A monthly column that reflects on living in the Kingdom of God.
Perhaps my reason for writing this is the realisation that my oldest child is approaching adolescence. As a result, my wife and I are looking at what lies around the corner and how we can best prepare her (and ourselves) for the changes that lie up ahead. As part of this, I have a read a helpful book by Bible teacher Craig Hill, where he speaks into how we as parents can bless and release our children into the next phase of life. A helpful article on youth ministry has also grabbed my attention, and my wife and I have had a discussion where we mentioned the proliferation of school and other sporting events on Sundays and over the upcoming Easter weekend. I bring up all this to ask the question: With the challenges they face, will we pass on the faith to our kids?
One such challenge is that of consumerism. A tweet caught my attention today. It read: Perhaps the greatest threat to the Church today isn’t falling for doctrinal heresy but implicitly adopting the consumerist, self-centered assumptions of our Western culture. Most young families today are busy with two careers they are trying to advance simultaneously. The thought of being a stay-at-home mother or pressing the pause or slow motion button on the career is rarely entertained. On the subject of entertainment, a large television often has pride of place in our living rooms. Then there is Sunday morning. No longer does the worship of Jesus have the unrivalled market share of this time. It competes with school events, birthday parties, shopping and just putting your feet up on the couch after living Monday to Saturday at a frenetic pace. The subtle and dangerous thing about consumerism is that it is so innocuous, and therefore passes under the radar of “sin” undetected. The issue in many of these instances is not whether or not we have the big tv, or whether we attend every Sunday service. Nevertheless, we should still ask: with my time and money, what am I communicating to my kids? Where does God fit in all of this?
What is the solution?
So then, is the solution to just get them to Sunday church and Friday night youth? If only it was so easy. The consensus is that it is increasingly difficult to live for Christ, and the next generation faces a significant challenge. In their well received book A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World, John Stonestreet and Brett Kunkle write: “In our lifetimes, we have never seen the pressure on Christian conviction greater than it is right now. We try to avoid alarmism, but standing for Christ in our culture is getting harder and harder.” One of the reasons for this is that our societies are seeing multiple assumptions previously held on sexuality, identity politics, family, society and ideas, being overturned and replaced by almost anything else except a Christian worldview. By way of example, while reading for my law degree, family law was a core course. Today, 15 years later, law students have not heard of family law. Instead, they study the law of partnerships. It is therefore absolutely vital that we teach the next generation how to live for Christ in this generation. Sadly, we are often silent or stumped when it comes to this as the Church, preferring the safe space of entertainment-based youth groups with a devotional tacked on the side. Thankfully, books such as A Practical Guide are providing helpful resources in equipping parents and pastors in this much-needed challenge.
We can give our kids the right answers and take them to weekend church services, and yet still leave them with a shell of the faith. We are called to something much deeper than that. We are called to revel in God and the gospel, and take them on a journey of following, trusting and obeying Jesus aka the gospel in the everyday issues of life. It is precisely here – in the issues of life – that they can get to see a life that savours God as the highest good, in the mundane, testing, inconvenient and seemingly insignificant parts of daily life, including those that require my apology to them. With all our weaknesses, who is equal to such a task?
The wonder of Easter
All of this brings us to Easter, where we remember and celebrate the most life-changing events of Christianity and of all human history. One merciful consequence of this is that the faith of my kids does not start and end with me. May we, like the Roman centurion, take a moment to see how Jesus lived and died for us and come away exclaiming, “Surely he was the Son of God!” As we are freshly recaptured with his amazing grace, may that shape every aspect of our lives, and may the next generation be the recipient of a faith on fire.