—Haggai 1:3-5 (NASB)
I returned to a church assuming a position of leadership and the most pressing problem seemed to be the youth group. Despite having a full-time youth pastor, less than half of the teens whose parents regularly attended Sunday morning services were themselves attending even one of the many weekly youth activities offered. I quickly got tired of hearing everyone’s theories and simply called each kid and/or parent to get a definitive answer. Some of them were to be expected from a teen demographic, being involved in seasonal activities such as scouting or sports, such that their attendance was only spotty temporarily; the recurring and most popular answer I received, however, floored me: “We don’t want our kid to be over-involved in church; we want them to be ‘balanced’ and participate in other things while they’re still young.”
I’m resisting as much as possible the urge to tell you about the “good old days”, but the truth is that things have changed in my lifetime. Back when the Egyptians were building the pyramids and I was a teen myself, you couldn’t shop or play sports on Sunday. Everything was closed because the “automatic” assumption was that you’d be attending BOTH a morning and evening service each and every Sunday. Compared to the way things once were, Sunday evenings have all but disappeared as a standard option as well as mid-week prayer meeting. On average during my teen years I was at the church at least 5 different times a week for various activities and ministries. I guess those parents I polled would label me “unbalanced”.
Now don’t send me a scolding email that it’s not enough to just go to church every day of the week, (I know that) but you have to take a step back and look at the whole picture. Each and every thing we do, each and every way we allot our time and resources, is another brick in the foundation and walls of our life. The point I’m making here is how the materials once rich in Christ are being replaced by ones which will not benefit in the long run. Our dedication to all things outside of the body of Christ is represented here as “paneled houses”. If we’re busy with our own paneled house, then the house of the Lord “lies desolate”.
It’s ironic that people across all demographics agree that the church is deteriorating and losing strength, and yet there is a kind of myopia that does not see that it’s because the time and materials are being redirected to one’s self at the expense of the church. I wonder how important would still be so much of what we have and do should we decide to do “something churchy” each and every day instead of investing it in ourselves.†††