Teaching the Generations
When my daughter was little she used to ask all kinds of spiritual questions.
Can God fly like Peter Pan?
Does God eat food?
If God created the world, who created God? (Pretty profound for a 4 year old!)
Back then I was what I refer to now as an Occasional Christian. I had come to know Jesus back in middle school. I had accepted Him as my Savior, but not so much as my Lord. The years marched on and I turned my back on spiritual matters. More years march on and I started coming back. Going to church occasionally. Sending up an "air prayer" - what I call my short little prayers asking for God to help me. This was where I was at spiritually when my daughter started asking questions. Sadly, I was unprepared to answer her.
Many years later we switched churches. I go every week. I sit there enthralled and a bit skeptical. God gives me a passion to know more of Him and I start on this incredible life-changing journey to figure out what I truly believe. And I come to know the Lord in an intimate personal way. I begin to discover answers to my pile of questions.
My son always was a question asker. I mean to the point where he was annoying! One question would lead to the next which would lead to the next which would lead to me snapping, "Stop asking questions!" Oh, how I regret the times I said that. An inquisitive mind is an excellent thing!
As he got to middle and high school he would occasionally ask me about spiritual things. He wanted to talk about them. And I was better prepared to answer him.
However, we didn't really talk about the Bible and Jesus much in our home. Both my husband and I were raised in a denomination and in families which held to the belief your faith is a personal private thing. So in our home when I would start talking about spiritual things, my husband would become uncomfortable and I'd back off. And my children didn't seem as interested the older they got.
In their formidable years, I didn't have the faith and knowledge I have now so I couldn't teach it to them. I took them to church and left it up to the church to teach my children about Jesus and the Christian faith. That's what my parents did. My children know the what we believe. But I'm not really sure they know the why we believe it. Their Christian education is greatly lacking and I have a mountain of regret - a lot of woulda, shoulda, coulda's.
Now my children are grown. The questions have stopped. I missed my window of opportunity (and it was a huge window). Tears.
"These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons 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 up."
Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 3:14,15
To whom would He teach knowledge, and to whom would He interpret the message? Those just weaned from milk? Those just taken from the breast? "For He says, 'Order on order, order on order, line on line, line on line, a little here, and little there.'"
My grandparents were faithful. My ancestors in my family genealogy were described as "consistent Christians." Somehow between my grandparent's generation and my generation, it began to unravel. My parents didn't teach me anything about our faith. The church I was raised in taught me a little. But I somehow missed the training I should have received.
But this isn't just my story. It is yours too.
Today there is a huge lack of knowledge on the basics of the Bible and our faith. When I teach Connecting the Dots of the Bible, I am always surprised by this. Most of my students go to church regularly, but are fascinated by what I teach them - as if it is the first time they have heard it.
The generations alive right now seem to think Christianity is founded on myths, hoaxes and lies.
Everyone seems unsure of what they believe and seems to be full of doubts about their faith.
Where, oh where, did it fall apart?
I spend a lot of time pondering this.
A significant part of the blame goes to churches. What are they teaching? Not the basics. Not the foundation. Most churches emphasize the message that God loves you. He does, but there is so much more to it. We trivialize God and make Him small in our churches. We seem to skip over the part where we must confront our sin and be faithful and obedient to Him. We skip the part that He is a holy God and we must fear Him. We aren't teaching about God's sovereignty. We aren't teaching obedience. We have eliminated saying The Apostle's Creed and the Lord's Prayer in our services. We have eliminated any kind of formal religious training of our youth (and I'm not talking about how our denomination is governed or what it takes to be a member.) We tell them the stories in the Bible, but don't explain the significance of those accounts or explain how it all fits together.
Our Christmas and Easter services are watered down. The Hebrew people of the Old Testament had 7 annual festivals they celebrated year-in and year-out. All to remember who the LORD is and what He did for them... so that the next generation has a foundation of faith. Repeat the account. Remember what God did. Teach the next generation. And we can't even do this two times a year to remember and celebrate and to teach why these days are so important to us?
Churches are somewhat bending the message to give you what you want and get you to come. But you aren't staying long, are you?
(Of course, not all churches. I am talking very generally here and not about any particular church or denomination.)
But let's not put all the blame on the churches. Part of the blame goes to you. You just aren't interested in learning. I am being brutally honest here. In a time of more information readily available to us, we are pretty stupid. And our attention spans suck. If it can't be tweeted in 140 characters or less or written in 900 words or less - forget it. If it doesn't have incredible graphics and music and fast-paced videos - we can't be bothered.
And what has happened to us in the bigger picture? We became generations with an ignorant weak faith. And what happens to people who are immature in their faith? The first major storm that comes into their lives sweeps them off their feet. It crushes them and they turn their backs on this whole Christianity thing.
It wasn't what they thought it was. But that is because they don't know what it is.
If we don't purposefully train believers in the foundations of our faith, they can't train their children. And then we shouldn't be surprised by our young people falling away in record numbers from the faith of their ancestors.
We have raised generations of Occasional Christians who have doubts and aren't sure what they believe. A bunch of Christian babies aren't of much use to God. They aren't impacting the world as they should.
We are failing miserably. Each day. Each year that marches on we are losing the battle.
Do you feel the urgency here?
We must surely be grieving God.
Our hearts should be shattering into a million pieces and the tears streaming down our faces over the lost opportunities and the lost lives.
Think about what feeds your mind. What do you know of the Lord?
What feeds your children's minds? What have you taught them?
Jesus told us to go out and make disciples of all nations and to teach them to observe all that He commanded us. (Matthew 28:18-20) Making a "disciple" isn't just about getting someone to believe. It is about training them. Mentoring them. Growing them in their faith and knowledge of Jesus, our Savior.
Look, it's not enough just to give them the Gospel message and leave them on their own. Their relatives, friends, professors and co-workers are going to put doubts into their minds. The world will make them skeptical. We have to answer their questions and continue to journey with them to explain why it is the truth. We have very sound logical reasons for our faith. We need to learn them. We need to teach them.
We should be growing generations of people who have a faith with deep roots - generations on a firm foundation who will truly impact the kingdom of God.
It takes an investment of time - by our churches and by us as individuals.
[A combination of things brought me to write this post. A book I'm reading. A movie I saw. Some things people have said recently. I feel God's strong prompting on this one. And surprisingly it is my 100th post. As I approached that number I kept wondering what the 100th post would be written on. I am glad it is on teaching about our faith because I am passionate about it!]
You might want to also read Generational Faith dated May 28, 2018.