In our prior lesson, we noted two areas that are often problematic for those who grow up in Christian homes:
1. Parental hypocrisy and a lack of zeal shine through.
2. Genuine repentance is difficult.
Let's consider two more at this time:
3. A lack of a personal faith is common.
When children are raised in the church, they often take on their parents' faith by default. As in, they are told precisely what to believe by their parents, or by the Bible school teachers and the preacher. They simply accept that this is the way things are, and instead of coming to a knowledge of the truth themselves, they start living on an inherited faith. If you want to know what the difference is, look at the Israelites. Those who crossed into the Promised Land who had seen God's miracles were faithful for the most part. While Joshua lived, the people were faithful. While the elders that outlived Joshua were in charge, the people were faithful.
However, as soon as people who didn't have to work for the Promised Land came into power, things went downhill and quickly. They didn't have to fight for the Promised Land, they inherited it. They took it for granted. And they fell away. Judges 2:10,11 records - "When all that generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation arose after them who did not know the LORD nor the work which He had done for Israel. Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served the Baals."
When someone grows up in the church, they often live on an inherited faith. And later in life, if their faith is challenged, it can fall apart because it wasn't really their faith to begin with. It would be wise for parents to challenge the faith of their children via questions & discussions while they are still under their care (I Peter 3:15 comes to mind). With effort, children can be encouraged to develop their own faith, while still living with Mom & Dad. Lecturing won't accomplish this, but real, thought-provoking dialogue can be helpful.
There is a sense in which we might envy the ones who are converted fresh, brought to Christ out of the world or from denominations, because for them it was a true life-changing decision. They knew where they were and they knew what they were leaving behind. Their faith was absolutely a personal faith. Nevertheless, there are obvious disadvantages to growing up outside a Christian family.
4. A misguided zeal for the Lord is common.
Many who borrow their parents' faith are lethargic and lacking in zeal to defend the truth. Others, however, have a zeal that is very real but rooted in ignorance more than anything else (e.g., Rom. 10:1-4). Some have been raised in the church with an ego complex based on teachings that "we are right and everyone else is wrong." Then they get to thinking that they are so much smarter in the Bible than anyone else. Or worse yet, they think everyone outside the church is dishonest with the Bible. For example, some might assume in their thinking: "The importance of baptism is so obvious! The denominations just ignore the parts of the Bible that they don't like."
And I can speak from experience (and others' testimony backs it up) that when you're raised in the church, there is a danger of being overly critical of even our own brethren. It was ingrained in my head long ago that people who use one cup during communion are lost because they are "binding where God doesn't bind." I fully believed at one point in time that we must actively fight anything that went against "what we've always done." Why? Because that's what I heard talked about.
In short, being raised in the church presents the very serious danger of being a heretic hunter and a spiritual egomaniac who thinks he's better than "all those lost people."
We could spend a lot more time talking about problems, but what is the solution?
The answer to this question is not easy, but it is worth it if you care about your children and their eternal souls: WE MUST BE TRUE CHRISTIANS! If you want your children to grow up to be active, faithful Christians, then the best way to do that is to be an active, faithful Christian yourself. Show them that Christianity is a life worth living outside of the walls of the church building. They need to see that the church family is important to you. All the church programs, youth activities, and Bible classes in the world won't have the same impact on your kids as seeing Christ lived out in you.
If you want your children to have a true zeal for the Lord and a love for the lost, then they need to see that in you. They don't need to see condescending attitudes towards lost people whom God made in His own image. They need to see compassion and patience towards people who were raised in denominations who struggle with changing from what they were raised with. Most denominational people aren't intentionally ignoring certain Bible passages--they are simply going by what they've always heard and been taught. We also need to instill in our children a healthy dose of what it means to be faithful to God. Not just saying it, but living it. They need to see what it means to be "walking in the light" (cf. I John 1:7).
And finally, we need to teach our children not just what to believe and do, but why. For example, the overwhelming majority of kids raised "in the church" can tell you that churches of Christ do not use instrumental music in worship but they cannot explain why. Without a strong rationale, their faith will fall apart. They won't be able to prove it to others, and that will cause them to realize they can't really prove it to themselves. Are your children's lives worth the work to you?
Raising up your family in the church is the best way to go, friends, but it's not always easy. Let's do it the right way and avoid these pitfalls!