When I left college and started a career (the first one), life seemed full. I had my job. As I was back in my hometown, I had family. I had friends. I was still an active musician and often had a band to play with on a lot of weekends. Life was full. As life became more complicated, I found my way back to church. It seemed a worthwhile extracurricular activity, something to fit in the spaces - when there were spaces. I thought I would meet new friends, or maybe even a cute young woman (that happened later and is a story for another day).
This new extracurricular activity called church did indeed bring new friends and opportunities to sing, worship, and even serve. Yet, I had to be careful – extracurriculars cannot get in the way of important stuff! I needed balance. I needed to make sure church (God) did not interfere with other important things – and they were important!
I do not know when it happened or even how, but at some point, I had a revelation. It was not a dream or vision. It was just a wake-up call. I realized that my faith was not extracurricular at all. Faith was the cornerstone, the rock upon which everything else rested. I woke up to the fact that when the church asked me to serve, sing, pray or lead, it was not about me. The church was, on behalf of the God who made me, issuing a call to use what God had given me for God’s purpose.
Doing things at the church is not like other “volunteer” opportunities. Serving God is not an extracurricular activity. Jesus never once posted a sign-up sheet for disciples. He called them to follow. They left behind life to find new life. In fact, when a potential disciple responded to his call by saying, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God. Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-62)
When I became a parent, I had to have another revelation. Taking my son to church school or confirmation was not one more extracurricular activity to balance with all the other things that could be on his schedule. At his baptism, my wife (who I did meet in church) and I promised God that we would raise him in the faith. We did so in front of a whole room full of witnesses. We loved that he played baseball and soccer. But we never promised God that we would make sure that happened.
In this world we are all busy. There is a myriad of choices to make about what to do and what our kids are going to do. In fact, the choices are so vast that they overwhelm. I can see the exhaustion in your faces and hear it in your voices. What I want to gently remind all of us, however, is that faith and our relationship with God as expressed in the church is not just one more choice, not just one more possible extracurricular activity. Serving God and keeping our promises to God are sacred.
In a world that gets increasingly secular (so, less and less sacred), never make the mistake of making faith a secular activity alongside aerobics class or a golf game. Faith and the call to serve and raise our kids according to the promises we have made is a sacred thing. By answering the call and keeping the promises, God blesses us. I can tell you that this is most certainly true.
Tim Olson – Lead Pastor