Let me throw some statistics at you. According to the Barna Group, an Evangelical Christian polling firm, nearly half of all Americans who accept Jesus Christ as their savior do so before reaching the age of 13 (43%),. and that two out of three born again Christians (64%) made that commitment to Christ before their 18th birthday. Less than one out of every four born again Christians (23%) embraced Christ after their twenty-first birthday.
What does that mean to us? Whose responsibility is it to help that happen? The church? The parents? The answer is all the above.
Prov. 22:6 says:
train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it. If we start when they are in the cradle telling them and teaching them and guiding them, they will grow up never knowing a life without God in the center of it. That will be what life is to them. They will see Jesus as their friend, as well as their Savior and God as their Father.
Perhaps the most significant outcome of the research, in Barna’s eyes, is the prevalence of decisions made during childhood. “Families, churches and parachurch ministries must recognize that primary window of opportunity for effectively reaching people with the good news of Jesus’ death and resurrection is during the pre-teen years. It is during those years that people develop their frames of reference for the remainder of their life – especially theologically and morally. Consistently explaining and modeling truth principles for young people is the most critical factor in their spiritual development.”
People who become Christian before their teen years are more likely than those who are converted when older to remain “absolutely committed” to Christianity.
How do we accomplish this?
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give to you today are to be on your hearts.”
Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Some would say that amounts to brainwashing. No, because at some point we all have to establish our own relationship with Christ. We are not talking about an ideology or propaganda. It’s a relationship with Jesus. Sooner or later they are all going to have to take what they have heard and process it and make their own relationship. Not their mother’s or father’s or church’s or teacher’s. Their own. Then all the things they have learned so far will either ring true or not.
So here’s the challenge to our church, to us as individuals, and to us as families. Are we doing our best to train up that next generation? Are we convicted and convinced and compelled to follow through with Deut. 6?
God did not mince words in trying to explain to us the importance or urgency of that command.
I can tell you one thing for sure. If we do NOT step up to the plate and teach them in any way we can think of, the world will not hesitate to take that job off our hands. The devil is not sitting back and trying to decide if he should influence a child’s life; Not sitting back and saying he wants to wait til the child is old enough to make up his own mind. He is not sitting back and waiting for the people in the pews to decide to take up the challenge and step up and teach them. He’s going full force ahead with his agenda. What is his agenda? The Bible says he has one purpose. He has come into the world to kill, steal and destroy! That’s it. And why did Jesus come? So we might have life and have it more abundantly! (Jn. 10:10) As Canaan said a few weeks ago- to move us from death into life.
God wants children to learn and grow even more than we want them to – so we can trust good things will happen IF we do our part!