“Well…they’re probably going to need therapy for that later in life!” This half-joking statement is made in our house from time to time. I’m sure you’ve uttered something similar in your home. But joking aside, there is a question of what we are passing on to our children. What are they learning from us? What are they picking up as they grow up in this family?
Particularly, as a follower of Jesus, I hope my kids catch on to the incredible joy it is to know and follow Jesus. I imagine you do as well!
Good news for parents of faith - There is currently a great amount of research on this very thing! The folks over at Fuller Youth Institute have been conducting research on what makes faith “stick” in young people. You may surprised to find that most research suggests that out of those who grow up in church only 50% have a faith that “sticks” into adulthood. (Many others report even lower numbers.)
Fuller has taken their research on “sticky” faith and created some great resources for families. (Check out resources, articles, and more info here: https://fulleryouthinstitute.org/)
I want to focus today on one of their findings. Basically, that students who grow up in families of faith and around the church don’t have a clear picture of the gospel or what it means to be a Christian. I’m wondering if that’s because many parents (and the church!) don’t have a clear understanding of this either.
TWO SEPARATE THINGS
For many students, faith isn’t relevant out in the “marketplace” of high school or within the social structures (peer groups, media, culture) that they are immersed in. With this in mind, Christianity or living as a follower of Jesus is something you put on when you need it and take off when you don’t.
I moved to Houston shortly after the whole Enron incident. I became very intrigued by the whole situation and read many books and articles on what happened. I will never forget reading a statement from the top executive who said something to the effect of this — “I’m a born-again Christian and live my personal life accordingly. This is just business.”
Those are not his exact words, but as I read the article, that was the sentiment. My personal life is one thing and business is another. There is no overlap. I couldn’t believe it!
Gabe Lyons in his book, The Next Christians – Seven Ways to Live the Gospel and Restore the World, lays out where this thinking comes from. Gabe says we’ve believed and bought into a half-story. It’s a true story and is pivotal in understanding the Christian gospel, but we’ve missed the whole story.
The half-story is made up of 2 parts – The Fall and Redemption.
The Fall- You and are born sinners and therefore we have a problem. Sin separates us from God. If left in this state, we have no hope.
Redemption – God sends Jesus to die on our behalf. Through His death and resurrection we are redeemed and restored to a right relationship with God.
This is oversimplified, no doubt, but captures the basic idea. Is this true? Absolutely. Is this central to understanding Christianity – without a doubt! Is it the whole story – no.
PUNCHING A TICKET
If the gospel is simply something that saves us from our sin problem and allows us to punch a ticket to heaven one day, then it’s possible to see how we could be so dualistic in our thinking. For the Enron executive, what happened in the world and how he conducted business had very little to do with his personal faith that allows him to escape this world one day.
Students today are in a world that is increasingly diverse and post-christian. Students today are flooded with a variety of ideas about what is true and what is the best way to live. If we only are telling the half-story, I’m afraid it’s not going to hold up. It’s not going to compel them to live full lives for Jesus. They may just punch their ticket and put faith on cruise control. Put it on when they need it. Take it off when it doesn’t make sense with the world.
Statistics tell you that 50% of more eventually take faith off one day and just never put it back on.
Dallas Willard calls this the “gospel of sin management”. It’s about what we can and can’t do. It’s about managing our sin. In an increasingly post-christian world this only gets harder. There has to be a better way.
The next post will invite us into the whole story and how we can better share a gospel with our sons and daughters that “sticks” and guides their entire lives! (School, friends, media, business, dating, etc.)
Until then, what gospel do you believe in? Does your faith interact with the whole of your life or is it compartmentalized or regulated to the sidelines?
What about your son or daughter? What is the gospel you are sharing with them by the way you live and operate in the world?
P.S. – I can’t recommend Gabe’s work enough. He was recently to our group and there has been a lot of great conversation in the wake of our time together. Check out his work here: http://qideas.org/
Also check out either one of these books. You can’t go wrong: