Bradley Cobb is a friend & fellow gospel preacher. I wanted to share his excellent article with you (in two parts) and even expand upon it in a couple areas. He and I have much in common on this subject matter; I can relate to every point he makes. His original piece can be found at www.TheCobbSix.com.
Being brought up by godly parents, and being raised to respect Jesus Christ are wonderful things. Without them, I don't know if I would be a Christian--let alone a preacher--today. But being raised in the church also presents several dangers. These are dangers that you must take seriously, otherwise your child will most likely be one of the thousands who "leave the church" once they move out of the house.
Let's consider four areas that are often problematic for those who grow up in Christian homes:
1. Parental hypocrisy and a lack of zeal shine through.
A child is taken to church each time the doors are opened (or less frequently in many cases) and is in Bible class from a young age. But what happens when that child is at home? Let me share with you what happens in the lives of many (perhaps even most) of these children's lives.
That child comes home and never hears the Bible mentioned. He rarely, if ever, sees other Christians come to his house (except perhaps some of his relatives). In short, he sees his parents as hypocritical. They go to church and are "part of the group" on the Lord's Day, but the rest of the time, they are no different than anyone else.
Now, perhaps you might think "hypocrite" is a strong word to use. Let me say it another way that maybe will make sense: If your children don't see you as a Christian throughout the week, what you do on Sunday isn't going to convince them. And they will subconsciously decide that being a Christian isn't really all that important. And they will either leave or become someone who simply takes up space in the auditorium. If our children only see us praying to God, reading His word, serving others, and concerned about His will one day a week, what will they conclude? They are likely to conclude that being a Christian doesn't need to be their most important focus, and what Mom & Dad ignore for six days a week, they may choose to ignore for seven. Tragically, a lack of zeal is all too common among many. Friends, are we seeking first the kingdom of God everyday (cf. Matt. 6:33)? Are we zealous for the Lord & His work?
2. Genuine repentance is difficult.
Being someone who was raised "in the church," I say this from my own experience. When I was baptized in my younger years, I didn't view myself as a bad person. I was already praising God during the worship times. I was memorizing my memory verses for Bible class. I listened to the sermons most of the time. I could tell you the plan of salvation. In short, there was not really any significant change in my way of thinking or manner of life from what I did before to what I did afterwards. I knew I needed to be baptized, but there really wasn't anything for me to change in my life at that point. I've discussed this with others who were raised in the church, and most of them have described a similar situation.
I think this--more than any other reason--is why so many people are "rebaptized" later in life. They can't remember agonizing over how utterly sinful their lives had been before being baptized because they were acting just like all the Christians, without technically being one. This potential problem is magnified when children are encouraged or indirectly pressured to be immersed at a young age. No matter how well they understand the gospel facts, it is difficult (though not impossible in all cases) for pre-teens to truly repent. For my thoughts on how to determine whether a child is old enough to be baptized, please consider the AE archived lesson from 12/08/2007.
We will conclude these thoughts in our next lesson.