Sometimes the truth hurts. It’s like a slap in the face or a punch in the gut. The truth can take knock wind right out of you.
In reading Almost Christian, by Kenda Creasy Dean, the question is asked: Do we practice the kind of faith we want our children to have?
I hope my answer is YES in relation to my son.
But think about your church as a whole and the children of the church. Alarmingly large numbers continue to walk away from the church after graduation. Even those still in it during high school don’t take it seriously. Faith plays little to no role in their Monday-Saturday life, and only does so partially on Sundays. They don’t have the vocabulary to talk about their faith. They think the ultimate purpose of Christianity is to be nice to others and to feel good about yourself.
They don’t reject religion, but they certainly do not commit themselves wholly to it, either. Very few of them even attempt to live radical lives driven by their love for God and their love for others.
But listen to the words of Professor Dean and prepare for some toe-stepping action:
The simple truth seems to be that young people practice an impostor faith because we do–and because this is the faith we want them to have. It’s that not-too-religious, “decent” kind of Christianity that allows our teenagers to do well while doing good, makes them successful adults without turning them into religious zealots, teaches them to notice others without actually laying their lives down for them. If this is the faith they see lived out by their parents, their pastors, and their churches, how would they know it’s a sham? In a world crazed with violence and intolerance, isn’t being “good enough” good enough? (39)
Want the kids in your youth group to develop the kind of faith to move mountains, walk on water, and turn the world upside down? Then you show them how.
But how many parents honestly want their kids to follow God’s calling NO MATTER WHAT?
Parents, do you really want your children moving to the other side of the globe to administer aid and spiritual guidance to lepers and orphans?
Grandparents, do you encourage your grandchildren to go all in with their faith even though it might mean imprisonment in a foreign land?
Church goers, do you really want the young people in your church to be so ON FIRE for God that they start asking the hard questions, rocking the boat, and pushing you out of your own personal comfort zone??
If you answered “not really” to any of these questions, then you are the one to blame for the lack of true, deeply rooted faith in the lives of our teenagers. Period.
You see, the kind of faith and life we peddle in our churches seldom looks anything like the kind of faith that Jesus and His apostles call us to. Listen to the words of Paul:
I’ve been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. -Galatians 2:20
How quickly we forget. When we are baptized, we have died with Christ already. Our former wants, desires, dreams, accomplishments, and securities have been nailed to the cross and buried in a tomb. And they didn’t resurrect with us! From that point on, it’s Christ living inside of us. It’s not me with a hint of Christ. It’s all Him! The same is true for each one of us as we commit our lives to Christ.
So this life that we live – this getting up, brushing our teeth, combing our hair, going to work and school life – is lived solely by faith in Jesus. What he says to do, we do. Where he says to go, we go. Stifling the passion in our teens or selling them some bogus play-it-safe kind of faith is like trying to do that to Jesus Christ Himself.
So what is it going to take? I’ll leave you with what Professor Dean says about those teens who are the exception to the rule – those who are highly devoted followers of Christ:
They belonged to families and faith communities that shaped and supported their understanding of who God is, who they belong to, why they are here, and where they are going – support beams that helped them construct a religious framework for their lives. Their identities were grounded in an articulated “God-story” that, along with the support of their faith communities, filled their lives with purpose and hope. (42)