There is one question in parenting that has plagued me more than any other. Beyond the basics of *trying to* make sure that my kids are respectful, considerate, well-fed and rested, this one topic is something that has rolled around in my mind since our oldest was in my womb: how do I raise children who have an authentic relationship with God? How do I encourage them towards faith-filled boldness and a humble, undivided heart?
Nothing in parenting is sure. No formula can guarantee our children’s salvation and faithfulness. There are plenty of amazing Christian families with prodigal children; God has all of us in process. But I’m burdened by the sheer number of kids raised in the church that have memorized all the right scriptures and know all the right answers, yet their adult lives are largely unchanged. Some have left the church altogether while others are just showing up and checking the box off of their list of “ought to’s”.
This burden has me asking God: how do we raise a strong generation of men and women that are wholeheartedly committed to You? A generation that trades a churchy mask for a Holy Spirit boldness and love that will change the world. A generation that doesn’t see scripture memory and prayer as a measure of godliness, but as a tool for waging a successful war against the enemy for people’s souls, for our nation’s repentance and salvation.
Dozens of good thoughts, of right thoughts, can answer these questions. But I want to give you one that has continuously come to my attention during my priority times this month in the books of Genesis and Exodus. Even my pastor mentioned it in passing during the sermon Sunday when he said this: “God gives us symbols to remind us of the most meaningful things He has done in our lives.” Not only does God remind us, but He calls us to remind our children using these same symbols.
God told Moses to write about the defeat of the Amalekites on a scroll so that Joshua would remember. He told Aaron to save manna in a jar as a sign for generations to come so that they would remember God’s provision. He commanded the Israelites to consecrate every firstborn so the people would remember God’s deliverance. In the New Testament, He tells us to be baptized and take communion regularly, all to remember Christ’s sacrifice and our new life in him. The examples could go on and on.
God repeatedly uses concrete symbols to remind us of who He is and what He’s done. God understands better than we do our tendency to forget, and this forgetfulness is a spiritual cancer that leads us to either obey out of obligation (legalism) or turn to other things for satisfaction (idolatry). One of His solutions for our memory problem is something tangible that represents His power and faithfulness.
So here’s the practical step I’ve taken: I bought aquarium rocks at PetSmart and paint pens at Hobby Lobby. On the rocks I’ve recorded every significant move of God in our lives that I can remember. They all have key words and/or verses that help me remember prayers answered, lives changed, circumstances redeemed, and/or God’s character revealed. I’ve put the rocks in a bowl on one of our living room tables. In the future when my kids ask me what they are, I can use each rock to tell specific, personal testimonies about a God that is still alive and active today.
Bottom line: There is a gaping divide between the God of the Bible and what most modern-day American churches are actually experiencing. I believe this is the cause of the church’s rapid decline. My hope and prayer is that when the next generation sees personally the mighty hand of God as Deliverer, Redeemer, Healer, Comforter, Bondage-Breaker, and Provider, an unstoppable generation will rise up!
4 thoughts on “The American Church Crisis and a Parent’s Call”
Hey Jill, I just wanted to respond to this blog because it is so close to my heart right now and very much something that has been on my mind. I have dealt with this first hand, maybe every christian has, but it is very real to me. Personally, I have learned recently that we must surrender to Him every single day. We can not rely on others to feed us spiritually because when we grow up from childhood and go into the real world, we will have to feed ourselves. I will be honest, I relied on youth leaders and Sunday sermons to spiritually feed me. And then I got into the real world and realized I was starving for truth. When we are away from church , we have to know how to rely on God for ourselves and it has be a daily surrender. We can not be intimate with God without being in the word daily. I know so many people that were in HP youth with me, some before me as well, that have walked away from the church. I think as a parent, I would be on my knees daily praying to God for my child. It has to be more than the lights and cool worship songs and looking cool. It has to be authentic love that we share with others when we are living our daily lives. All that matters is who we are outside of the church building. And I think parents have the greatest influence on their kids. I believe if your boys see your Christ-centered life lived according to who God is, that will be a incredible example testimony to how they will want to live their lives.
Emily, thank you so much for sharing your heart and for the encouragement. I agree that the most important thing we can give our children is the example we live out and the God they experience through our lives. I am so thankful that you were able to find that authentic walk with Christ, and I’m sure your future kids will be blessed bc of it!! 💜
I love your idea about the rocks! What a great way to share the stories with your boys of how God has been faithful! Honestly, I think they would be a great reminder for ourselves when we are having a bad day or needing some encouragement. Thank you again for sharing your heart and wisdom and allowing God to use you as a symbol to so many including me!
Your comment made me realize I never wrote about how the rocks idea came from the book of Joshua- I had it in here and edited it out for space purposes. God had the people get 12 stones to build a memorial to remember what He had done. And yes, it definitely encourages me, too, to go through them and remember. Thanks so much for always being so encouraging. 😃 It means so much to me!! 💜