A Challenge to Parents, Part 1

I’ve been thinking about writing a blog about parenting for quite awhile. Funny thing is, the longer I think about it, the harder writing it becomes. After all, it’s a complicated issue – and a touchy one. Frankly, there’s a lot of Christian and secular books out there–so many it’s overwhelming. I mean, how do you decide who’s right and who’s wrong?‘ I mentioned to Elaine Stedman that I was trying to do this, and she suggested that since I was 50 now, I just “might” be able to start doing it. But “be careful,” she said. Very wise counsel.

I don’t know about you, but I find that even the Christian parenting books don’t seem to quite scratch the itch. There’s stuff on how to keep your child from being sexually active before marriage,  whether to schedule your baby or not, how to discipline, courtship vs. dating, how to disciple your child, and on and on. Most of these books have something good to say, a few have something great to say, and quite a few actually suck.

There are a few books out there that discuss how to lead your child to Christ. And recently, a few have come out about how to get your child to make the Christian faith their own and not leave the church. Good questions that need answers. But even here, it is mostly hand-wringing. Few seem to have any answers.

Don’t get me wrong. Reading those books is a good thing. There are a lot of good ideas, ones that will help in the everyday life of parenting. However, for me, there was something missing.

It seems that most Christian parenting books focus “How to raise good kids.” And what they mean by “good” is kids that don’t do drugs, have sex before marriage, are respectful, get good grades, keep their rooms clean, learn responsibility, and so on. All of this is pretty good stuff, but…as far as I can tell, none of the authors are writing about how to raise kids that are radical Christ-followers or kids that can love sacrificially or kids who know how to have real Body Life. Honestly? Remove their emphasis on daily family devotions and what you have left is how to raise a good American kid. The scary thing about that is that America is part of the kosmos, the counterfeit kingdom Satan has set up to distract us from God’s Kingdom.

Parents are rightfully concerned with where their children end up. And statistics say we are losing the war. The Barna Group reports that 61 percent of young adults who attended church as teenagers are now spiritually disengaged. LifeWay Research states that 7 out of 10 Protestants ages 18-30 who had attended church in high school stopped attending by age 23. Scary stuff!!

The topic of parenting is on the front cover of the January 2010 issue of Christianity Today. The title of the article is “The Myth of the Perfect Parent.” The article comments that, as Christian parents, “Our most consuming concern is that our children ‘turn out’.” What this means is “that our Christian faith and values are successfully transmitted, and that our children grow up to be churchgoing, God-honoring adults.”

I don’t know about you, but I find this slightly lacking. Do we really want our kids to grow to just be churchgoers? We definitely want them to be God-honoring adults, but what does that mean exactly?

There’s a lot I don’t know—about parenting and an infinite amount of other things. However, one thing I do know, there is no formula for raising radical Christian kids. Radical Christ-following parents raise rebels and apathetic kids, too. The author of the Christianity Today article, Leslie Leyland Fields, discusses spiritual determinism. This is the belief that if we just do the right things in the right way, we can ensure godly kids. I agree with her assessment that this is a faulty belief. There are plenty examples of radical believers in Scripture who raised unbelievers and even kids who ended up hating God. We often forget—our children have free wills of their own. Often, despite having the best home with an amazing Body of Christ, they use their free will to choose against God. There is that annoying fallen nature that ruins everything.

But this does not mean we just throw in the towel on parenting. There are some foundational principles we need to “hang our hat on.” If even “doing it right” fails at times, “doing it wrong” brings even more peril.

My premise is that the American church has gotten it wrong more than it’s gotten it right. It has fallen into Satan’s trap of settling for the acceptable outward behavior of our kids without ever dealing with their heart. This is what God sees when he says in Isaiah, “Then the Lord said, ’Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me  with their lip service, But they remove their hearts far from Me, And their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote…’” We do this with our children because this is what we are doing with ourselves.

Often we parents are the ones who are deceived. If we don’t understand God’s perspective on grace, the Body of Christ, the Mystery of godliness, then how can we possibly expect our children to understand? I do know this. If our kids don’t see in us, in our relationships, in our priorities, that the Kingdom of God is the most exciting, the most rewarding, the most stimulating thing in the universe, they’ll go somewhere else to find it.

In my next blog, discussing the foundation.

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