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Prioritizing the Church

Posted February 27, 2017 by Jesse Penner

I grew up as a pastor’s kid. My father moved from British Columbia, Canada to Fresno to start his third church. He had a passion for starting churches. For our family, this passion meant Sunday was a day consumed with church. Rain or shine, we were there. All day Sunday we were at the church. Most days during the week, we were at the church. As a child, I knew I owned the building. The church felt like my playground. I knew every hiding spot, and every nook and cranny.

When I turned 5 my father made a decision to change professions. He moved out of ministry as a full-time occupation and became a realtor. We stayed at the church my father started for about two more years. At that time a new pastor had taken over and my father felt it was time to let him lead without the presence of the former pastor. But this change in vocation did not stop our family’s commitment to the church. Church was our every-week activity. If we went on vacation as a family, the priority of church was ever present. My father would either find a church to attend or we would create church as a family.

I remember being at the coast in campgrounds as children, and my sister and I would plan the whole service. We would create a time of worship and one of us would give a sermon; we recreated everything we saw on a weekly basis. The times would generally end with Dad giving a nugget to the family or teaching us something about the character of God.

As we got older, and things like sports or life began to crowd and fight for our time, Dad still found a way to make church a priority. For example, my sister played softball during the summers, and that consumed many weekends, Friday to Sunday. Attending a physical church was difficult, so Dad started a Sunday teaching time and invited the whole team to participate. Parents, teammates and whole families would sit around on the grass learning about Jesus together. Church remained a constant.

As I started a family of my own I desired the same focus for us. I wanted the weekly gathering of church to be a value. Not a box to check, but rather a significant part of our faith journey. I found, however, as my family began to grow, that it was easy to let the value slip away. The excuses became easier and easier. We would be on vacation at the coast. Kids were sick. We were tired. A litany of excuses crowded into our path, and eventually, slowly missing one week here and there turned into missing two or three times a month. The value and priority of the church seemed to slip in a matter of a couple years.

It was in this season that I began to reflect upon one of my dad’s favorite teaching topics. He loved to speak about generational blessing from God. He would remind us as kids that our family was living within the blessings of God. My grandpa had passed on his faith to my father, and my father had passed it down to us, and it was our responsibility to keep passing down the blessing of the Lord to the next generation.

In particular he would talk about the kings of Israel. He would point to the kings and say, “You see, this king followed the Lord and so did his son and his son, but then one son would come along and choose not to follow. And the nation would be in turmoil.” It happens so quickly, he would say. He would continually express how so much can change in one generation, and that is why passing along our faith is so important.

This type of generational faith comes as a result of intentionality. It is easy to walk through life and choose the easiest possible route. The most convenient route. To let little things slowly eat away at the truths you once held firm. The weekly gathering of the body of believers is one of these truths that slip quickly. I see it all around me and in me. “We can skip this week...” quickly turns into a habit.

Church needs to be one of our values. Not because we need to be sitting in a pew each week to check a box, but to prepare our hearts and minds for the week ahead. To sit with a body of believers who can help hold us accountable. To create relationships with believers and show our families that being together as the body of Christ is imperative for our faith. This time with the church every week needs to be a fueling station. Even when we can’t make it to a physical building, we need to take the time as a family to sit before our Savior and pass along the faith to the next generation with intentionality and purpose.


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