“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field the LORD God had made.” Genesis 3:1a (KJ21)
You have probably heard of the frog in the pot – the poor, unsuspecting creature relaxing in a pot of cool water, thinking all is well. If the water suddenly turned hot, it would jump out and save itself. But since the water is heated very gradually over the stove, the cold-blooded critter just keeps adapting. Finally, the water begins to boil, and it can no longer adapt, because it is now dead.
I have heard this analogy related to America and some of the obvious evils of our time. But I haven’t seen much attention paid to a more subtle onslaught of things that would not necessarily be called “evil,” but can take a more prominent place than they should in our lives. When certain things – even good things – take precedence over the things of God, it’s time to take a serious look at our priorities.
When I was growing up, most Americans went to church on Sundays, and the ones who didn’t usually had Sundays set aside for family. The people running the schools wouldn’t have dreamed of scheduling anything on a Sunday.
If Congress were to pass a law making it illegal to attend church in America, with serious penalties attached, I’m guessing there would be a massive outcry from the Christian community. (This is why this hasn’t happened.)
But today something more subtle is taking place in certain regions, in stages that go something like this:
1. “Yes, we’ll have occasional practices on Sundays, but they’ll always be at 1:00 P.M., so it won’t interfere with church.” (No one objects.)
2. “So, practices at 1:00 on Sundays seem to be working well with everyone, so we’re going to do that every week during the season.” (Again, no objections.)
3. “There will be a few games this season on Sundays, but don’t worry, they’ll be in the afternoons.” (Still, no objections.)
4. “Since Sunday’s game is out of town, please be at the school at 10:45 A.M. The bus is leaving at 11:00.” (Parents think, Oh well, it’s just this once.) (Care to take a guess as to whether this will be just a one-time thing?)
And the frog sits in the pot, while church pews and Sunday school seats are collecting dust. We can’t blame the world – it’s just doing what the world does. If Christians aren’t speaking up, why would anyone else turn off the stove?
When I see kids who have been absent from church and tell them we missed them, there’s a tendency to shrug and say, “I had a game,” as if the choice had been a no-brainer. They haven’t consciously chosen sports over God; if you were to ask them what is more important, they would say “God” without hesitation. But when it comes to time commitment, other activities seem to be the nonnegotiable every time.
What frustrates me when there are five leaders and two kids at Sunday school or youth group, is not the kids that are missing. It’s the complicity of the parents, who drive them to their meetings, practices, and games, but can’t manage to bring them to a church function. And when one child has an activity that is using the family transportation, that often means none of his/her siblings will be at church, either, even if they want to be. What kind of message are we sending the next generation, when God is relegated to the back burner week after week?
What is the frog’s (child’s) perspective over time?
1. “My family always goes to church on Sunday, unless we’re sick or there’s an emergency.”
2. “My family usually goes to church on Sunday, unless something else comes up.”
3. “Sometimes my family goes to church Sunday, if there’s nothing else going on.”
4. “My family sometimes goes to church on Christmas Eve and Easter.”
I can hear cries of “Legalism!” coming from some corners. And I have read on other blogs, “Do we have to go to church to worship God?” And the answer is, no, of course not. But a huge part of worship is obedience. God’s Word repeatedly stresses how important we are to one another. Understand, He needs nothing from us, but we need to be together, to experience the joy of corporate worship, to pray for and with one another, and to study the Bible together. (Studying it alone makes it too easy to go off onto some personal tangent and away from the Author.) Besides, how many of us will really worship, pray, and study Scripture consistently, independent of others?
If you are imprisoned in solitary confinement for believing in Jesus (a very real scenario in many places), then God will honor whatever fellowship you have with Him. He will certainly meet you where you are. But if there’s ample opportunity to get together with other believers as He has told us to do, to be encouraged and strengthened by them – not to mention the encouragement they need from you – and you blatantly choose not to participate, don’t be surprised if somewhere down the road you may be thinking, I just don’t feel as close to God as I used to. And the enemy of your soul will use that as an excuse not to believe at all.
And the frog dies.
While Christians in other countries risk their freedom, their livelihood, and their very lives to gather with the faithful, why are American Christians so blase about practicing their faith? Believers in other parts of the world would give their right arm to be able to fellowship, study the Bible, worship, and pray freely with fellow believers. What would they say about our preoccupation with extracurricular activities while “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together”? (Hebrews 10:25)
The schools have our children six days a week. Why do they need access to them on Sundays, too? I wonder (in my fantasy world) what would happen if at the beginning of the semester every church-going Christian parent in America were to say (politely), “My child would very much like to participate in __________, but we go to church on Sunday morning, and the rest of the day we are together as a family, so (s)he won’t be able to participate on Sundays.”?
I’m guessing we’ll never know.
Okay, parents, prove me wrong.