Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp says much that is relevant to all of us [not just parents, but all of us are involved in God-centered parenting] as we are all teaching the next generation. Consider this quote, for example,
If attendance to church and its activities are a burdensome obligation that competes with other more desirable pastimes, children will live for the day they can opt out of attendance. All of the optional activities of life, learning skills, sports, employment, entertainment and even education must be scheduled around the church. Otherwise, it will be one among many of the life options for your children—not the deciding factor in prioritizing life. If it is nothing more than a social organization, children will take it or leave it based on their interest in the social opportunities it offers (p.143-144).
This is true for us as adults. If church is just a social club then we will go to its functions only if it offers us the social opportunities we want. If the worship service becomes just another entertainment competing for our precious little spare time, then we will go only if and/or because it is more exciting than the alternatives we have that morning. You may not believe church is a social club or view it as ‘boring compared to its competition.’ Nevertheless, whenever we prioritize other things above gathering together with the people of God, we are saying what is important to us. We are making a values statement – we are saying what or who is
most worthy of our time (after all worship comes from the old English “worthship”). All this is said not to make you defensive or to increase your sense of guilt should you not be able to attend, but simply to encourage self-examination of your priorities and what you may (even unintentionally) be communicating to others. Such a practice of self-examination from time to time is a healthy exercise. It is especially vital that we examine ourselves to make sure those priorities are not revealing an idol that we worship rather than the true God. By no means is this always the case, many would love to be in church more often than they are.
Ed Moll and Tim Chester, authors from across the pond, in Gospel-Centered Family: Becoming the Parents God Wants You to Be expose some of our respectable (unlike illegal drugs or the like) middle-class idols as false gods. Some of those respectable idols we worship are education, career, and prosperity. This list resembles the one above of those other activities of life. Any of these activities can become idols “when we make these things more important than knowing and serving God” (p.19). It is easy to worry about the
influence of the culture on the next generation but we can have an influence on our children that is “just as corrosive of gospel-centered priorities” if we are not careful (p.18).
Rather than children-centered or parent-centered (or us-centered or me-centered) homes, Gospel-Centered Family encourages us to have God-centered homes. One of the most common middle-class idols is our children themselves. The book suggests that parents with young children should spend time working on their marriage relationship so that children learn that they are not the center of the world. Here is the point: from time to time we should stop and examine our lives to make sure that our children or ourselves and our interests are not at the center of our world but that God is. Should we ever find that we have put someone or something else on the throne we know that there is forgiveness to be found in Christ and He always can give us more grace. Thanks be to God.