Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids?

Heroes of the faith r1

Several years ago I met with a woman distraught over her son’s rejection of Christianity.

She said, “I did everything I could to raise him right. I taught him to be like the ‘heroes of faith,’ with the faithfulness of Abraham, the goodness of Joseph, the pure heart of David, and the obedience of Esther.”

She wondered why he had rejected Christianity.

I wondered why it took him so long.

Why Do Our Kids Reject Christianity?

Why do so many people—people with incredible conversion stories—parent children who abandon Christianity?

Leaving Church r1

History overflows with great saints whose offspring lose faith:

  • Samuel was a mighty prophet of God. His sons were a mess.
  • David was a man after God’s own heart. His children were a disaster.
  • Harvard, Yale, and Princeton were founded on the gospel. Now they lead the opposition.

I’ve witnessed dozens of couples, churches, ministries, and prayer groups who began with a furious fire of love for God whose next generation couldn’t blow a smoke ring.

Our children lose that fire because of the simplest and silliest of reasons: we assume the gospel. The following downhill slide reveals the stealthy creep of the lost gospel:

  1. The gospel is Accepted —>
  2. The gospel is Assumed —>
  3. The gospel is Confused —>
  4. The gospel is Lost                         (Mack Stiles, Marks of the Messenger)

The author continues, “For any generation to lose the gospel is tragic. But the generation that assumes the gospel … is most responsible for the loss of the gospel.” That generation is us. We are most responsible.

What happened to us?     

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

I’m in the middle of another bout with bronchitis (I think I’m losing), so I planned to skip my blog this week. But last Sunday, a TV advertisement for a Christian dating site changed my mind.

A walk on the beach r1

I’ve never used an online dating site (I found my wife before Al Gore invented the internet), but I know many believers who found like-minded spouses online. The concept makes sense.

Last Sunday I tuned out the clichéd advertisement for Christian dating, with its images of smiling couples holding hands while strolling on a beach at sunset. But then the ad ended with this tagline:

“Helping good people find good people.”

Squeezing Bad News from the Good News

Last spring I attended a wedding and heard an impressive pastor preach a stirring sermon on a powerful passage called The Kenosis (or The Emptying).

SqueezingIt’s my favorite passage on humility:

Though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-8)

The pastor urged the couple to be humble, to think first of the other person, and to give the remote to their spouse. He said humility is one virtue all religions agree on:

Confucius said, “Humility is the solid foundation of all virtues,” and the Quran says, “The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth in humility.”

He claimed to offer the key to marital bliss found in the gospels. He said the entirety of the good news can be summed up on one simple sentence: Be ye humble as Jesus was humble.

But equating the gospel with our humility is confusing cause and effect. The fruit of the gospel is humility, but chasing humility to find the gospel is squeezing bad news from the good news. We’re trying to get wine from a rock.

What’s The Biggest Problem with Legalism? You. And Me.

I once belonged to a prayer group that prized ecumenical unity. We came from a wide variety of Christian traditions. We sang, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord.” Then we split down the middle due to ruptured relationships among our leaders.

We formerly prided ourselves on our exceptional unity; then our leaders attacked each other. We were embarrassed and a bit humiliated. Our highly prized treasure—good relationships in the midst of very strong differences—had slipped from our grasp.

Here lies Sam WilliamsonA fellow member heard of a Christian leader in a neighboring city who had committed adultery and raided the group’s bank accounts. Sitting next to me in a prayer meeting, my friend shared the story and then whispered, “At least we’re not that bad.”

“Great!” I thought, “that’s just what I want chiseled on my tombstone:”

Here Lies Sam Williamson

At least he wasn’t as bad as them

The Ugliness Of Religious-Righteousness

Hurricane Sandy was the second most devastating hurricane in United States history. On October 29th, 2012 it stormed ashore in New Jersey, leaving a wide wake of destruction.

But the destructive path was random and arbitrary. Huge clusters of homes were annihilated Breezy Point, NYwhile houses right next door were unscathed.

A week after the hurricane, I saw a post on Facebook. It showed the picture of a man standing in front of his unharmed house, while the scattered remains of his neighbor’s house lay completely destroyed by the storm.

Under the picture was this caption:

The LORD’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the home of the righteous (Pr. 3:33).

I never met the man and I don’t know his heart. I hope his insensitivity was simple naiveté, and that the judgment of his neighbor was unintentional.

But it smacked of smugness. It reminded me of the ugliness of religious-righteousness.    

The Insidious Temptations of Modern Christian Publishing

A few weeks ago I had lunch with a friend who has five terrific kids and a great—almost fairy tale—family life. His kids seem to smile while they obey.snoopy writing a book

I admired his parenting skills and asked him his secret. He admitted his desire to write a parenting book. It would address issues like:

  • Kids, cell phones, and when
  • Television, video games, and limits
  • Daily chores, responsibility, and allowance
  • Older kids, younger kids, care, and leadership

My friend is bright, articulate, and humorous. I said his book would sell hundreds of thousands of copies. And then I added … it just slipped out:

“And you’ll doom millions of kids and their parents to hell.”