The ancient Israelites showcase the rewards of following God and the pitfalls of apathy. We would do well to learn from their mistakes. The above passage from Deuteronomy, while addressed to the Israelites, holds a very important principle for parents and teachers alike: actively teach your children about the Lord and His commands. In this series on training GenNext Christians, we have covered two of our 6 E's---Engage and Exemplify. This next string of posts will cover E number three: Equip: Teach and Train.
No matter how old you are nor how long you've been a Christian, it's your job to be a good example whether you are with Christians or non-believers. Your choices and lifestyle reflect what is in your heart. Do these things encourage or discourage your fellow Christians? If we want to see the church stand firm tomorrow, we need to be a solid example of faith today. How do we shine our light to each other?
Children are keen observers and imitators. Compliant children will try to do what their parents do in order to make them happy. Strong-willed kids amy try to be little rebels, but even they have a tendency to imitate their parents to some degree. They are always watching how we handle our circumstances. What we do has a greater influence than what we say. Is your example one worth following??
Several years ago, there was a commercial on TV in which a young boy was following his father everywhere and attempting to imitate him in every way. The commercial concluded with the Father smoking a cigarette and the son trying to mimic the action. The shock of that concluding seen was intended to discourage parents from smoking, because children would ultimately do the same. Our example shouts louder than our words. When we become a Christian, we are born to a new life, adopted by God, and endowed with a new name. We have to re-learn how to live in order to resemble our new Father.
Every congregation has a core---an unofficial group of members who show up to nearly every function, work party, moving help, or bible class. These are the folks who are actively involved in the church in whatever capacity they are suited to. Sometimes they are noticed, sometimes not, but they are familiar, reliable faces and their absence is felt if not always acknowledged. No matter what the situation, our congregations should seek to expand this core, bringing the fringe members in so that there is no longer a core, but rather an entire group that works together as a family. This begins with building meaningful relationships.
The young man sat statue-like in the pew, observing the various chattering knots of people. There were hugs exchanged, hands waving, and smiling faces. Three weeks had elapsed since he was baptized. He was supposed to be "part" of this group now, and yet he still felt like an outsider. The first week, there had been an outpouring of congratulations, exuberance and introductions. He definitely didn't know more than a handful of names yet. As the weeks had trickled by, he was just... well... he was just there. The sermons were still excellent, but the preacher assumed that everyone in the audience knew all this stuff. He shook his head with a small chuckle. He still couldn't find books like---what was it---Habakkuk? Well, it was something like that. The Bible classes were hard to keep up with too. A lot of the discussion was over his head. Maybe his friends at college were right. Maybe this was a joke. It was as if his conversion was the end-goal and now these Christians didn't care if he was here or gone.
A Barna Group study reported in 2013, states, "Seven out of 10 Millennials who dropped out of church did not have a close friendship with an adult and nearly nine out of ten never had a mentor at the church." Furthermore, they report "Those who stay were twice as likely to have a close personal friendship with an adult inside the church (59% of those who stayed report such a friendship versus 31% among those who are no longer active). The same pattern is evident among more intentional relationships such as mentoring—28% of Millennials who stay had an adult mentor at the church other than their pastor, compared to 11% of dropouts who say the same." As that study indicates, relationships are not a guarantee that children raised by Christians will remain in the church, but it is apparent that meaningful relationships influence that choice.
STOP! Don't skip this post---it isn't just about raising kids! For the next several weeks, we will be focusing on the importance of equipping children, new Christians, and current Christians to be pivotal members of the body of Christ. The church is in crisis. The number of people identifying as Christians is dwindling. Pew-warmers seek entertainment, and feel-good… Continue reading GenNext: Raising up Christians who know the Lord