Stone made a striking point, noting that Christian parents are often unaware of the attitudes and convictions that are forming in their children's minds and hearts. He states, “As kids get older, they secularize in a way parents are not observing. Parents don’t perceive their child as being irreligious, when, in fact, their child has already lost their faith.” In other words, we have children growing up in Christian homes and churches who by all outward appearances have embraced the truth, accepted Christ, and are even affirming their faith publicly through baptism and other ways. Yet, in their hearts they have rejected the truth.
This is a newer study with updated information. However, as the Truth78 team processes the best way to respond to the concerns, we recognize that the encouragement and support we’d like to offer is much the same as it has been for 25 years. To that end, I want to share five considerations for parents and anyone else who is committed to the discipleship of children and youth:
1. Always be mindful that the souls of our children are our highest priority and primary concern.
Most Christian parents want nothing more for their children than eternal life and everlasting joy in the presence of Jesus Christ. Over decades of ministry, I don't think I’ve found one who would disagree that their greatest desire is for the salvation of their children.
Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Keeping that eternal reality in front of us is so important, as we live in an increasingly distracted world where so many things compete for our attention. There is one main goal of our parenting, and that is the ultimate joy that we want for our children in Christ.
This is a lifelong concern for our children, no matter how much confidence we have that they are trusting Christ and walking in the truth. If they are in Christ, they will persevere to the end. Until the end, we should continue encouraging, discipling, and praying for our children to finish well.
2. Acknowledge that whether or not our children embrace the truth or reject it, whether or not they trust Christ, that is ultimately out of our control.
We have no power to raise our children from spiritual death. We can teach them the truth, but we can't make them love the truth. That's both good news and bad news. The bad news is that we cannot control the outcome of our children's lives and faith. The good news is that God can. The God who has known His children before the foundation of the world, whose unstoppable purposes are to make them holy and blameless, cannot be thwarted. Only He can change hearts. God has the right to bring our children to faith His way and on His timetable, even if they are “secularized” or forsake the faith. Spurgeon said regarding children, "Never must we cease to pray until they cease to breathe. No case is hopeless while Jesus lives." As long as Jesus is on His throne, the gates of hell cannot prevail against the souls of those that He is determined to save.
3. Faithfully and intentionally disciple your children to the truth.
This is the best response that I have to Lyman Stone's observations. Discipleship does not guarantee the outcome, but certainly faithful discipleship is our best response to this threat against our children. Steve and Candice did a great job in the webinar helping us understand very practically what discipleship can look like in the home.
While there are exceptions, quite often God brings children to faith through believing parents who faithfully disciple their children.
4. Know your children just as a good Shepherd knows His sheep.
A good disciple-making parent knows his disciples. This is one of the biggest challenges I have seen facing Christian parents in the church. Life is so busy that we are lacking the intentional time needed to know what our children are thinking and feeling. Stone pointed out that secularization is happening in a way that parents are not observing. Quite simply, we need to take the time to interact with our children, and as Stone says, “recapture their attention.” One of the best ways that we can do this is to ask questions.
The material that we publish at Truth78 is designed to be interactive with questions woven throughout. The answers to help guide parents are included too. We often speak of discipling the mind, heart, and will. This requires relational engagement to know our children.
5. Take heart in the assurance that the faith of our children matters more to God than it does to us.
I like to say that when it comes to the responsibility we have to disciple our children, we have all the resources of heaven on our side. God is working within us, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to do what He calls us to do. Here are two particularly encouraging Scriptures that emphasize this:
First, Philippians 2:12b: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In light of eternity, we should tremble at the two possible responses our children will hear at the end of the age—either, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter in the joy of your master” or “Away from me. I never knew you.” I tremble at the thought of any of my children or grandchildren ever being cast off by the Lord. However, verse 13 reminds that “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We have an opportunity to model what it means to work out our own salvation, while imparting to our children the truth of the gospel and helping them work out their own salvation. Ultimately, our goal is for them to know, honor, and treasure God, set their hope in God, and live as faithful disciples for the glory of God.
Second, 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” This has been such an overarching theme for my ministry, parenting, and just about everything else in life. If you're feeling weak or inadequate, that qualifies you for the grace of God, which will enable you to do exceedingly and abundantly beyond anything that you ever imagined!
So, take heart, dear parents. There are so many ways, big and small, for you to begin today investing in the discipleship of your children. We stand ready to help in any way that we can. May the Lord give you fresh grace and renewed hope for this privilege that we have.