Growing Up Christian Is Hard to Do

Growing Up Christian Is Hard to Do

If the government chose to take a constructive interest in religion for once, it would require a notice to be posted on the front door of America’s unraveling churches: Warning – Attending this church may be hazardous to your child’s spiritual health.

We have seen an epidemic of young people raised in the homes of church-going parents falling away from the faith after leaving the nest. It shows no sign of abating. Might the reason be that no one has taught them who Jesus Christ is?

In the New Testament, we find letters addressed to congregations that are wavering in their faith in time of persecution. The real problem is a flawed concept that devalues the person and work of the Lord. If they knew the Christ as He truly is, they would remain steadfast.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews, for example, wants to convince these members that their original commitment to the Lord was valid and worth holding fast.

His approach is to feed them Christology. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the perfect image of the Father and the perfect priest and sacrifice. As priest, He represents God’s chosen to the Father, pleading their case in a way the priesthood of Israel could
not. As sacrifice, He makes the once-for-all offering to the Father that purges the sin of all who come to Christ in faith.

And in 21st-century America?

Few have learned the Christ of the Bible. One of the devastating consequences is the flight of our precious children from their faith.

How many parents raise their children in a Christian home only to watch them skitter off into atheism, agnosticism or Eastern mysticism as they head off to college, the armed forces or the work force? How many of these parents have relied on their church to nurture their kids’ understanding of Christianity?

And how many of those churches have taught them no Christology at all? For these youngsters, church has meant skits; all-night lock-ins filled with movies and games; enough pizza parties to make pepperoni junkies of them, and mission trips to the inner city to do a little painting or the border to get in the way of the missionaries.

Jesus? He’s my homeboy.

Doped up on empty slogans such as “I have invited Jesus into my heart,” they graduate to the “worship” service for their teen-age years. In many cases, the preaching there does no more to fortify their faith than the silly stuff they just left.

The Baptist theologian Dallas Willard wrote, “Contemporary American churches in particular do not require following Christ in his example, spirit, and teachings as a condition of membership . . . Most problems in contemporary churches can be explained by the fact that members have not yet decided to follow Christ.”

Liberal churches began playing fast and loose with God’s word long ago. They are far from alone today. On the Sunday before Christmas a few years ago, I attended a service at a Southern Baptist church. It consisted of a skit about cinnamon with no application whatsoever to any biblical theme, the pastor’s line-by-line exegesis of that Christian classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and a video of a mission trip to India.

Here’s a different approach: Teach our dear ones that Jesus Christ is the One by whom and through whom all things are made, the Savior of the world and the One who will judge all people when He returns. Instruct them in the meaning of “I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh to the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6).

Might they then find Him worth holding on to when they leave the nest?Ω

The Reverend Edward W. Fowler