In May, 2012, I wrote to a father–John Alcott—in Saint Clair Shores, Michigan- to encourage him to attend church. His wife and children came, but he did not.
This is what I wrote to him.
Good Afternoon John,
Recently I was on the phone with your wife. Tracey said your daughter, Elizabeth, is growing up – 15 in August! Wow. Pretty soon some guy will want to take her out on a date.
You are being nourished by Mr. J. Vernon and our friend Mr. R.C. Sproul. Those are good men and very helpful to many of us. And Tracey tells me you are diligent to pray with your children and engage them in conversation about their spiritual life . . . all of which is very good John. Very good. Good for you.
However, she also voiced concern over your view that attending church is not of sufficient value to you for you to come. John, please allow me to challenge you about that.
Here are some factors, reasons and verses that I hope would prompt you to return to Cornerstone.
First, God sees us together in the struggle we are all engaged in to live for Him. All the requests in the model prayer are in the plural: “Lord give us today our daily bread . . . forgive us our debts as we also forgive . . . lead us not into temptation , but deliver us . . .” Matthew 6:9-13. God sees us as together. We need each other John. We do not see individualized Christian living in the New Testament. We see mutual submission (Ephesians 5:21) and mutual support and care.
Second, He sees the future in terms of churches. When the Holy Spirit described the future in Revelation chapters two and three, He did so in terms of local churches e.g. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatria, etc. It makes sense that local churches are to be focal point of each believer’s Christian involvement.
Third, God started very few things: marriage, state/countries and the church. It makes sense that what He started deserves our involvement. Churches do not exist to be ignored or be unattended. They are a significant statement to society about the Living God. Churches represent God to the world. I assume you want to be associated with that which represents God to the world.
Fourth, Christ died for people. We are to be serving people and entering into their lives and allowing them to enter into our life. The logical place for this to occur is in a local church.
Fifth, there is the Giving & Getting principle. If all we do is give, we run dry and become empty. Exhausted. If all we do is get, we become spiritual obese. It is a balance of giving and getting that makes for healthy living. With you basically having your spiritual life apart from other believers (except Tracey and the Kids; possibly some at work, or others), it seems to be a self-oriented spirituality. What are you giving John? Who are you mentoring?
Sixth, Hebrews 9:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another . . . .” You have “given up meeting with us,” possibly you meet with others. Are you encouraging anyone these days John? Possibly you need encouragement from others occasionally.
Seventh, you need to model submission to Tracey and your children. If you are submitting to God by attending church, you are modeling to Tracey how to submit to you. If you are submitting to God by attending church, Elizabeth will see that and it will be easier for her to submit to you. The opposite is also true – when we resist the Lord, we teach others around us how to resist the Lord. And if we resist a little, our children who have seen our action will resist a lot. “They will go us one better” (and probably worse).
One of these days John, your daughter will be out of your reach and you may desperately want her to do a certain thing and the only leverage you may have over her is her knowledge that you submitted to God when you did not necessary want to. The tougher it is for you to obey God by coming to church, the greater influence that that will have when you want them to obey your counsel.
Obedience to God is like putting money in the bank.
John, I know nothing about your children (except that Liz is almost 15 and she dances). I am certainly not implying they are rebellious. I hope they are great kids. I hope they will grow up to be a credit to you and Tracey. May they enjoy the Lord Jesus and walk with Him. May you have many godly grandchildren 20 years from now.
While your family is still shapable . . . still young enough to be influenced . . . before the world becomes so real to them that God is unreal, I urge you to be zealous for the Living God. What you value, they will value. What you invest time on, they will invest time on. What you love, they will love. Be it guns, fishing, sports, house-remodeling, golf, leisure, self, the Bible or God. Again, I am not saying anything negative about you or your family – only that children are impressionable and we want them to want the best in life. And God is the best.
Tracey said that work is consuming. Exhausting for you. I know that can happen and create real hardship. My heart goes out to you. It can be tough. One of the benefits of the fellowship that I am proposing you avail yourself of at Cornerstone (or some other Bible-believing church) is that you would meet people who work all Saturday night and yet still come to church Sunday morning. The greater your sacrifice to honor the Lord with their presence in church, the greater will be the working of the Spirit to achieve valuable things you will like. Check Hebrews 6:10. It is a faith issue John. God is good and isn’t in debt to anyone. While coming to church once, five time or twenty-five times does not obligate God to bless us . . . still, as we obey Him over the months and over the years, He tends to respond in ways that thrill us.
John, I like to serve people breakfast Sunday morning. Would you, Tracey and your Tribe join me at 8:30, Sunday morning, May 27 in the big kitchen off the gym. I will have some Tim Horton muffins, orange juice and fruit waiting in my office. And we will whip up some scrambled eggs with bacon and cheese over the top and then wheel it off to my office for breakfast. We will have about 35 minutes together in my office – no agenda. Fellowship, food, prayer. Would you be my guest please John? If that Sunday won’t work how about a Sunday in June that fits your schedule.
Up with all things Alcott!