“As the family goes so goes the Nation.” Dr. Gary Chapman
Family is important but who gets to define what family is? In the Lego batman movie they say “Friends are family” In the movie Guardians of the Galaxy 2 they say “We are not friends we are family” There are many people who would say that those closest to them are family and even growing up I remember calling people Uncle and Aunt who were not technically my blood Uncle and Aunt. Although the Bible talks about family and there are many directions you can discuss this topic I want to break it down to three simple categories. Our Eternal family, our earthly family and our church family. For some this will be oversimplified since some theologians give sixteen definitions of what the family is.
1) Our Eternal Family
The first thing we have to realize is that our true family is those who belong to Christ. Jesus addressed this when His mother and brothers came to get him from a house He was teaching at.
Matthew 12:46-50 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers[a] stood outside, asking to speak to him.[b] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
There were some legitimate reasons they had to go and get Jesus one being that the religious leaders were already planning on getting rid of Him and secondly Jesus brothers did not understand that He really was the Messiah and were probably embarrassed. For Jesus to deny His family at this moment would have been shocking in a Middle Eastern Jewish culture. In America we read that as if it is not appalling but in that culture Jesus would have really made the point that there is a difference between our earthly and our eternal families.
One of the things we need to remember as Christians is that there are people we will be with for eternity that are not our blood relatives. There was closeness in the church in the book of Acts because some of those people were kicked out of their own homes for following Jesus. The people at church were all they had. Most churches in America do not have this closeness because we treat church like a sporting event where we come, sit, watch and leave. We do not know those who are around us and we do not make an effort to get to know people. Some of the problem of closeness is due to the fact that people move more than in the past some is due to the fact of the business of our personal lives keeps us from getting to know people who we will spend eternity with.
Luke 14:26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
Compared to our love and commitment to Jesus the love for our personal family should seem like hate. The word hate here means to love less and Jesus is calling us to put our earthly family in second place of our lives. In America this is not always needed but in countries or families that will not allow you to worship outside the family’s religion of choice it can cost you your family.
The church is a reflection of what Heaven will be like when we all get to heaven and we sing, and enjoy one another’s company while being in perfect union with God and unity with each other. So our eternal family is a family and we can have a bond with them that will last for all eternity.
2) Our Earthly Family
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[b] 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (See Also: Psalm 78:4-7; Proverbs 1; 8, 6:20, 22:6; 31:1, 36)
“The fact that the form is singular urges the conclusion that Moses did not give this responsibility to some abstract group of fathers in the community but to each individual father. It does not take a village, it takes a father.” Youth Ministry that Last a Lifetime, Richard Ross, pg 81)
The book of Proverbs puts the mothers teaching next to the fathers teaching and it shows that as parents we have the responsibility to pass down our beliefs to our children. Many people think that if they take their children to church that they have done their duty as parents. Our busy schedules as well as giving away our role to the church have robbed us from being the primary teachers of our children.
Many of our parents did not model for us how to pass on our faith so many of us as parents now are clueless on what we should do. My generation was brought up in church and we had many church activities and so our parents would busy us with church programming hoping that we were getting the Bible stories and spiritual training needed for us to continue following Christ. The church, with all good intentions, was trying to help but what they wound up doing was taking the Biblical role away from parents. I’m not saying Church attendance is not important but how a child views the importance or non-importance of their faith comes through how they perceive their parents living out the faith they say they believe in.
“In frequency of church attendance therefore children seem to model themselves after the behavior of parents who attend church frequently- or who don’t attend at all. What’s intriguing is that we see relatively little decline over the pasty thirty five years in the similarity of parents and their adult children in frequent church attendance- weekly or more often- as overall rates of church attendance in the United States have declined during the same period. (Families and Faith, How religion is passed down across generations, Pg 63)
You produce who you are so the question then becomes, “What would your child’s faith look like if it resembled yours?” The book Families and Faith, How religion is passed down across generations by Vern L. Bengtson is a thirsty five year study of how religion is passed down to children. The main factor was what the parents believed the children believed even when they got older. The study also showed that a close relationship with the father and a warm home environment were also keys to passing on one’s faith.
Ron Hunter The CEO of Randall House publishing says we need to TALK to our Kids if we want to pass down our faith. Ron gives the letters T.A.L.K. as an acronym for us to remember.
Try and be a part of their Hobby
Your kids may not be just like you and therefore you may have to step into their world by simply spending time doing what they enjoy doing. They will know you may not understand why they love it but they will appreciate you trying to be with them.
Many of our students get asked difficult questions in college that they have never heard before and because of that they can sometimes doubt their faith. Many students want answers to the difficult questions of life and about the Bible. You do not have to know all the answers but you can go on a journey with them to help discover the answer. If you do not ask them the questions their college professors or classmates will.
