Movies like God’s Not Dead and A Matter Of Faith popularize in Christian circles the belief that it is in college that a Christian young person has their faith questioned, sometimes by militant and angry atheist professors. While I’m not intending to chide these Christian films or those who believe the “going to college = faith being tested” mantra, I hope that I can remind us that the testing of a child’s faith is happening long before they leave for college.
I grew up in a day when Christian home decorations were all the rage (they may still actually be all the rage). Everywhere I looked I saw verses and hymn lyrics and crosses in people’s kitchens, living rooms, and family rooms. Sometimes even the bathroom. The maybe over-popularized verse on family, Joshua 24:15, was all over the place: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
These were families who had a heart and desire to see their children grow up in Christian homes, filled with gospel conversations or at least gospel decorations.
Here’s where I’m fearful for my students, this next generation of kids. I see parents and families who are gospel-centered in their public sphere, their social media, but they’re just good moral people in their family and private life. I see this in me, so it gets me nervous about my future kids as well. While finishing an old book from 1985 (if you know me, you know finishing a book was a tremendous feat), I came across a quote that floored me due to it’s accuracy and it’s conviction.
Our homes, the homes of church members, are often no different from the homes of non-Christians. We worship pleasure, convenience, the country club, money, success, power, and prestige, just as the world does. We don’t pray in our homes any more than our moral neighbor next door. We attend church twice a month to appease the Lord, and yet we become upset if the service goes beyond twelve o’clock. We go to great pains to teach our children math, science, business, football, baseball, tennis, golf, and soccer, or perhaps ballet, music, art, and theater. But how much time or effort is spent in the training of our children in godliness? – John Sartelle
Read that again. It stunned me. Written 8 years before I was born, but even more applicable today than it was back then.
You see, children in Christian homes are not getting their faith tested in college, they aren’t getting pulled away from Jesus in college. They are getting their faith tested and are getting pulled away from Jesus in elementary school, in Christian homes.
I have seen peers grow up in homes where sports was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where good grades was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen peers grow up in homes where being liked, admired, and well-received in the community was the parent-worshiped god. I have seen younger peers right now grow up in homes where their accolades and even their struggles are put on display on Facebook so the parents can gain a following (pet peeve numero uno).
It breaks my heart to write this and it breaks my heart to see it. Countless members of my generation have abandoned their steadfast commitment to the Lord not because they were challenged by an atheist professor in college, but rather because they looked back and saw that in their homes their parents modeled that discipleship, missional living, and Christlikeness were all half-hearted additions to a life of comfort, pressure to be perfect, and athletics.
People of God, let this not be so. Let us not be men and women who raise children to take the gospel as an addition to life, instead of the onus of life itself.
I have a healthy fear of parenting, and while I pray it’s a part of my future, it makes me nervous to take on the responsibility of shepherding a home and raising kids who love the Lord.
Brother or sister in Christ, you cannot control the outcome of your child’s life. You cannot control whether or not a child continues to walk faithfully with the Lord into adulthood, or not. That is not on you, so don’t carry that weight.
I do pray however that you carry the weight of being a mother or father who makes your home about the gospel. For the sake of your kids. It’s not enough to be for Christ in the public sphere, even if that’s working in a church like I do. You must be for Christ at home. Make Jesus more important than good grades. Make Jesus more important than being admired by everyone around. Make Jesus more important than sports. Make Jesus more important than any other pressure in your child’s life.
Let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life outside of your home. Way more importantly however, let your children know that Jesus is the center of your life inside your home.
Repentance goes a long way. When you’re imperfect (which we all are, daily), repent. Apologizing to children is a huge win for the gospel.
Start small. It’s going to be weird and awkward. Praying with my fiancee Jamie is kinda weird still sometimes. But it’s worth it.
In His Name,
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