It’s here! Travel Ball! Families with young kids will increasingly be spending their weekends eating fast food, sleeping in bug infested motels, and getting sun burned as they sit on hot metal bleachers! Oh the life! Not too surprisingly, travel ball often requires families to miss church from time to time. This is nothing new. But the trend of bloggers justifying such excursions with biblical language is an unexpected twist that we should stop and consider.
It’s Ok To Skip?
The arguments for skipping church go something like this. My daughter’s coaches pray before every game. As she plays, she learns teamwork, how to be an encourager, how to overcome adversity through Christ, and she gets tons of opportunities to share about Jesus. Moreover, all the travel provides our family with quality time together. Surely an event covered in prayer that teaches our kids tons of godly life lessons must be a good thing. Thus, parents and kids should not feel bad about skipping church. Essentially they are still doing the Lord’s work.
I have personally witnessed the benefits of sports. God used baseball to humble me and to expose many bad attitudes in my heart. And today, my exploits on the baseball diamond continue to supply my sermons with helpful analogies. Positively, sports teach kids leadership and relationship skills. Because God created sports, they can and should be used to advance his kingdom.
Dress Shoes or Cleats?
But the question still remains. Should the diamond be allowed to replace the pew? Is this a good trade?
To answer this question, we have to determine the purpose of church. Why do we go to church?
Biblically speaking, the church exists so that the people of God can display “God’s glory and wisdom” (Dever). The church accomplishes it mission using a three pronged approach. First, People go to church to worship God together through hymns, the preached word, and prayer (Col 3:16). As people glorify God, they grow in their knowledge and understanding of Jesus. Second, people worship together to encourage and edify the body of Christ (Heb 10:25). They main way people learn to live out the gospel is by being around other believers. And lastly, the church comes together to demonstrate the love of God to the lost and dying world (John 13:35). What should make the gospel compelling to the outside our church doors is how Christians care for each other. As the song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
When we skip church, we are skipping out on our chance to grow in knowledge of God, to be encouraged by our bothers and sisters, and to demonstrate the love of Christ to the world. What do we what do we get in return for swapping dress shoes for cleats? We get a short prayer, valuable life lessons, and some quality family time. None of these things are bad. But, they are not a substitute for the church. This swap is the spiritual equivalent of the trade that sent John Smoltz to Atlanta Braves for Doyle Alexander. Yeah, the Detroit Tigers will not be celebrating Mr. Alexander’s election to the Baseball Hall Of Fame anytime soon.
If we consistently skip church, our lives will suffer. We will become more stressed, will struggle more with sin, and we will become a poorer witness. As Jesus says, we do not survive on life lessons but on “everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3). To know God well, we must spend time with his bride, the church. There is not substitute for the church. As Thom Rhainer writes,
Corporate worship is not one option among many. It should be a consistent and persistent practice of all believers.
Travel Ball is not evil. But it can never take the place of the church. Are you ready to treasure the Bride of Christ?