Passing on Your Faith

image courtesy of Philo Nordlund via flickr

What does it look like to pass on our faith to our children? Of course we must teach them with our words, but there has to be more. Children see right through a shallow and empty faith; they might reject their parents’ “faith” in the short-term, but more definitely when they leave the home.

I’m not saying that parents have to be perfect (or my kids would have no hope at all!). The overall question to ask is whether the general direction in life is that which matches up with the gospel. Am I being changed (a work of the Spirit), am I trying to change myself (through my own power), or am I not changing at all though I say I am a Christian? The first is a what a Christ-follower looks like, but the last is the mark of a hypocrite.

Paul Martin gives an excerpt from a commentary on Hebrews. In this commentary by Rick Phillips, we see examples of how our kids can see Jesus’ work in our lives — repentance, forgiveness, giving, and graciousness. You can read the excerpt here.

This mindset is slightly different to others I’ve come across. For example, although I have not read Already Gone (by Ken Ham, Britt Beemer, and Todd Hillard), I’ve read some articles (like this one) and promotional material that has given me an understanding of the book’s premises. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the authors make a case that so many people “leave the faith” when they leave the home because parents and churches compromise on the topic of creation and evolution.

I don’t buy it.

Teaching that God’s word is inerrant, infallible, and inspired is important, and this applies in the areas of history, science, morals, sociology, and more. However, whether a church or parent spends a significant part of their time teaching Creationism is not the main factor of how strong a child’s faith remains. (For the record, I do believe that God created everything with His word, and that the earth is young, on the order of thousands of years.)

A student who appears to fall away from faith doesn’t do so because he is all of the sudden confronted with academics who present a compelling case against God. He “falls away” (if that can be done) because he never really owned the faith himself. While he went to church and did good deeds and learned the right things, there was no heart-level, inside-out life change.

A bigger issue than whether his parents taught him Creationism is if he saw his parents live sacrificially, committed to the gospel and the local church.

A bigger issue than whether his church had classes about “Why Evolution Is Not Biblical” is whether he had mentors who loved him, listened to him, and called him out to put Christ first.

A bigger issue than how evolution changes organisms over time is how the gospel changes you over time.

I remember inviting a college friend and teammate to a campus ministry event. He replied, “I spent 18 years of my parents making me go to church. Now that I’m out of the house, I’m never going to church again.” Without judging his parents, I wonder how much life change their son could see in them.

Our kids don’t just need our preaching. They need us to continually pursue and submit to Christ.

We don’t just need evidence for God. We need evidence of a life that has been changed by the Holy Spirit.

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6 responses to “Passing on Your Faith”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Hi, I showed up here because you 'advertized' your blog on a parenting forum. I think I will comment here instead, where you can delete it if you don't like it. I don't 'buy' that seeing parents living sacrificially will change a child's heart. There are just too many poor parents and too many unappreciative kids. Almost every religion and cult that I know has mentors who love their converts, listen to them, and call them to put *insert name of religion here* first. As for your college teammate, his parents would have done better encouraging him to know Jesus than to force him to go to church. You have one little nugget in your post, and that is the sentence that kids need to own their faith. I am a big fan of Answers in Genesis and I think you sort of missed the point. Learning how it all fits with science really does help kids “own” their own faith.

  2. Joey Espinosa says :

    Thanks for your insight, and for taking the time to leave a comment.

    I don't believe I said “that seeing parents living sacrificially will change a child's heart.” My point is that I have seen (especially in the middle-class bible belt) is that parents think taking their kids to church and having them take part in Christian events (Bible study, VBS, Sunday school, youth groups, etc) is enough. Those are GREAT things (as is teaching that the Bible is true). But for parents to pass on their faith, there must be more.

  3. Wanda says :

    Good post Joey – I would take it another step which you implied “called him to put Christ first.”

    To Anonymous – I prayed and pleaded with the Lord to teach me how to raise my children to walk with Jesus so they wouldn't walk away. He gave me many experiences as He taught me – the one that had the greatest impact I tell here http://www.kidtrek-sundayplus.org/2010/11/21/child-discipleship-do-we-over-protect-our-children/

    Certainly the kids need to know truth – but knowledge without having experienced God's power is not enough.

    My children and their spouses – by the grace of God all in their 40ties – walk with the Lord and are active in ministry. As Mama says, “Pray sacrificially for your children. Pray for them so much you are giving up things you want to do for yourself.” That may truly be the bottom line of what makes the difference.

  4. Anonymous says :

    Hi Wanda, Thanks for posting that link. I am always looking for ways to do better at saying precisely what I mean in posts. So much depends on voice inflection and facial expression when people talk in person!

    In my earlier post, I in no way meant to discount a parent's sacrifice. God values and responds to one's sacrifice, and that part is certainly important. What I was questioning was the use of sacrifice as a witnessing mechanism to one's kids. That is the, “After all I've done for you, you ought to …” approach. A child can see his parents live sacrificially, committed to the gospel and the local church, and still miss owning his faith.

    Actually, I think the title for this blog captures the concept pretty well. It is a 'different' way, not an 'add on more' way. It is raising children to glorify God before raising them for worldly success. It is raising them in the fear of the Lord instead of …anything else.

  5. Wanda says :

    Anonymous – I ditto your first paragraph.

    It is so interesting how we perceive things so differently. Joey's statement on parents living sacrificially I took as meaning to sacrifice for others – not their children.

    I remember my mother going without a new dress because she gave the money to a family who needed it to buy food. That is the sacrifice I think kids need to observe.

    Amen to your statement “It is raising children to glorify God before raising them for worldly success.”

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