The mean kid… Every group has one. The kid who is either in charge or not playing. They will push their group of friends to play certain games at certain times in certain ways. They run the show. Parents know which of their kids’ friends are the mean kid, sometimes they even know that their kid is the mean kid. We could probably all think of a story when we watched a kid pack up their stuff and go off in a huff because the others weren’t doing what they wanted. Shoot, they still do that in when I get them in junior high. Actually, if we’re really honest, adults do it too.
I have a fear. I have been a member of 5 churches in my life: my home church, my college church, my seminary church, my first church as a staff member, and now my current church. I have seen this happen in every church I’ve ever been in and many churches that are attended by friends or family. There is a vote (that’s how most Baptist churches make decisions) and someone packs up their toys and refuses to play when the vote does not go their way.
There is a time to pack up. If there is a moral issue, a sin issue, it may be necessary to leave if you cannot facilitate peaceful change. But sin issues, moral issues, have not been the root of most of the situations I have witnessed. Preferences have been. I have witnessed otherwise rational adults stop participating in church because they didn’t get their way or because someone offended them.
Like church attendance, I am very concerned about what we are teaching the next generation of believers with our church participation. In essence, we are teaching them that if the church is not exactly to their tastes, then don’t participate. Maybe attend a little, but don’t invest any of yourself in the church, except where the church suits you and your preferences.
We don’t let our kids get away with this with their friends or sports teams. We teach our kids to be good friends and teammates. To stick it out and follow through even when things don’t go their way. And then we teach the exact opposite through the way we act at church. We teach them good sportsmanship and the golden rule (Matthew 7:12) in day-to-day life and model the exact opposite in matters of faith.
Adults, including myself, like to complain about younger generations. But what are they learning from the way we participate? Are we giving of ourselves, sacrificially living, giving our all? Or do we pack up our toys and go home when we get offended or angry?