The other day I was talking with the leader of a nationally known Christian organization. In the course of our conversation, he said, “I really appreciate the vision you have of offering children across America a Christian education. You are definitely on the right track of what we need in this country. But, strange as it may sound, you will probably get some of your strongest opposition from pastors.”
Now, that suggestion may seem like an oxymoron, but he is right. In many ways that has been our experience. We are finding that pastors, the very people who claim the calling of God to lead people into relationship with Christ and nurture them in faith, are often among the slowest to support the vision of offering Christian worldview education to the masses. Like us, you may be asking the question, “Why?” I think the answer is not profound.
To start with, too many pastors have themselves abandoned belief in the authority of God’s Word. Many are buying the lies of modern education. Therefore, they don’t really hold conviction of truth and “the fear of the Lord is” not necessarily “the beginning of wisdom.” As a result, they are not burdened by the responsibility they have in influencing never dying souls.
Additionally, too many pastors have lost touch with the fact that they are called to build God’s kingdom, not their own. Therefore, if something (even if it is building God’s kingdom) is not their own idea or does not directly build what they are doing, they’re not interested.
Finally, many pastors have buckled to the notions of modern culture that promote self actualization and pluralism. Fearful of offending or losing parishioners, they only address topics warmly embraced by all — especially when it comes to how to raise children. You see, modern culture has shifted to become the polar opposite to the Bible on this topic (and most others).
Having spent years in pastoral ministry myself, I understand some of the intense pressures faced by pastors today. The world is filled with influences hostile to the Christian faith. It is not at all easy for pastors to keep the world’s philosophies from infiltrating the church. I’m also glad to report that not all pastors are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
But think with me for a moment. Battles are never won through defeat and victories are seldom caused by retreat. They are won by strategic intentional actions of commitment, sacrifice and risk.
Sadly, just as many pastors take a passive view of the spiritual health of their people; many parents are not intentional about the spiritual well-being of their children. They are not diligent to “train them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.” This battle must also be one that involves intentional actions of commitment, sacrifice and risk. As a father of six, I know something of this challenge as well.
So, what are some steps parents should take to ensure the spiritual health of their children?
1. Be sure you are a real Christian yourself and that your example and teaching (including influences you allow in your home) are in alignment with the principles and priorities of the Bible. Nothing distorts spiritual formation in children more than spiritual hypocrisy at home.
2. Make sure you are taking them to a thoroughly Bible believing church where the whole family (including you) is evangelized and nurtured through discipleship and where there are opportunities for service. Encourage and support your pastor as he takes a stand on issues that are in the best interest of your family’s spiritual well-being.
3. If you are not teaching your children at home, enroll them in a good Christian school. This will take sacrifice and a lot of it. But outside the influence of your own home, the influences of your children’s school are without question the most significant in their spiritual formation. If you are teaching them at home, make sure you are being diligent to take strategic intentional actions of commitment, sacrifice and risk… and that you are giving them a thoroughly Christian worldview education. There are several great curricula to help you. Regardless, know what they are being taught and if others are teaching them, have contact with their teachers.
4. Know and manage your children’s relationships with their friends. Don’t take anything for granted.
5. Pray for your children daily, in your private time and when you are with them. Let them hear you pray for their safety and spiritual well-being. Prayer is the key to winning spiritual battles and breaking down resistance. The Bible says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Perhaps you are reading this article and are thinking, “I’ve already lived this part of my life and have made a lot of wrong choices.” Maybe today things are not good with your child’s spiritual health. Let me encourage you to start doing what you can to correct the situation. You may not be able to make changes in your child’s life, but you can in yours. Then, through prayer, God can make the needed changes in your child. It will take strategic intentional actions of commitment, sacrifice and risk. It is a spiritual battle that must begin by seeking God. But it is a battle that can be won.
As another school year begins, my prayer for you is that God will bless and strengthen you and your family and that you will all be blessed with spiritual health.