Good question. I honestly had a hard time answering. For me, its just something I’ve always done since I was three. Below are a series of answers I thought of giving, but when thought through, I wasn’t even buying it. A lot of food for thought for the church wanting last another generation; a generation all asking the same question: “Why go to church?”
I thought of saying, “To grow in our faith”. Although this is somewhat true, I don’t want my son to see church as the only place his faith grows. Faith is meant to be cultivated into the ins and outs of daily living. The last thing I desire is to raise a Sunday morning “good-boy” who only knows how to live out faith through church activities.
I wanted to say, “To get together with others who are following after Christ”, but I knew what he would say through his simple, five year old thinking; “But can’t we do that anytime?” A valid thought provoking thoughts of what genuine community looks like. Is seeing one another on a Sunday morning living in community? (as I rush past friends, and maybe even someone in need, to pick up my children from nursery and Children’s church)
I would have loved to say, “It’s a place where the poor and broken come to be a part of a family”, but is it? How ironic is it that just before my son asked me his question, I was pondering what Jesus would think of those who populate the pews and are welcomed into our churches? I realize all of us are broken and in need of grace, but how would we respond to a cross dresser if they walked into our building? What if a stripper came to church dressed promiscuously because she had nothing else to wear? What if another who carried a garbage bag full of empty bottles sat down next to one of our broken, yet polished, members? If I answered my son this way, would he tangibly see my answer to be true? He knows what the poor look like. If I asked him, would he say seeing them in church is a regular occurrence? I think we need to re-evaluate who church really has become about. If we are serious about who Jesus is about, we may have a mass renovation to undertake.
As someone who loves worship, I was tempted to say, “It’s a place we go to worship God”, but I wouldn’t want him to think of singing songs and sitting and listening once a week as worship. I want him to know that choosing to be nice to his brother is worship as well (trust me, I really want him to know that one…)
And even though it goes against everything I learned as a young person, I am rebelling against the idea of teaching my son that church is a place he brings “lost” people to. I don’t want my son growing up with an “us and not-us” mentality. I don’t want him to see church numbers as a successful church. I want him to be able to truly see people. To love them and want to invite them into community to embrace a life of discipleship together, which includes meeting together. This opposes the “bring them to church so we can say we had 1000 people this Sunday!” This “us and not-us” mentality is causing terrible separation between the church and those it is called to. I want radical discipleship for my son and the adventure of reaching people where they are; not seeing them as “projects”.
My son needs to see the risk Christ intended for His body. Yet what he sees looks similar to school; organized activity for learning. I’m not saying it’s wrong, I’m just seeing at five years old, he’s already yearning for more.
Maybe I am too?