HOUSTON?The numbers are sobering. Over the past 30 years, the baptism rate of youths in SBC churches has dropped precipitously?from 173,660 in 1972 to approximately 79,000 in 2006. A 2007 Lifeway Research study shows those between the ages of 18 and 22 who regularly attended a Protestant church for at least one year during high school dropped out of church for a year or longer once they left home.
Brad Bunting, SBTC student evangelism associate, said, “We’ve got more churches than ever, more youth than ever. We have a problem.”
Bunting, along with other youth leaders, were in Houston Sept. 15 along with Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism and an associate dean at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, for a forum called “Inheritance: Passing Down a Legacy of Faith.”
Bunting said a recording of the session featuring Reid, along with a workbook, should be available by year’s end.
Hosted by Sagemont Church, Reid began the forum by confessing he is not a “parenting expert.” As a teacher and author, he said he appreciates the need for sharing the gospel and instructs students on how to do it effectively. As a father, Reid said he understands the biblical mandate for expressing the gospel first within the home based on Deuteronomy 6:4?a passage that sometimes is called the “John 3:16” of the Old Testament.
PARENTS, TEACH YOUR KIDS
Deuteronomy 6:7-10, Reid explained, instruct parents, particularly fathers, to hand down the faith to their children. Reid said there is nothing more important than to raise children in such a way as to perpetuate the faith for generations.
Reid and Bunting agreed that many parents have abdicated this responsibility to others incrementally, though both said it has not been intentional. Bunting admitted the role of youth ministry?since its infancy as a specialized program in churches in the late 1970s?has sometimes been part of the problem by creating programs that exclude or minimize parent-led discipleship. The unintended result has been the subjugation of the parents’ influence to that of the church youth department.
Equipping parents to pass on a legacy of the gospel, with its truth, lifestyle, and influence, is the purpose of the “Inheritance: Passing on a Legacy of Faith” forum.
The instruction at home begins with the declaration of Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.”
Although that truth is stated clearly and unequivocally, parents should never assume their children will somehow “pick up” that truth for themselves, Reid said.
“They have to be repeatedly told. This is great truth. It is not just for the church. It is for the home,” Reid said.
Parents must intentionally define reality for their kids and base decisions on God’s Word to create in their children a biblical worldview. Such knowledge helps young people ward off what is presented in school and the world, Reid said.
“God is creator. The evolution debate does matter,” he continued. “There is one God. One Savior, Jesus Christ.” In a pluralistic world it is important that children understand that Jesus is not a good way to God but the only way, he said.
Also, knowing God begins with hearing God, Reid said. To that end, children should hear their parents’ salvation stories. Sharing the good news of the gospel is a paramount role of parenting, not something to be left to the Sunday school teachers or youth directors. To pass on a legacy of lifestyle, parents must be spiritually open with their children and living in accord with Matthew 6:5, impressing upon their children the significance of living by faith.
But the greatest hindrance to accomplishing that goal, Reid noted, is hypocrisy.
For example, Reid said, children should never see one parent at church and another at home. The love demanded by God is not a fondness but obedience. Parents who espouse a love for God and yet consistently fall into sin are creating barriers to the faith for their children.
Because the world is dramatically different from the one he grew up in, parents must be diligent in teaching the relevance of Scripture and God’s ordinances, he said. Reid, who came to Christ as a boy, said he had godly parents who took him to church and led moral lives in front of him.
Today, however, Reid said parents must do more than simply model Christianity; they must also teach their children a theology for life.
“Every day we put on our lenses?our worldview,” he explained.
Children always want to know why, he said, and parents should never shy away from that question.
“Truth has no fear,” Reid said. “The Bible is sufficient. It doesn’t tell us everything about God we want to know. But it tells us everything we need to know.
“Challenge kid’s minds. If they can study trigonometry in school, they can study theology in church. You don’t check your mind at the door to follow Christ.”
In summarizing his charge to parents to live out their faith in front of their children, Reid quoted 17th-century pastor and author Richard Baxter: “Your [children] can tell when you have been much with God. That will be on their ears that is most in your heart.”
ROLE OF CHURCH
Creating a legacy of influence is about more than just being the primary educator in a child’s life. Reid said parents should ask themselves, “Am I, as a parent, the greatest influence in my child’s life?”
Debate rages over whether or not Christian families should enroll their children in public school, Christian school or home school. Reid said all parents should strive to protect their children from destructive influence, but they cannot be quarantined from the world. An inoculation of biblical truth is what is needed for kids to endure in a fallen world.
The church, Reid said, should be part of the support system upon which parents can rely in their efforts to influence their children, but it should never be the sole source of theological and doctrinal information for a child.
For instance, Reid told of a woman, prominent within her church, who approached Reid at a prayer conference and began complaining that her church’s youth minister was not discipling her son. Reid pointed out the dictates of Deuteronomy 6:4-10 and told her discipleship was her job, not the church’s.
TALK ABOUT JESUS
The concept of family devotions or worship time has been shelved as families are too busy for a meal together. Making time for reading of the Scripture, singing, and praying is one of the most basic ways parents can emphasize the importance of being in God’s Word.
“It should be as normal to talk about Jesus in the home as it is to talk about football. There is truth to the cliché that the family that prays together stays together.”
The lack of discipleship at home results in ill-equipped teenagers and young adults in society. He said, “That’s why the church in America is in the state it’s in. There is a generation of kids who want to serve God, but they are not being taught and encouraged at home.”
As parents invest their time in the things their children value, the children sense security and belonging in the home. Taking time to be involved with their friends and activities profoundly influences kids, Reid insisted.
Letting children see their parents’ faith example, even in trying times, is also a profoundly positive influencer, Reid said.
Reid told of a time when his son, Josh, and his youth group were canvassing the neighborhood near their church and a woman unleashed a profanity-laden tirade against the students on her front porch.
Reid said he got the woman’s name and address from a neighbor who was a member of his church and then sent her flowers along with a note wishing her well.
Reid said the flowers and card weren’t so