Saturday, July 6, 2013
What Will Your Generation Do With This Church?
From Generation to Generation
You may recall in my last blog about the U.S. celebration of freedom, that I mentioned that it is up to each generation to do the things necessary to protect and preserve freedom for the next.
I was visiting with a friend after that and we were discussing the churches, children and grandchildren. She mentioned a person she knows who was very involved with her church who had a good sized family, and yet among her children and grandchildren, a very small percentage of those offspring are involved with church. I know a number of families in which this same scenario plays out, and other families in which the children follow faithfully in their parents’ faith. Coming on the heels of my Independence Day blog, it made me think that as important as it is for each American generation to protect our liberty to pass on to the next, it is even more important that we pass the faith on to our children and grandchildren.
Perhaps that describes your life. As I look through the scriptures, I find many individuals whose children served God and followed in their parents’ footsteps. Abraham is a great example of this…Isaac, Jacob-Israel, Joseph..the line is impressive. But then one of the most celebrated figures in scripture, King David, had children whose lives were far from exemplary. Later, King Hezekiah was a man whose relationship with God was pretty special, but his son, King Manasseh, was one of the most godless kings Judah or Israel ever had, (though he did repent later on). I know that there are those who try to offer assurance that the children of believers will be people of faith if we are appropriate parents and believe, but the pattern of scripture is that though godly parents have a godly influence, providing an opportunity for their children to embrace the faith for themselves, children and grandchildren do not always follow in their parents’ faith. Sometimes our influence may be more effective with people outside our family than with those in our family, much as we might prefer it not to be that way. If it is, then we can pray and trust that God will have other individuals whose influence can impact those in our family who we seem unable to reach, because prayers accomplish so much more than we can accomplish ourselves.
It is absolutely critical that we take the preservation of our faith seriously. God expects it of us, and the eternal destiny of millions depends on it.
I have heard it said that the church is always only one generation away from extinction. (Tried to find who first said it, but wasn't able to locate it…if you know, let me know, I’d wouldn't mind having the name.)
A friend of mine discusses the decline in so many American churches, and how so many have lost the younger families. She likes to inquire her faithful church friends who are of the baby boomer and older generations whether they have children and grandchildren who aren't involved with church. She then asks whether they wish those same children were involved in the church and what they would be willing to do to get them involved. Her final question is then: “Would you be willing to give up your kind of music if that would help them want to be involved?”
While people will often say they would do whatever it takes, all too often we place limits on what we actually are willing to do, and as a result, those younger families get involved in other things more conducive to their experiences of life.
In divorce, there is often a faith crisis for the children in the families, especially if one parent holds strong to their faith while the other is irreligious or openly scoffing. But even if both are believers, the children can question what difference it makes to believe, if it doesn't protect one from divorce, because they don’t always see the whole picture. Sometimes they can lose faith because they pray for their parents’ marriage, or that mommy and daddy will get back together again, but when they don’t, they can believe that God must not be real. The hurts in the lives of children can drive them to God, or drive them away. As divorced parents, we must do our best to be seeking Christ and being obedient to his will so that our children will see a genuine example of faith. That seeking may lead us to reconciliation with our ex, it may lead us to remain single, it may lead us to build a godly home with our second spouse, but wherever it leads, it is our duty to do our best to maintain a quality witness for the sake of our children and grandchildren. And it is our duty to be praying for those children, whether it appears that they are listening to God or not. Manasseh was clearly doing wicked deeds despite his father Hezekiah’s example, but he later repented…God got through to him later in his life, at least somewhat. As my wife wisely says in these kinds of discussions, “You don’t know what God is doing in their lives.” And we don’t.
So let me sum up a few thoughts on this whole discussion. First, seek to be a genuinely godly influence in the lives of your children. If you children follow in your footsteps, rejoice and continue to pray for them. But if they do not, realize that even if your marriage had stayed intact it does not guarantee your influence of faith would have been different. And so we pray for our children and do our best to continue to hold true to God. But always keeping in mind that it is up to you and me, we who live in THIS moment in history, to do our best to make sure that the message of Jesus has opportunity to spread beyond this time and into the future for those generations yet to come.
TL:dr It is critical for each generation to carry to light of Christ effectively for following generations to see.