Every day, countless young people leave the church and, worse, abandon their faith for something “more” in North America. What has been our response? More programs? Better curriculum? Stricter accountability to godly behavior? I wanted to understand how we had been led to believe that faith is simply knowing the right information about Christ and acting with good behavior.
Perhaps no one would actually say that. Of course we would say that we wanted a faith that impacted all we did and said, faith that would last a lifetime.
But think about it: if faith is simply about good teaching and proper behavior, then the church is a sufficient place for children to learn that.
But if faith is that plus more–if it’s understanding how to live out what we believe in real time, by the power of God’s Spirit over a lifetime, then the family (with spiritually minded parents), would be the best place for that!
Dreaming of More for the Next Generation: Lifetime Faith Ignited by Family Ministry by Michelle Anthony via David C Cook 2012 quote located on page 16.
No doubt there is a moralist element in the kingdom of God. God does desire us to live out a model humanity for the world. We are His special people after all. However, right information and good behavior might win you the perfect attendance award, but it doesn’t reflect that you learned anything (save that at least you were present to be able to learn something).
If learning means application of the content taught and the stories conveyed, then moralism should be the byproduct of great faith (capture and lived out through a compelling story), not great faith the result of a good, well-behaved life.
Michelle Anthony’s argument here is that if church is merely the context to communicate moralistic values and good character development, then it is sufficient in its current ministry focus and application. However, Anthony’s point about the insufficiency of the church to demonstrate a life lived out according to a kingdom of God belief structure isn’t experienced in a church programmatic setting, rather it is exercised in the labratory of real life–the family.
Whether a family is spiritually minded or not, children and teens develop and live out the belief structures and practices that are modeled in the home. It’s what they see most often. It’s what they generally know. In fact, for most it’s all they know.
One cannot underestimate the extreme influence one’s family has on how they live out one’s life. That’s why church in and of itself is insufficient.
It seems, at least to this children’s pastor, that the church in a close, involved, and aligned partnership with parents could really help foster not only right information and good behavior, but a life lived out that displays a model humanity for the world.