“The College classroom should not be the first place they hear challenges of Christianity.” Josh McDowell. Josh McDowell goes onto say that kids will not stay in a faith they cannot defend.
When you do not listen then you are telling them that what they are saying is not important. Parents we blame our children about being distracted but we can allow phones and shows to be just as much of a distraction to us as our teens do. The average adult watches television 2 hours and 40 minutes a day and that is not counting online activities on computers or cell phones. We are distracted and we need to shut off the distraction so we can listen to our children.
Find a place in scripture you can encourage and coach them. Not every single situation will call on you to find some spiritual meaning behind it but you will know the times when you can say what the Bible teaches. Watch for conversations that can turn toward Christ and use them to instill into your children what you really believe. Remember, “I think” is opinioned based “The Bible Says” is based on what God has revealed to us.
The best place to talk is in the car because you are shoulder to shoulder and not face to face which can be intimidating especially for teenagers. Only 1 in 8 teenagers talks to their mom about faith and even less with Dad. (pg 95 Richard Ross, Student Ministry that last a lifetime) Fewer than 10% of Christian families read the Bible together or pray together besides meal times. Parents you have to view yourself as your child’s first pastor and if you do not preach to them then the world will. Every commercial, movie show and music as a world philosophy and those things are being preached to our children every day. We cannot assume that we are doing enough to instill into them the truths we believe. It is not about adding one more thing to your to do list, it is about opening up time for Christ in what you are already doing.
Deuteronomy 6:7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
“Teach them diligently” or as some versions say, ”Impress upon them” is like a person carving a message into stone with a hammer and a chisel. We have to continually know that it is going to be a slow purposeful process of passing down the faith to our children.
Exodus 20:5-6 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Your impact as a parent will go farther than you can ever imagine and last longer than the lifetime that you live. Never underestimate what God can do through you even though you may feel as though you have failed at times. You are in a spiritual war for your children and you must not forget that as you pray to God for the salvation of your children. Parents are not responsible for the decisions their children make about receiving or rejecting a relationship with Jesus Christ because every person young or old stands before God on that issue alone.
Parents it is your job to present the faith to your child in such a way that they realize that your faith carries out in every area of your life. There is not a church life, a home life, a work life and a world life. Your life has to be consistent with what you say you believe or your children will think what you believe is not worth following.
3) Our Church Family
“Teenagers who leave High School with little love for the Bride will eventually walk away from the groom.” Dr. Richard Ross
We know that there is a breakdown in the family so what part does the church play in helping train and instruct the next generation. All the research is pointing to the fact that students that worship in multi-generational worship are more likely to continue worshiping after they leave for college.
Richard Ross says, “We have tried silo ministries in church for 60 years so it might be time to try something else.”
Psalm 148:12-13 Young men and maidens together, old men and children! 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.
Jesus said in Mark 10:14 let the children come to me and he was not married or have children of His own.
Tim Elmore reports that teenagers today spend about sixty hours a week with their peers and about sixteen hours with adults. For most of human history, the reverse of that was true.
Teenagers need adult relationships in the church and this is true for those who come from single parent homes or with non-believing parents. In Titus chapter 2 Paul calls for the older men and women to teach the younger men and women. Grandparents have added 33 years of life since 1900 so how are you going to spend it? Grandparents are crucial in passing down the faith to the next generation and many have come to a relationship with Christ not because of their parents but because of their grandparents.
Job 12:12 Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.
Adults with grown children you have a lot to offer children, youth and the younger adults in the room. We need a group of people who are committed to pass on the faith to the younger generation. You have been through the trials and tribulations in your lifetime and the wisdom you have gained needs to be passed down.
Students who sit and do not serve for 18 years will not automatically start serving. Like wet cement you cannot wait to shape and form them. We do not believe teenagers are the church of the future we believe they are part of the church now and every believer in Christ is gifted to serve the church with that gift. In his book “The Myth of the teen brain” Robert Epstein says “We know from extensive research both in the U.S. and elsewhere that when we treat teens like adults, they almost immediately rise to the challenge.” Teens have much to offer their churches and it is time that we stop putting them in other buildings to do their own thing and invite them to come and get to know people they will be spending eternity with.
The difficulty of change is something most churches do not want to face but Dr. Timothy Paul Jones sums it up perfectly when he says, “You’re not doing this to get results; you’re doing this because it is the right thing to do.” The reality is the way we are trying to do church is not the most popular or easiest but I am tired of talking about how 80% of our students leave the faith when they leave for college. It is clear from research that involvement in Worship with other adults is crucial for children and youth yet we settle for entertaining. I want the church to produce disciples that change the world so that we can prepare them to pass on the faith not just to their children but to the world.
“The early church did not say Look at what the world is coming to, they said look at what is coming to the world.” Dr. Timothy Paul Jones.