When we see kids getting drunk every weekend, fleeing church like the plague, and rocking out to obscenities, we naturally start to look for someone or something to blame. Was it the wrong crowd at school, or the tattooed kid next door, or all that secular media? Unfortunately, the answer actually might be in our house and church. It might be you and me.
The Church’s Failure
According to a recent study, those of us who attend church are almost indistinguishable from those who do not. During the typical week, Christians are almost as likely as non-Christians to gamble, gossip, hold a grudge, and sleep with someone other than their spouse. Sadly, Christians are slightly actually more likely than the unchurched, to lie and steal. Now admittedly, there is some good news. Christians are less likely to use profanity, get drunk (though almost 25% of Christians still do on a weekly basis) and seek out pornography (Barna & Kinnaman, p. 131). These stats indicate that our church people remarkably mirror the world. As David Platt laments,
We can’t fathom a Christian on the other side of the world believing that a wooden god can save them, but we have no problem believing that religion, money, possessions, food, fame, sex, sports, status, and success can satisfy (p. 23).
Our Successful Failure
So what does this have to with our kids? Parents have the greatest opportunity to influence their children. Whatever they
teach their kids, they will pick up. But as the stats above point out, many Christian parents are modeling the wrong message. They are successfully teaching their kids that living for Christ and true joy is synonymous with living for self. By living worldly lives, Christians may actually be the ones encouraging their kids to walk away from Christ.
But, troubled kids do typically reject one aspect of their parents’ lives. They skip church. No longer seeing the need for their parents’ Pharisaical attitudes or guilt complexes, many kids will often happily exchange the closed minded church pew for the open tolerance of the coffee shop. After all if you can be a good person without obeying Jesus, why get up early every Sunday and pretend the white robed dude is a big deal?
Overcoming the World
How do we fix our worldliness and in turn, help our kids understand the true Jesus of the Bible? We embrace as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “Costly Grace.” On Sunday morning, we teach that there is no salvation apart from repentance. We affirm that the grace of Christ calls us all to die to sins and to live obediently for Christ. We proclaim that salvation leads to transformation. The old things such as sexual immorality and lying will pass away. The new has come.
And during the week, we live the word. We sacrifice our selfish desires and wants, to care for the sick, to happily wash dishes, to selflessly love our families. We become doers of the word who love Christ more than life itself.
I fear that the many church people are worldly because they have never left the world. As David Platt writes,
People who claim to be Christians while their lives look no different from the rest of the world are clearly not Christians (p. 18).
If we want to encourage our kids to faith in Christ, some of us will need to embrace Christ for the first time. We can only faithfully model what we know and experienced.
Understanding Our Limits
Now with all this being said, we don’t need to develop a guilt complex every time our kids sin or walk away from God. According to God, no parent is ultimately responsible for their child’s salvation or theirs sins. The prophet Ezekiel writes,
The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor shall the father suffer for the iniquity of the son (18:20).
Godly parents raise kids who become drug addicts and drug addicts produce kids who become pastors. Thankfully, God saves kids from all kinds of homes irrespective of ones parents.
Yet, God has still specifically designed us parents to reach the next generation for Christ. (Read Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78.) And if our lifestyle is so worldly that our kids miss the beauty of the gospel, we will be held accountable. And even more frightening, we (like the trouble kids around us) may be speeding down the broad road to destruction.
Living For Jesus
Thankfully, the antidote for our sin problem is simple. We start guarding against worldliness. As we interact with the scriptures, we compare our lives against the life of Christ and repent when our lives fail to match up to Jesus’ life. (2 Cor. 13:5). And if we follow Jesus, we will be successful parents.
Barna, G., & Kinnaman, D. (2014). Churchless: Understanding Today’s Unchurched and How to Connect with Them. Austin: Tyndale House.
Platt, D. (2013). Follow Me . Carol Stream: Tyndale House .