The Apostle Paul wrote, “Continue in what you have learned and become convinced of” (2 Timothy 3:14) because he knew some who had not continued.
We share his concerns. We share them especially for our children as they become increasingly independent. Statistics vary widely but one thing is clear, many children who were raised in Christian homes leave the faith they once professed.
We can’t make our children continue in the faith, but we aren’t left anxious and passive. We can give our children the privilege of being in a family where they are taught about, participate in, and witness life with Jesus.
Things you can do…
Here is a possible check-list for parents. No doubt, conversations with like-minded parents would add more.
- Enjoy your children. Followers of Jesus Christ enjoy the Lord and enjoy one another. You can enjoy your children by always scanning for the good—the ways they reflect something of their Creator.
- Look for opportunities to show humility, especially as children get older. “Will you forgive me?” continues to be one of the most powerful evidences that Jesus is alive and the Spirit has been given.
- Identify the essentials of the faith. For example, everything that is important comes out of Christ and him crucified. Talk about this: “What’s the big deal with the death and resurrection of Jesus?” We want to answer that in our own words, and we want to answer it so our neighbor could understand it.
- Follow the apostles’ strategy for biblical interpretation—everything is about Jesus. Not only was Jesus the focus of all their understanding of Scripture, he was also the way of change—all true change goes through him. Over the course of a few months in your home, would a bystander observe that you are talking about a person or talking about rules that seem unrelated to a person?
- Discuss our curious historical moment. Jesus has come and his promises are certain, yet suffering and shame persist. We can know joy and peace, yet, since we follow the Suffering Servant, we expect to face lots of difficulties (more on this below).
- Go big. Scripture is a story in cosmic terms with allegiances, powers, rescues, all on a huge scale. “Accept Jesus in your heart” is much too tame. The King of creation has spoken to us in Jesus. Once you know him you will want to say, “Jesus, I am with you. You are my Lord.”
Remember too, to teach about sin…and suffering
To these I would add—teach about sin; it’s very important. Do we all have a clear understanding of the human heart, and with it, a growing knowledge of sin? Sin, after all, is our biggest problem, and only a growing awareness of sin can lead us into humility before our King. And this is important too: conversations about sin must aim to be sweet. Though sin is not a good thing, we are greatly blessed when we are able to see it more clearly in our lives, are led away from it, and can enjoy forgiveness of sins.
And prepare them for suffering. A world filled with sinners leads to much suffering and many leave the faith because of it. They think God isn’t fair because he allows so much misery. The best preparation for the hard things we all face is the confession that we are sinners who have been rescued by his grace alone. This may seem like an odd way to prepare but when we humbly bow before the will of the Suffering Servant and trust him with gratitude, we will come to know that suffering will not have the final word.
My observation is that many people leave the faith because (1) they are angry that God brought misery into their lives or the life of a loved one, or (2) they simply want to do things that Scripture forbids, which often has something to do with sex, and it is too hard to simultaneously persist in sin and learn about Jesus.
The gospel of Jesus Christ reaches both of these.
Lord God, allow us to continue in the great grace we have received.