On the whole, Christianity in the developed world is shrinking. One of the major reasons is that young people are neither staying in church nor joining a church at high enough rates to replace older churchgoers who are dying. Meanwhile, many mainline Protestant churches are undertaking major changes to core biblical teachings like the prohibition against same-sex relationships, the divine identity of Jesus Christ and the authority of the Bible.
For people with conservative and traditional Christian values, it feels like they are constantly in a defensive position, both from without and from within.
What’s a conscientious Christian to do? As a parent who’s trying to raise my two sons to be God-fearing followers of Christ, I’m extremely aware of the disconcerting trends in society. My wife and I are doing our best to counteract those downward trends.
How can you and your family be part of an offensive movement that seeks to reverse the trend of a declining Christianity in our world?
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).
As members of God’s assembly of believers—the Body of Christ—we have a high calling of showing a better way of life to everybody around us. And Jesus says that in His Kingdom, when He returns, His followers will be given the responsibility to govern justly (Matthew 16:19; Revelation 20:4).
This life is our training ground, and it starts at home with your own family. So here are three key areas to focus on with your children or grandchildren, to help guide them to be the lights in this world Jesus calls His followers to be.
1. Teach your children how to properly engage with the Bible.
As many who grew up in a Christian church can remember from their own childhood, it was often the preacher’s kid (P.K. for short) who was the worst-behaved (when the parents were not around). Negative influences on our children come from both inside and outside the church. In the same way, besides societal corruptions, preachers can spread nonbiblical teachings from the pulpit and lead a congregation astray.
People who know how to properly engage with the Bible, using sound methods of interpreting what it says, will be better prepared to spot falsehood when they hear it. We need more than a simple declaration like “If the Bible says it, I believe it, and that settles it.” While there’s an appealing simplicity in a statement like that, it’s a potential opening for the misuse of Scripture.
After all, Satan the devil used scriptures when tempting Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4). By using only individual passages in isolation, he twisted the intent of each scripture, which Jesus correctly saw through and combatted by using other passages that created a fuller picture of what the Bible says.
Our kids deserve a robust biblical education built on a full picture of the entire Bible—so they won’t crumple at the first sign of a challenge to their beliefs or be led astray by smooth-sounding words.
2. Teach your kids to love God in all circumstances.
When your kids are little, you have to set boundaries on their behavior for their own personal safety. Sometimes those boundaries make them mad. Without fully understanding our reasons, it might at times seem to them like we’re being unfair.
Yet, they still love us and trust us, given that we care and provide for them and shower them with love in in a variety of ways (many of which are even taken for granted).
Similarly, we see God’s care and love for us. We are thankful every day for the blessings of good health, of enough food, of a happy home, all of which come directly or indirectly from God. He is the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). And we try not to take any of these things for granted.
Yet we also know that in life there may be times when we become disappointed or angry with God. We may not understand His reasons for allowing certain terrible things to happen. That’s a lesson for us when we teach our kids to love God. It isn’t a two-dimensional, feel-good, fair-weather relationship. Teaching your kids to love God means that even when He feels far away from them, they know they can always reach out to Him and cast their cares upon Him.
3. Find a Bible-based church.
As our family navigates the hard social pressures around us, I’ve found great comfort and stability through involvement in church. While it’s a growth process, as none of us is yet perfect, having other families as our “brothers- and sisters-in-arms,” the parents raising their children with the same core values as us, is hugely important to us.
Every church will claim to follow Jesus, but whether they also follow His actual teachings and the full teachings of Scripture is another question. So you have to evaluate their beliefs against the Bible. Knowing how to properly engage with the Bible (tip 1) is critical to being able to assess any church and its teachings.
There should also be a community of warmth. Jesus told His disciples, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:15). The word translated “church” in the New Testament is a Greek word for a summoned gathering or assembly. By its very nature, it is a group of people. The apostle Peter described it as a brotherhood (1 Peter 2:17; 5:9). It is a group of people who grow to love one another as a spiritual family, the members edifying one another and encouraging each other toward good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
But as with any group of human beings, even those striving to live by every word of God, there will be difficulties at times. Being part of a group of people means you will be let down, and you will witness hypocrisy —and so will your children. So make sure to model to them the kind of grace that Jesus practiced.
Follow His guidance for conflict resolution in Matthew 18:15-20, the wisdom throughout Proverbs, and the exhortation of scriptures like Colossians 3:12-14: “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.”
As we navigate the challenges of a world sliding away from God toward the eager embrace of the devil, whose influence is both subtle at times and overt at others, our families can be a bastion of righteousness. We are called to be lights in the darkness. Let us take heart from those promises and model to our children that they, too, can take up the charge against the darkness and be lights to the world (Matthew 5:14). And all the while praying fervently, in the words of Revelation 22:21, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”