July 12, 2017

Why I Stopped Taking My Kids to Church

Francis Chan speaking to Facebook employees
Photo: Beach goers form wall
About 6-months ago, I stopped taking my kids to church.

Like many families on a Sunday morning, we would wake up on Sunday, get breakfast and then we would go to church. We've been doing that since my kids were born (they are now 4 and 5), and especially given that I have been a pastor that whole time as well, we hardly missed a Sunday. But 6-months ago I hit a point where I just couldn't do it anymore. I reached the conclusion that continuing to take my kids to church just wasn't good for them or for their future.

Over the last year, I've been doing a lot of research, reading, and study about Church, faith, and spirituality. One of the biggest conclusions I've come to is that the way we talk about Church is absolutely crucial to the way we understand it, and more so to how we participate within a community.

Most people who call themselves Christians have heard sermons or read articles that talk about the important fact that Church, according to the Bible, has nothing to do with an organization, a building or a program. And yet, think about how you use the word church. More often than not, it refers to one of those three things:
You pass an impressive cathedral and you say to your kids, "Check out that church." 
You have your church clothes that you make sure you wear every Sunday. 
You're rushing around on a Sunday morning trying to get out the door and yell, "Come on, we're late for church!" 
You listen to a pastor tell you about her church and explain what the church believes. 
You find out your co-worker is also a Christian and so you ask, "Where do you go to church?" And when they tell you they aren't going to church anywhere you question if they are even a Christian...
Buildings. Programs. Organizations. Our western culture has hijacked the term church to refer to these things, but they are not Church. And what's more, talking about Church like this actually undermines what it actually is. Over my years as a pastor, I've spent plenty of time with my pastor-friends lamenting about the consumer-driven mentality that has become church and Christianity in America, but then we continue to talk about Church in a way that, in my growing opinion, only encourages and teaches that consumer mindset.

When I read the Scriptures, and specifically as I have dug through the book of Acts, Church is all about people. It's about diverse people coming together, serving together, giving to one another and talkings about Truth and life and faith and Scripture and trying to figure out what it means to live as an image of the Divine and to bring heaven on earth. Church isn't something that you go to, or watch, or attend; it is something that you are a part of.

In fact, taking it a step further, it is impossible to go to Church, to leave Church, or to be unChurched. You can go to a cool building. You can leave an organization. And you can decide to stop going to a program, but Church is so much bigger than that.

Earlier today I read the incredible story about the 80 or so people who formed a human wall/rope to rescue a number of people who had been ripped out to sea because of a powerful rip current. It brought tears to my eyes to read about so many people from so many different walks of life joining together to bring life to these stranded swimmers. My immediate thought was: THAT is what Church should be like!

The work wasn't just left to the professional life guards.

The rescue wasn't scheduled or arranged.

It wasn't convenient or safe for those who formed the wall.

This diverse group of people chose to all come together, where they were, to bring life to those who needed it.

This is why I stopped taking my kids to church. Instead, we wake up, we go get bagels for breakfast and then we go to Grace Farms (the property where our faith community meets). And when my kids comment that we are going to church, I correct them. "Nope, we're going to Grace Farms. YOU are the Church. It's impossible to go to Church." I don't want my kids growing up thinking that Church is just this thing we do on Sundays. Instead, I want them to know it is something that they are a part of 24/7/365 and that the Divine invites them to participate in bringing about heaven on earth wherever they find themselves.