he wants to be at youth group but also always has a reason why he can't be here. Finally I said to him, "I don't care about your attendance. I care about your faith. If God continually comes last in your life, is He really your God or is something else your god?" For the past year it's been - girlfriends sports events, family issues, siblings soccer practice, on and on. Every week there was something keeping him from God. The truth is, there will always be something else to do. The question is, are you ever saying, "Oh, I can't do that because I have plans with God." Or are you always saying, "Oh I can't make plans with God because I have to do this."
Why Church Should Be A Non-Negotiable.
When God made Adam He said, "It's not good for man to be alone." God said it first. Man was made for community. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray He said, "pray like this, 'Our Father." Not "my Father." Prayer wasn't just a solo act. God expects faith to be expressed in community. Proverbs says that "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Who is your iron? Who sharpens you? Paul says not to be in closer partnerships with nonbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14).
What's the point? The point is... We can't do this alone. We're not meant to do this alone. Paul says that the church is the Body of Christ which means that Jesus is the head. If you're not connected to the church - who is the head of your body?
At some point we need to recognize that being disconnected from a faith community is dangerous, detrimental, and disastrous for your faith and the faith of your children.
At the end of the day, God deserves your best. He deserves the prime steak - not the leftover bone. Or in Christianese, "your first fruits." How often are you giving God your best and sacrificing your things for His things? My wife couldn't be a cheerleader because church came first for their family. When was the last time you said "no" to your kids because God came first? When was the last time you said "no" to yourself because God came first? The faith your kids see in you is the one they're most likely to emulate. Is your faith worth emulating? Do you really want kids who always expect that their needs and desires come first?
What We're Not Saying:
You know, we're not saying you can't use your gifts, skills, passions, for God's glory. There are times when the Tim Tebows of the world use what God gives them to bring others glory. (Side note: There are also times when would-be professional soccer players become youth pastors because God has other plans.) The students in our youth group don't have to come to Wednesday night youth in order to glorify God. Whether they eat or drink or play football or cheer... it's possible to do it for God's glory and we remind them of that when they miss youth for an important football game. We know students who pray while they're playing football - how cool is that?
What we are saying is simply, "When does God come first?" If you can seldom think of a time when God comes first then your priorities are probably wrong. I do know a girl who believes that she glorifies God just by putting her passions/gifts to use (not necessarily by using them for God's kingdom). The thing is, she's just doing what she loves. Doing what you love doesn't bring God glory. Any non-Christian can do what they love just as much as the next person. Doing what we love in service and submission to the will of Christ is completely different. So we're not saying Christian youth can't cheer or can't play football (There's a way to do them, and to keep Christ at the center of it all). What we are saying is that faith isn't extracurricular and God is our first priority.
By Pastor Keith Sobus
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