My dad used to make a statement that I found pretty profound. He used to say that Christianity was only one generation from being extinct. Think about it, if one generation of adults don’t pass the faith on to their children; or if one generation of teenagers forget their faith and choose to worship other gods, Christianity as we know it could cease to exist. Now, I don’t believe God would allow this to happen, he has promised to build his church, and that the Gospel would go to the entire world. But it could happen in a family, or in a city, or a country.
Mickey Ary is a friend of mine who served as a missionary to Wales in the 1990’s. His ministry there was tough, as the culture is saturated with churches, but there are very few true believers in Jesus. He told me the story. In the early 1900’s, Wales had a series of revivals and awakenings that made this country a strong Christian nation. The great Welsh revival that took place early in the 1900’s changed the entire country, as Christianity swept across the land. God was working, lives were changed. Stories were told that in some towns the taverns had to close because God had changed lives so much, that people stopped going to the taverns to drink. It was an awesome place to live for Jesus Christ. This was not the Wales Mickey found. The churches that were started during this exciting time still stood, but very few people attended. And those that did attend had a weak faith in God. Mickey found the country cold to the Gospel, and uninterested in Godly things. Mickey was sent to Wales to work with the youth of the country, and try to re-ignite the flame of love toward God. But what happened in Wales? Simply put, Wales was one generation from having Christianity becoming extinct. The people who lived during the time of the revivals did not pass their faith on to their children. And the kids did not live out the faith of their parents. So now, less than 100 years later, the strong Christianity that was so evident, almost doesn’t exist.
Judges 2 tells a similar story. God had worked through the life of Joshua to bring the people into the Promised Land. They had seen miracles. God had parted the Jordan River in front of them and they walked across on dry land. The walls of Jericho fell down before their eyes and they won a victory that was impossible to win unless God intervened. They had experienced God firsthand. But somehow, these people failed to pass their faith on to their children. And somehow, their children failed to live the faith of their parents. Faith in God was one generation from being extinct.
How do we avoid having this tragedy happen to our faith?
It begins with parents passing their faith to their children. But to do this, parents must have an active and vital faith of their own. They must be experiencing the deep beauty of the Gospel. They must be spending time in the Scriptures and must make the community of faith a priority. But it takes more than that, so much more. Parents must teach their children. They need to read the Scriptures with them, pray with them, talk about God and the things of God. Way too often we have bought in to a couple lies in this area. One lie that is believed by many Christian parents is that training kids in spirituality is the church’s job. The thinking goes that if we get them to church, the church will take the job of educating kids about God. This is not the Biblical model, and it will not work. The primary responsibility for teaching kids lies with mom and dad. The church is there to support and supplement the work that mom and dad are already doing, and to disciple people who do not have parents who love Jesus. Christian parents who buy into this lie are raising kids who will leave the church and have no idea what they really believe. The second lie comes from the notion that we need to give kids the freedom to discover their spiritual truth for themselves. Doing this will lead kids to discover the “truths” that Satan whispers in the ears of the world. We must pass our faith passionately to our kids.
Now for young people. As a child, teenager, or young adult, listen and learn from those who teach you about God and Godly things. Learn what you believe and why you believe it. And love God with all your heart. Begin to take responsibility for your own faith. Read books that will help you grow. Spend time in the Scriptures, make church a priority.
What happened in Wales, and in the book of Judges does not have to happen to your family and culture. Let God use you to keep Christianity alive.