Before I begin, I realized that in the post titled Mustard Seeds, I didn't give proper attribution to the source of a large part of my thinking. The basic thought about the mustard seeds came from Jesus for President by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. I just added a couple of my thoughts. So, Shane, on the outside chance that you read that post :), I apologize for not giving credit where it was due. Thanks to Jeff McQ for jogging my brain on that.
I'm realizing more and more that we, meaning my generation, have failed our children in a major way. During my twenty-three years as a Christian school teacher, I constantly heard about the numbers of students who were graduating from Christian schools around the country and abandoning their faith within a couple of years. This was usually blamed on things like liberal atheist professors in the secular schools (thus making it "imperative" that we get our students to go to "good" Christian colleges), the influence of wicked friends, or just the human tendency to "backslide" when left without good teaching.
As a parent of two adult children, who went through Christian schools and who grew up in church, I'm more attuned to the possibility of their faith being left in the dust, and I think I know the reason why their generation is abandoning the church, and, in some cases, faith.
We spent most of our time teaching our children that being a Christian was a matter of "asking Jesus into your heart" so you would be able to go to heaven when you die. We taught that salvation was a destination, that it simply placed you in the position of being acceptable to God. Correct behavior was important, but it usually was a matter of managing sin by following a set of rules and regulations. Becoming like Christ was reduced down to "sinning" as little as possible. Spiritual discipline consisted of reading the Bible every day, praying, and witnessing, and discipleship was doing those things longer and more often.
Now, in our defense, we taught them this way because that is the way we were taught. Back when the culture was more in sync with "Christianity," the idea of making people Christians by getting them to "accept Jesus" worked culturally, so not a whole lot of us knew any different. Now that the culture has become apathetic, if not hostile, toward Christians, the old cultural way of Christendom doesn't work. Our children have seen through the barriers that we placed between them and Jesus, and have rejected what they knew as "church."
As the walls of Christendom coming tumbling down it is imperative that we teach those who are learning from us that there is much more to following Jesus than having a home in heaven when you die. We must teach them that being a Christian is a matter of being a citizen of a different Kingdom, a subject of the King of Kings. We must communicate that following Jesus means that we are a new creation, that we have the Spirit of God inside us. Becoming like Jesus means living our lives as he would live them, and loving others as he would love them. Spiritual discipline means doing what Jesus did, spending time in prayer, solitude and silence, and fasting. Our lives are to be lived from the inside out, not just by managing our behavior. Fortunately, there are those from our generation who are teaching these things, and there are many from the current generation who have learned them.
O behalf of my generation, I confess that we have failed you that are our children and grandchildren We have failed in communicating the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ and his Kingdom, and have replaced it with a gospel of Christendom.
Some of us are learning, and are trying to make up for lost ground. I pray that those who have grown up in the church and have left will be drawn by the Spirit to the reality of the Kingdom of God and the true King.
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