John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB)
My daughters like to read homeschooling blogs, and from time to time they send me some real gems. A few days ago one of them referred me to an online sermon about a crucially important matter to our churches: reaching our children. To hear the sermon, follow this link
and click on sermon #7, Closing the Generation Gap, by Voddie Baucham. The speaker is a Southern Baptist, and he describes the challenges of that group in reaching and retaining their children for Christ. The basic theme is the need for parents to take responsibility for evangelizing their children. It's well worth 37 minutes.
Coming from my Restoration Movement heritage, I could easily get sidetracked from Baucham's central message by focusing on areas where I see things differently. I could take issue with his adaptation of the passages about elders to the Baptist preacher / pastor role. I could get distracted by questions about Sunday and the Sabbath. I could quibble about the commands to go forth and multiply, and implications about family size, pointing to distinctions between the old and new covenants. But if I did I think I would be missing a very important message, one that is as true for us as it is for them.
Like the Baptists, the Restoration Movement churches I know best are struggling to convert and retain their children. Often leaders have led the way in failure to bring their children to God. In many churches the blind are leading the blind in this critical area.
From a pragmatic point of view, the church will surely suffer if we cannot consistently pass along our Christian convictions to our children and grandchildren. I am not sure what to think of Baucham's point that Christians need to "out-breed" those around us. Clearly the combination of low retention rates and low birthrates poses a grim prospect for the future of the church. But beyond numerical effects, there is a degree of spiritual maturity and stability that is lost due to generational attrition. How rare it is to find strong, spiritual men in the church whose fathers were faithful and spirit-filled Christians, along with grandfathers and great-grandfathers! And even rarer, how often do we find multiple generations of men who were qualified and served as elders in the church? How much richer would we all be if more of us came from such a heritage! In those rare instances, the entire church is nourished by their relationships with such families in the fellowship. Those families are a treasure.
Families are central to the Christian culture. We cannot be a strong church without strong families. And our families cannot be what God intended them to be unless fathers are loving God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength. We have to teach, rebuke, correct, and train the fathers in our churches to be godly so they can raise godly children. Youth ministers are no substitute. We have a long way to go.
I wonder what kind of world my grandchildren will inherit. More importantly, I wonder what kind of church they will inherit. I spend a lot of time wondering. And then I pray.
One thing that struck me as I listened to this Southern Baptist preacher is that his sermon could very well be preached in any of our churches. The very real issues we face, and the biblical answers to those issues, are the same for us as for them. It was impossible to overlook how much they are like us. Yes, we understand the sequence of events at conversion differently. Yes, we have different theories about predestination and free will and a few other topics. But we are more alike than we are different. We tend to focus on the differences, and therefore miss seeing what we have in common. Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.