Every Christian parent desires to see their children embracing a vibrant faith in Jesus and serving well His kingdom purpose throughout their lives (3 John 4; Acts 13:36). To this end, our children’s ministry recently hosted a number of parents from both inside and outside our church to hear noted speaker and best-selling author, Vicki Courtney.
During our evening together, Vicki set forth three ways that Christian parents often struggle to pass the baton of faith to their children. She introduced her theme by sharing her concern about the alarming number of young people who are jettisoning the faith of their fathers and are leaving the church in alarming numbers. She quickly pointed out that this phenomenon is not a youth problem but a parent problem. She called the following three things “Family Faith Busters.” Here’s a quick recap.
1. The first family faith buster is failing to model for our kids that the Lord is our primary affection. Moses calls us in Deuteronomy 6:5 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength.” The Hebrew word for ‘love’ means ‘to have affection for.’ How often do we model for our kids that something other that the Lord is our primary affection? At times, we value the approval of our kids more than the Lord’s. We have to confess that at times other things and people are more precious to us than the Lord. She proposed that parents start by honestly assessing: “What are your top three primary affections?”
How easy it is to push our kids in athletic competition and academic performance due to our own idols of approval and control. How often we allow cultural standards of beauty to define our kids rather than God’s Word (1 Samuel 16:7). She challenged us to identify those things that are more precious to us than Jesus and to bring them to Him just like Jesus urged the woman at the well.
2. The second family faith buster is failing to acknowledge and embrace our role as the primary disciplers of our kids. Our consumer-oriented society coupled with our nagging sense of inadequacy cause parents to drop back and punt the spiritual nurture and equipping of our children to the children’s director, youth minister, and/or Christian school. Vicki urged parents not to look at discipling your kids as a classroom exercise, but asked us to anticipate and ask the Lord for discernment to seize those teachable moments when we are “walking along the way” (Deuteronomy 6:7). She challenged us to work on balancing being a protector without being a provoker. She parsed this out with two key scriptures (Colossians 3:21, Ephesians 6:4). Finally, she urged us to pray for our kid’s peer group. 1 Corinthians 15:33 cautions that “bad company corrupts good morals.” She proposed advising our kids to have weekday friends and weekend friends. We want our kids to serve as salt and light in the world, but they also need strong Christian friends to will encourage their pursuit of Christ and His will. This simple strategy serves as a way for our kids to foster friendships with fellow believers in our church family who can sharpen them spiritually (Proverbs 27:17). This way our church becomes our primary community, as it should be.
3. The third family faith buster is focusing on behavior modification rather than heart examination and transformation. Most of us parents settle too quickly for a morally restrained heart rather than pray and work for a supernaturally transformed heart. Her contention is that many Christian kids are being urged to obey apart from repentance and faith in Christ, which means they are rendering sub-Christian obedience. How often we use guilt and shame to secure our kid’s obedience rather than shepherding their hearts and ours with the gospel of grace.
All parents are tempted to settle for outward conformity. In recounting his own anguish with a prodigal daughter, Jack Miller wrote: “No one grows into grace through a Christianized environment. No one gets to God by moral self-improvement. [Our kids] only get to God by being transplanted from their natural soil into the life of Christ by a personal faith in Him” (Come Back Barbara, p. 30). We are all prone to unconsciously forget this foundational truth.
One of the ways that Vicki reminds her kids of this foundational truth is that when they leave home for school or an athletic event or just hanging out with friends, she reminds them to “RTC” – Remember the Cross. This is not just something for our kids to remember, but also a reminder we need ourselves as we confess our particular failings as parents, but also experience the pardoning grace of God revealed in that cross that motivates us anew to center our lives only on Christ, to embrace our parental calling as the primary disciplers of our kids, and to knead the gospel of grace into the hearts of our children and not settle for outward conformity. Let us rise up and “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4).