Will Their Faith Make It To The Fall?

fall blog

Summer is kids’ ministry’s peak season. You have special events, VBS’s, and summer camps. Kids all over the United States will hear the gospel in a variety of setting ranging from mosquito filled fire pits to dodge ball filled gyms. And hordes of these kids will walk the aisle, raise their hands, and sign a card saying that asked Jesus into their hearts. Millions will claim they are now saved.

But will these good times last? Will these kids truly bear fruit, become missional teenagers, and turn into bible believing adults?  Or will they fall away, grow up malcontents, and write introspective books explaining how church camp missed it?

Often kids fall away because they believed the wrong thing. They trusted in a shrunken gospel. Because they never met Jesus, many kids will fall away from their faith as the leaves start to change color. As teachers, we need to make sure offer the complete gospel this summer

So what does a truncated gospel look like?

The Easy Gospel

Often a water down gospel looks easy. We simply call kids to accept Jesus as the savior without explaining the cost. We reduce the gospel to a repeat-after-me prayer, or to a hand raised while everyone closes their eyes. As a result, we zap the power right out of the gospel. We turn salvation into a game of follow the leader.

If kids (or anyone else for that matter) truly understand their sin, and the glories of God, they do not have to be spoon feed salvation. They do not have to be coaxed into a divine agreement. Those who love God, will willingly repent. You can’t find one example of someone being forced by the disciples or Jesus into believing. Jesus never told people to close their eyes and then raise their hands if they said a secret prayer.

I knew of one student who professed Christ at a revival. She prayed a repeat-after-me prayer. She walked the aisle while emotion music played. And, she filled out a card checking the “saved” box. She performed the salvation trifecta. She is now a number in someone’s newsletter. But, she did not get saved.

As I followed up with her, I saw that she never understood the gospel. She never grasped what it means to die to sin and to live for Christ. She never understood that to love God we must obey him (John 14:15). She simply followed the easy, socially acceptable path to salvation, seeking to please the adults in the room. She never repented and believed.

The gospel is not easy to believe or accept (Matt 7). The crowds that followed Jesus found the gospel offensive. The rich young ruler walked away from Jesus. The gospel is foolishness and a stumbling block (I Cor. 1:23). The solution is not to make the gospel easier to follow. Apart from the Holy Spirit no one can come to Christ. Our best efforts to save people can never replace the work of the Holy Spirit. The solution is to preach the full gospel and to trust God to do the impossible.

The Horror Film Gospel

We also short change the gospel by turning it into a horror Film. It’s easy to scare kids into professions. Spend a few minutes describing hell. Tell the kids the you are going to heaven. And then ask them who wants to escape damnation and join you in paradise. Most every kid will raise their hands. It’s the logical thing to do.

But in that moment, the kids have not embraced the gospel. They do not love Jesus. They simply want to get out of hell. And who can blame them. Hell is a real and very scary place. As a kid, I would pray for weeks at a time for God to save me from hell. But God never answered those prayers.

Salvation is more than just fire insurance. Salvation is trusting in Jesus. Salvation is loving and obeying the heavenly father. To be saved we have to want the gospel; we have to want Jesus. And once I confessed Christ as my Lord and God, he saved me. Salvation is about a relationship with the heavenly father. It is much more than a get out of jail free card!

We can scare a bunch of kids. But this will not get them to heaven. We need to offer them the full gospel!

The Full Gospel

The full gospel is the hard gospel. It is proclaiming that God is the creator,
that man sinned, that Jesus died to pay for our sins, that men and women must respond. The true gospel calls kids to repent while reminding them of the cost of dying to self. The gospel tells kids that they are ugly, horrible people in need of a savior. And it offers kids hope through the life and death of Christ.

We preach the gospel trusting God to work. And guess what? If the Holy Spirit awakens a little soul, we will not have to coax them into salvation. We will not have to pray the sinner’s prayer for them. Yes, we will need to teach them and disciple them. There is no salvation apart from the preached word of God. But once we preach; we are done. We don’t bring conviction and regeneration. The Holy Spirit does that work.

If you are looking for a great resource that explains the gospel, I encourage to grab a copy of Greg Gilbert’s What is the Gospel.

Final Thoughts

So will our kids’ faith make it till the fall? Did they embrace an easy or fearful gospel? Then probably not. But if they embraced the Jesus of the Bible, then yes! And big question we must all answer is this, “Are we going to offer the full Gospel to our kids this summer?”

Are We Being Honest With Our Kids?

girl blog picBelieving in Jesus and making a confession of faith is super easy! Truly, all we have to do is confess Christ with our lips and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord. When I became a child of God sixteen years ago, I did exactly what Paul wrote in Romans 10:9. I got on my knees, repented of my sins, and began following Christ!  

But salvation is also a ridiculously hard thing. To become a Christian requires us to die to self and to willing embrace the reproach of Christ. No one can do this apart from the work of God! When we present the gospel to our children, we need to present all of it including the hard truths.

Yes, believing in Jesus will give our kids unimaginable joy, hope, and peace. It will give them eternal life and the ability to do good things. But claiming Jesus will also cost our kids a lot. They have to stop cheating at school, stealing candy, and (yes, worst of all) they have to start loving their brother. They also have to start proclaiming Christ to a world that will degrade, attack, and hate them. In the United States (not to mention worldwide persecution), chaplains are being disciplined for speaking against premarital sex, television hosts are being fired for publicly endorsing the Bible, and college students are being denied the freedom to worship on college campuses. Faith, God, and Jesus are no longer popular terms in America. And we shouldn’t be too surprised. Jesus told this would happen, “because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). We need to be honest with our kids. Faith is costly. 

I love meeting with kids to talk about how God is working in their life. Such conversations are the highlight of my ministry. But as we talk about following Christ into the waters of baptism, I always want to make sure they know that the way to Christ is profoundly simple, and yet extremely costly.

Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple – Luke 14:33

Successful Failures

Successful Failures blog post

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

follow meSo 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.

Works Cited

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 .