I believe that many of us, at least in some small part, that passing on our faith to the next generation happens by osmosis or some other planetary method.
As an active youth pastor for the past 30 years I have seen over and over parents asking me to guide their children, be tough on their children and to make sure their children are after the path they have laid out for them and to keep them from falling off that path.
Of course I struggle with this on two points. The youth under my charge see no need to die for Christ because their parents are offering a path of comfort and ease with very little need to struggle and secondly, there is no need for spiritual growth because they just show the same thoughts that come from their parents and since their parents are not interested in spiritual growth why should they.
Of the 30 youth I am working with now, only two are in the public school system, four are in the Catholic school system and twenty-four are in private Christian schools. Parents are throwing Christianity at them from every direction and hoping that it will stick – actually more than hope – they believe it will stick and that they have done their job. They have failed to pass their faith to their children personally.
Today we do research on how the youth are leaving the church, leaving their faith, walking away from a life of faith and after the Christ of their youth. We do not have the answers, we come up with incredibly creative ways to entertain, to fill time and space so that we find ourselves more attractive than what the world offers them.
In my field of work, I focus a lot on the mission field overseas and in Canada – primarily the unreached people groups. Where do our youth fit into this model? They have heard the gospel, most of them have made a decision to follow Christ at some point in their lives and most of them even have been baptized – so their rejection of the gospel makes them lost but not unreached.
This is my story in my walk of faith. Newly introduced to the church at ten years of age, came to understanding of who Jesus was at twelve, want to serve Him until fourteen, came to a personal decision and committed my life to following Jesus and experienced mini-revivals at sixteen and eighteen, distressed that there was not one single adult in my faith community willing and able to serve Jesus with all of their heart, soul and mind. So my journey to faith came on my own, in my bedroom where I started to commit to a life of prayer and personal engagement with God – four hours each day. This included some sort of Bible study each day as well. Through all of this my parents were not church goers.
That sounds great, but you need to know that each day was also filled with physical, emotional and mental abuse as well. It seems that this distress strengthened my relationship with Jesus where with my older brother, it turned him away.
From that perspective I try to challenge the youth, and from the perspective of a parent, I have two children with the oldest being a boy and the youngest a girl, I try to challenge parents to commit and to understand they only exist to make sure the next generation is following Jesus.
Here is the secret in my life and I believe in the lives of our youth. I survived because I wanted to be the Moses in today’s generation. Having a hero to follow is paramount to success of a follower of Jesus. Christian television in the Middle East and North Africa has found that Bible hero segments are the most watch television in both the adult and children stations. Everyone needs to know and hear testimonies of how God is real and how these heroes changed communities because they were courageous in their walk with God.
It broke the things as they are, it raised the ceiling of prayer and commitment, it laid a road before them that was an adventure to be like Jesus no matter what may come their way.
So do we write our journey down for the next generation? Will they read about your journey and praise God. Will God look down one day from His holy place, survey the earth and hear the groans of some young people? Will He open the doors of their death cells and set them on fire so that they model heroes of faith for the generation following them?
Write down your story – don’t have one – get one. Walk the road that God has charted for you. God sovereignly will bring us to our knees, year after year.