Updated: Feb 19, 2019
I consider growing up in a "Christian home" one of the greatest privileges bestowed upon me. However, I can see how if we are not careful some dangers are simply inevitable.
Don’t get me wrong; I had an awesome upbringing. There is no greater gift my father gave me than displaying a life of self-sacrifice, modeled after Christ himself. There is no greater gift my mother gave me than praying ceaselessly for me and planting seeds in me for a burgeoning faith.
In my home when I brought up a tough ethical question about why something was right or wrong my mom responded to me, “because the Bible says here…” followed by a chapter-verse citation. This was enough for me because the Bible was the most respected object in my home, and Christianity was the only worldview I was exposed to. Church, bible studies, prayer meetings are what I grew up with. Before I knew how to think for myself, the Bible already carried great significance. On top of all this, I believed my mother because I came to know "why" I believed what I believed as truth. The gospel message already cemented experiential relevance in me at a young age. I grew up in relationship with God, and He was very real to me.
You see the gospel message is simple enough for a child to understand. In Mark’s gospel Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Mark 10:14-15. My upbringing brought me to the front door of faith. I choose to walk in when I realized even if I was the only one on Earth, God loves me enough to die for me. This is the essence of the gospel. It is the love of God that ultimately drew me to trust and follow Christ.
However, when I left home for college I began to be confronted either directly or indirectly through voices and images around me with tough questions and objections to the faith I believed in. Although I held fast to my faith, because I knew my “why”, I began to closet my faith because I didn’t know how to respond to such tough questions. I started to go down a path of self-righteousness and privatized my faith to Sunday church, my own dorm room, and the occasional monthly bible study. In my heart I believed my faith was the right one, but I didn’t engage with people who disagreed with me on topics of faith out of fear that I would be rejected, called a bigot, or even worse that it would cast doubt on my own worldview.
Christian brother and sister, I tell you this to emphasize that this is what happened me, someone who knew his “why”. It begs the question what happens to someone who doesn't know their “why”, someone whose faith was simply passed down like a family tradition.
Parents, the “why” is not something you can give to your child. You may live your life in a way that strongly shows your own “why”, and you can foster an environment that plants seeds in your kids to keep the gospel in high regard— in other words you can place you kids at the front door of faith. It’s such a blessing for you to be able to do this, but scripture is clear: “Salvation belongs to our God.” Actual belief is not something we pass on to our kids. I know this is true because my brother grew up along side me, within the same bible-verse decorated walls, going to the same church services and prayer meetings, singing the same worship songs, but he only came to know his “why” many years later, long after leaving the home.
Parents, what I know to be true is that when your child leaves your home he or she will meet a world that undermines their faith. Your child will be met with a world full of questions-- questions your child poses and questions your child’s closest friends pose. The tangible relationships our young people have with one another can often feel more real than their relationship with God. I've seen this play out in my closest friends. When people receive a weak response to their question or no response at all, they easily turn away from belief. The world will either do two things: topple down a house-of-cards version of faith that was built for them or it will do what it did to me, privatize faith to a bubble of believers while living a double life when it comes engaging with people who have a different world view.
The danger I wish to present is perhaps your “christian home” is already just that: a private christian bubble.
There is a desperate need for apologetics in our generation! There is a desperate need to understand the worldviews of those around us! Scripture says, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15
The writer uses the Greek word [apologia] which translates to defense and denotes the kind of defense one would make to a legal inquiry to questions not limited to: “Why are you a christian? Why do you defend the gospel as truth? What actually makes a belief true? What is truth anyway?”
Apologetics is a lifelong process of learning how and with what to respond to legitimate fundamental questions, while considering the questioner’s worldview with gentleness and respect. Behind every question is a questioner.
It breaks my heart to see so many leave their faith because their questions, or their friend’s questions never received an adequate response. It breaks my heart to see how I wasn't equipped to respond to these questions which caused my once strong faith to easily become a closeted and privatized one. Finally, it breaks my heart to see the billions who have not had the privilege of being planted at the front door of faith like me who grew up in a christian home— instead they are miles away behind barriers and walls set up by our fractured humanity. Of course these don’t seem like barriers and walls to them. After all it’s a matter of worldview, but it's a worldview we should seek to understand and not dismiss.
We know the love of Christ knows no end and is strong enough to reach everyone. Romans 8:38-39 states, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is the same love God has commanded us to extend to this world.
There is a better way forward. If we want to train up young people to remain strong in their faith, and if we want to reach the unreached, a vital component is to begin training ourselves and our kids to think critically. Answers like “because the Bible said so,” without defending the credibility of the Bible, and “that’s what faith is: belief in the unseen,” simply aren’t going to cut it. We have to consider our neighbors worldview and actively choose to not live within the bubble of our own christian communities.
Author and apologist Ravi Zacharias emphasizes the impact of an alert response to someone’s question, even in a small way: “Do not underestimate the role you may play in clearing the obstacles in someone’s spiritual journey. A seed sown here, a light shone there may be all that is needed to move someone one step further.”Although this is encouraging, I would go even further to add this sobering thought. Do not estimate the tragedy we can be a part of by creating even more barriers by being insensitive and disrespectful. Most importantly do not estimate the tragedy if we remain silent outside our christian bubble.
I leave you with this excerpt from Andy Stanley’s new book Irresistible.
“What is the faith of the next generation worth?
What is the faith of your children and grandchildren worth?
I say, everything.
I say it’s worth any change necessary to ensure the version of faith passed on to the next generation is the enduring version—the faith of our first-century fathers. The version that was harder than Roman steel and tougher than Roman nails. So will you consider retooling how you communicate in order to win some and save some? Will you adjust your language to avoid making it unnecessarily difficult for those who are turning toward God or turning back to God? Are you willing to embrace the realities of the world we live in and let go of cultural assumptions that characterized the world you grew up in?
Granted, these will be hard habits to break.
But break them we must.
The faith of the next generation may depend on it.”
2. Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World– September 18, 2018
by Andy Stanley