From the book “Why We Love The Church” by Kevin Deyoung and Ted Kluck, Ted writes a letter to his son Tristan:
I pray that one day you’ll be able to ask your pastor about free will versus predestination. I hope you’ll ask him about the Trinity. About infant versus believer’s baptism. Not because these are things that divide, but because it will be evidence that you care about your faith and hold it dear. Nothing would make me happier, Son. I pray that one day you’ll be able to articulate what it is that you believe, not because you’ll want to use it to win arguments, but because you’ll be passionate about sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And out of this good news I pray that God will use you somehow. I pray that you’ll always be kind. That you’ll have a heart for those less fortunate than you, and will always be moved by the struggles of others. I pray that you’ll be bold in professing your faith before men.
I pray that you’ll meet your friends in church. You know that I’ve met friends in a variety of crazy places—boxing gyms, football fields, bars, coffee shops, workplaces, etc.—but you can also tell that the majority of my real friends in life, the people who will be with me through good times and bad, come from church. These are the people who pray for us, and with whom we “do life.” It’s a privilege.
And along those lines, I want to tell you that church is more than the soap opera that your mom and I make it sometimes. Doing life with people isn’t always pretty. People don’t always agree and sometimes those disagreements can be unpleasant. You’re not going to like everybody in your church. But my prayer for you, and for us, is that our shared commitment to Christ will overcome this too, and we’ll grow in love and respect for everyone in our congregation.
I pray that one day you’ll profess your love for a special girl in front of a church full of your friends and those you worship with. I pray that you’ll commit, in front of these friends and God, to lead her spiritually, and that your young family will be a vibrant part of the body of Christ. Love her with all your heart, like I’ve tried to love your mom.
I pray that God would surround you with people who challenge you to die to yourself and your sins, and I pray that if I am that person at some point in your life, that our relationship would be strong enough to weather it. And I pray that your relationship with your wife will look a lot like the one that Mimi and Poppy have had all these years. As I type this they’ve been married for thirty-eight years, and are still going strong and the church has played a huge role in their lives. They’ve changed churches a few times over the years, for various reasons, but they’ve always been committed to a body, and that commitment, I’m convinced, is one reason why they’re still happily married. Marriages like theirs don’t just happen in our culture.
I also hope that, at some point, you’ll get a chance to experience the body of Christ through hard times. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years of church involvement, it’s that hard things happen to everybody. There’s sin in this world, and as a result, our bodies are in a constant state of decay, and our lives are almost always, it seems, in turmoil. Nearly every family in our church has dealt with job losses, cancer, heart disease, marital discord, infertility, the death of a child, or a myriad of other tough circumstances. Through that, I’ve seen the body of Christ work in wonderful ways. I’ve seen people give sacrificially with their money and their time. I’ve been prayed with and prayed for. We’ve had Scripture show up in our mailbox every day for a month. I’ve had the privilege of trying to pray others through their hard times as well.
I’ve seen great men crippled by disease—these were men who were the picture of health, intellect, and athleticism in their healthy years. But worshiping with them in sickness, as their usefulness in this world wanes, is a privilege. Seeing them makes me proud of our church, and proud to know the Lord.
Church isn’t a magic pill that you take, that punches your ticket for heaven. Nor is it a glorified social/country club you attend to be around people who talk/think/look/act like you do. It’s a place to go each week to hear the Word of God spoken, taught, and affirmed. It’s a place to sing praises to our God, even if those songs do sometimes feel a bit awkward. It’s a place to serve others. It’s a place to be challenged. Sometimes you’ll feel uncomfortable with those challenges, because sometimes your life will need to change. This has been the case with me.
We all pass something on to the next generation. Fathers, cultivate a love for the Lord in your children, not a love for the “church”*** Show them by example that the true church are His people and teach them to love them as well. May you find yourself at a church this morning worshiping our Savior and loving His people. Have a great Lord’s Day and a Happy Father’s day to all.
*** The church referenced here is the building, programs, politics,etc. The church can be an evil mistress robbing you and your family of time, focus, and devotion.