I begin this second message in our present series with the Theme Scripture.
DT 6:4 ” Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! ” You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. ” You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. ” You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
I remind you that our theme is- The Deuteronomy Six Family.
Today we will continue dealing with the issue of- Who carries the primary responsibility for the spiritual development of our children? The first thing I invite you to consider is the chart on the overhead.
What you are looking at are the results of a study done by Search Institute, which presented a survey called The Most Significant Religious Influences.
On the left hand side you notice twenty eight influences listed. In the centre you have listed across the top grades 7 through 12. Beneath that you have- broken down by grade- the numbers indicating the percent choosing as one of the top five influences. And in the extreme right column you have the gender factor.
While the findings of the whole study are fascinating, the one vital truth that emerges is that parents are viewed as those who should be the most significant religious influences in the lives of their children.
And the second finding of incredible interest is that of the influence of community. In the middle of the chart you find these two influences listed. First, Youth Group at my Church and secondly, Youth Group Outside my Church. Look how the numbers vary right across the grade scale. In the home church- 25, 25, 32, 33, 33, 34. Outside the home church- 3, 6, 2, 3, 4, 5. Or again, look at the designations- Youth Group Leader at my Church and Youth Group Leader outside my Church; here are the numbers respectively: 13,11,20,17,17,15 verses 2,1,1,3,4,4.
It is clear that the greatest factor of influence is community, which brings us back to the core question- What is the first, basic or core circle of a childs community- the church, the school, their friends, or the home/family?
When it comes to the spiritual development of our children there has obviously been a major shift regarding responsibility. In moving forward we should make at least a brief note of why this shift has come about.
Our primary concern is not so much with the school system, but obviously it cant be ignored. The battle here is only going to intensify as time goes on.
I do not want to sound like a radical nor an alarmist, but the truth is the state wants our children. The reason they want our children is because there is a deep and profound cultural war going on the roots of which (I believe) reach right into the spirit world. And the state understands the power of education in relation to defining culture.
But that is only one side of the issue- and it is not the most significant side of the issue. The far greater issue is the attitude of passivity in the home regarding this, which centres around a now engrained mindset that the state is responsible for the education of our children.
In putting these considerations together I recalled a full spread, two page article in the news paper, presented by an educator in my home town. She was retired, but had closed out her teaching career in the Scandinavian Countries. The thrust of her argument was the superiority of education in those countries- and the number one factor determining that superiority was this: the state took the children by the age of two and began their education. Regarding our homes, how intrusive should the state be? This much is certain- it will be just as intrusive as we allow it to be.
Obviously, there is a great deal more that needs to be related about this but I want to move on to the issue of the church.
What has happened with the school system has also happened with the church. If you remember the quote I used last week from the writings of Martin Luther, you will understand the significance of the following statement. Many parents today would rather pass on the responsibility of being the “bishops, apostles and priests to the “professionals at church instead of modelling those roles themselves.
It has got to be understood that this does not mean that parents are bad or evil, but it does mean there is a problem. That problem has got to be addressed- and addressing it begins with a basic understanding of how in the world- or more correctly- how in the church did we get here?
One of the very honest factors in this is that so many parents had little to no spiritual development in their upbringing. This has left them in a basic position of simply not knowing how to spiritually nurture their children. It is vital to understand that many parents absolutely long to spiritually nurture their children but they honestly do not know how to proceed.
It is a very natural temptation to conclude that what I am not able to do I will pass off to the church. The failure of the church in response to legitimate need is that of taking on the role of the parent rather than coming alongside the parent with strong spiritual nurture to the end that the parent can strongly input into the child.
This thinking of the church seemed to come of age in the decades of the sixties and seventies, when there occurred, what one writer called, an explosion in Christian education. Churches were building on education wings, youth rooms, Sunday School facilities, day-cares and on and on.
Follow it carefully- at this same time our society was entering in earnest into unprecedented escalation of technology. The idea (spoken or not) was that at last we would have all that extra time we so needed and longed for to be with family and build relationships- because technology would enable us to get everything done so much more quickly.
But instead of that people were now more connected to their employment responsibilities than before- because now you didnt merely go to work but your work rode along with you in your car, came home with you and invaded your family life- and even vacation was no longer a time of disengagement, it was simply a change of location from which to continue being plugged in to the all-consuming demand of productivity.
During the industrial age, people (primarily the male) went to work knowing the structured schedule of his engagement, and having met that he returned home without a compromised focus concerning family. But with the technology age all of that changed. But that was the mere tip of the iceberg- for along with this there came an incredible expansion of women in the work place- specifically the work place outside the home.
But it doesnt end here either- for now we have moved into something called the “quantum age. The only thing I seem to know for certain about this is that there is no actual, concise, and precise definition of the term. But those who do understand what is happening in this arena are telling us that in short order the most cutting edge technology of the present time is going to be as extinct as the DODO- as primitive as the first stone wheel. And all of this comes with the warning- even from those who are engaged in bringing it about- that if you think the world is a high speed place now, you have seen nothing yet.
Obviously, these factors (and many others) are greatly expanding this whole deficit regarding the parental role in the development of their childrens faith. Parents are basically delighted with the church taking on this responsibility- and for many this is about the only private time they have in their week.
Let me place another quote from George Barna on the overhead.
A majority of churches are actually guilty of perpetuating an unhealthy and unbiblical process wherein the church usurps the role of the family and creates an unfortunate sometimes exclusive dependency upon the church for a childs spiritual nourishment.
Please hear this with extreme care. I am now speaking of that situation where kids are dropped off at church and where parents are not involved in the church. Here is the established finding of very in depth research. Ninety percent of kids active in high school youth groups DO NOT go to church by the time they are sophomores in college. One third will NEVER return.
The good news in this is that two thirds do return. But even the good news carries a shadow for the truth is even regarding those who do return only a remnant become deeply committed and will actually pass on a true faith experience to their children.
Illustration: Eddies Story [Faith Begins at Home- Mark Holmen] (pg.71)
Without the home involvement in the faith development of the child, faith becomes defined in the mind of the child as a church program to be observed only in the culture or environment of the church AS OPPOSED TO a lifestyle twenty four seven.
Illustration: A Daughters Story [Faith Begins at Home- Mark Holmen] (pg.78)
I am going to invite you to join me in an exercise of blessing. You do not need to be a parent to join me in this. If there is someone God has set you in relationship with and you desire to bless them, then please feel free.
My one instruction is that we do not instruct God how to bless nor what to bless that person with.
If we cannot yet speak this blessing directly to those people we carry in our hearts, we can speak it to God on their behalf. I you would like to name the person(s) you choose to bless then simply speak their name at the place of the blank line on the overhead.
The LORD bless you,.. and keep you;
The LORD make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.
PROMISE: NU 6:27 “So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them.;