If you look into the eyes of a child, you can see the future. Gazing into the eyes of my daughter recently on her 16th birthday, I listened as she shared through tears that one of her greatest fears is that she will walk away from her faith. Having spent thousands of hours along with my wife praying for our children, leading them to Jesus, and disciplining them—the truth hurt.
Both nature and nurture have an impact on who children become. Much can be shaped and influenced by parents, teachers, and mentors. Much cannot. As a parent, former youth ministry leader, and civil rights attorney privileged to represent many young people willing to stand for their faith, I have been thinking a lot and worrying a lot about how to prepare the next generation for Christian adulthood.
How are we actually doing in passing the biblical baton to the next generation? In general, if you are paying attention, actually not so well. If the research tells us anything it is that we are rapidly moving towards a post Christian culture—including within the evangelical church. George Barna’s recent research is quite stunning. Less than 3% of evangelical youth have a basic biblical worldview (See Barna, Think Like Jesus, p. 23)! Perhaps that’s due in part because just 9% of their parents do and merely 50% of their pastors do! The bottom line is this: we can only pass on what we personally possess, and increasingly, few “Christians” possesses authentic biblical Christianity. Disciples, not apostates, make disciples.
It is tragic, but not very surprising then, that most young adults are “leaving” the faith of their fathers and mothers and most never return. My theory is that the root problem is that, despite being “churched” most evangelical youth, raised on increasingly weak barely biblical teaching, perhaps never possessed saving faith in the first place. Perhaps they are not actually leaving anything, but are merely drifting from a barely Christian paganized church into the paganized culture. Furthermore, even if they did have a saving faith, they chose to give up rather than endure the pervasive powerful pressure of paganizing culture, in part because they were not properly discipled. In a narcissistic hedonistic pervasively pagan time, authentic biblical Christianity appears weirder and more radical—even in the church.
So what can we do? First, we must make sure we are members of biblically committed counter-cultural churches where the full counsel of God and full Gospel of Jesus Christ is unapologetically preached and applied to the dark culture around us. If your church doesn’t foot the bill—find one that does. Second, as parents we must very intentionally and rigorously disciple our children in a biblical worldview and teach them to guard themselves from the corruption of the world. Soak them in the truth of the Scriptures. Teach them how to apply scriptural truth to the craziness of our culture. We can’t delegate this task to our youth leaders. Third, we must personally model for them what a fully devoted follower of Jesus looks like—including how to speak the truth in love to others. We can’t pass on what you don’t personally possess. Fourth, we must continuously pray for them—that they would be strong in the Lord and protected from the world, the flesh and the devil. Fourth, we must show them how to make the faith of their parents and grandparents their own. Finally, we must allow them the freedom to fail and even walk away from Christ—as hard as that may be to watch and endure—leaving them in God’s hands.
This responsibility is not unimportant. Eternal lives depend on it. Yes, we are promised that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church—but we are never instructed to be passive victims of the darkness—but are commanded to actively resist it and occupy until He comes. We are living in a time of great apostasy in the church. If the return of the Lord is delayed, it is our children and their children who will be the faithful remnant who patiently and lovingly point our nation and world back to truth—back to Jesus Christ.
— by Dean R. Broyles, Esq.
Broyles is a constitutional attorney serving as the President of The National Center For Law & Policy (NCLP), an organization fighting to promote and defend religious freedom. Copyright© The National Center For Law & Policy. Reprinted with permission.