The Next Generation

Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children. —Charles (Chuck) Swindoll, American pastor and author.

PRAYER: (from the Lectionary)

“O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom, Amen.”

SCRIPTURES: (from the Lectionary)

Job 19:23-27
Psalm 145:1-7
2 Thessalonians 2:1-5
Luke 20:27-38

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They tell of the power of your awesome works—and I will proclaim your great deeds. They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. (Psalm 145:1-7 NIV)

PRAYER FOCUS: The Next Generation

Who or what is the most powerful force in forming your child’s faith in God?

“I grew up in the Episcopal Church…but my belief was superficial and flimsy. It was borrowed from my archaeologist father. Leaning on my father’s faith got me through high school. But by college it wasn’t enough. From my early 20s on, I would waver between atheism and agnosticism, never coming close to considering that God could be real. My world became aggressively secular. My group of friends was overwhelmingly atheist…” —Kirsten Powers, American news commentator and columnist.

Ms. Powers wrote in Christianity Today (“The God I Can’t Write Off”, November 2013) about how she came to faith in Jesus Christ. The arc of her faith is tragically familiar. Two generations ago, such a testimony of a weak faith succumbing to secular behaviors and atheism would have been an exception, not the rule. Not today.

A Barna Group study between 2007 and 2011 of 18- to 29-year-olds who had been active in a Christian church at some point in their teen years underscored the failure to prepare young people for real life in a world that is increasingly hostile towards their faith. Nearly three in five of these young Christians walked away from both their church and their faith, either permanently or for an extended period of time, beginning at age 15. (www.barna.org, the Faith That Lasts Project)

Christian theologian and author John Piper writes,

“It is the Biblical duty of every generation of Christians to see to it that the next generation hears about the mighty acts of God. God does not drop a new Bible from heaven on every generation. He intends that the older generation will teach the newer generation to read and think and trust and obey and rejoice. It’s true that God draws near personally to every new generation of believers, but he does so through the Biblical truth that they learn from the preceding generations.”

Who is the most powerful force in forming your child’s faith in God? The Biblical pattern is for parents, especially fathers, to serve as the primary teachers and shapers of their children’s minds and hearts. Parents impart to their children the framework for faith. You can’t just drop them off at church youth group and expect them to grow into viable Christians. The process of discipleship requires more.

Parents who exalt God in their daily lives will almost always commend to their children how to exalt God in theirs. Churches that praise God will transfer to the next generation the joy of expressing praise to God for His awesome beauty or His matchless love. But dry, unemotional, indifferent teaching about God – whether at home or at church – just isn’t compelling. In fact, it’s boring. And that was precisely the largest single complaint quoted in the Barna study.

Discipleship flows from the Godhead. The Church’s role is to first strengthen the faith of parents, to help disciple and equip parents for discipling their children. Simply stated, parents can’t teach what they don’t know. If parents aren’t living the values and behaviors they say they believe in, the children are unlikely to even borrow that faith, much less cling to it when real trouble strikes. The spiritual development and condition of parents is far more important than any church youth program. Indeed, the best children’s program is likely in their own living room. What’s more important on a weekend—sports or Scripture?

The Church partners with parents in discipling children. Fun youth activities do matter. But teaching sound Biblical doctrine matters more. The program focus should be on teaching them to understand Scripture and how to pray. Young Christians need to have a safe space where they can ask questions and express doubts, to challenge their parents and their pastors why they believe what they believe. The next generation needs to hear about the awesome things God has done for the current one.

Christian, it’s not enough for your children to hear what is important. They need to hear WHY it’s important—and why it’s important to you.

Because it does matter what you believe; all religions are not the same, all religions do not lead to God. There is good and there is evil and the line between them is neither relative nor fuzzy. Children who are anchored in Biblical truth are less likely to fall for deception and lies. Young people who know how much they are loved—by their parents, by their church, by their Lord and Savior—are far less likely to be tempted into cheap substitutes. Such a generation is more likely to offer a powerful and living counterpoint to a culture in decline. Indeed, such a generation is likely to destroy the works of the devil. And so we must pray.

The Psalmist Asaph writes, “We will not hide these from [our] descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the LORD, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4).

It’s Monday Morning. This week you’ll have opportunities to engage your faith, to practice what you believe in. How are you expressing that to the next generation of Christians?

“So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.” 2 Thessalonians 2:15.

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