One Generation Away

parents and their daughter reading the bibleImagine being part of the Israelite people during the time God gave them the promised land. What would it be like to see the Supernatural hand of God work in mighty ways as He destroys your enemies? I love to tell the stories in the book of Joshua and marvel at how amazing and awesome our God truly is. Some of the great acts that God did in and through His people include the walls falling at the sound of trumpets and the sun standing still.

Then comes the book of Judges. The book of Judges is sad, and should concern everyone who ministers with people, and in the church. The book of Judges is a warning and a wake up call to every generation about how quickly faith, and God’s works, can end. Check this out:

Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel. And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress. Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the Lord, and they did not do so. (Judges 2)

So what happened? After the Israelites saw all these amazing things and witnessed God’s hand in their lives, how in the world did the next generation get so far lost in idolatry and other wickedness? How does this happen?

Before I answer this question, let me talk about today. Before you just write this off as just another Old Testament story, let me tell you that we are living in this same situation today in churches all across America. Every church faces this same problem. We might see God’s mighty hand supernaturally at work in our town or city. We might witness His face and have vibrant worship. We might see hundreds come to know Christ and we might be used by God to make disciples in all the world. But we need to keep in mind that everything we witness and experience with God is always one generation away from failing. Right now the stats are telling us that 80 percent of college age adults walk away from their faith after high school.

We face the same thing the Israelites faced: Our faith is not our kids’ faith. What I see and experience with Christ does not automatically transfer to my children and the children in my church. I have to be intentional in their lives, intentional to show them who Jesus is and how they can walk with Him. Here is the really cool thing. God made this amazing vehicle that strikes right to the hearts of children. He made the family.

God intentionally gave the responsibility of evangelism and discipleship to moms and dads. The family is God’s primary instrument that God uses for evangelism and discipleship. Let me show you:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:4)

The first thing that God tells His people is the great commandment: Love God with all you have. He then tells them to have this on their heart. For the most part, every church leader would agree that this is the most important thing in the lives of their church. If we had churches full of people who loved God with all their heart and mind and soul, and this was continually on their heart, our jobs would be easier.

Notice what God tells them to do next. God tells them to “Teach it to their Children.” In fact, the better translation is: “Impress them on your children.” Gently and carefully impress the hearts of your children with these words: “Love God with all your heart, soul and mind.” He then goes on to give instructions on the best times to reach the hearts of kids. To summarize it, God says: in the morning when they rise, as you drive and walk to activities, when you’re hanging around the house, and before bed are the best times to impress the hearts of your children with the love of God.

As God finished up the law in Deuteronomy, He again expressed the importance of the next generation and discipling them and teaching them about God and His love and faithfulness. We then finish up the law and Moses passes away and is buried. The next generation follows Joshua into battle and they see God do great things. They follow the law and love God, but eventually they forgot one thing. One generation forgot to impress the hearts of their children with God’s love. Once this happened, everything changed.

We are getting ready for 2013. This principle is as true as it was back in the days of Moses and Joshua. Our churches are one generation away from dying and losing our faith. Our churches include our children. Our children need to know Jesus and His love. God gave this responsibility to their parents. So what do we do? As the church, I feel we have a responsibility to all generations. We are the bride of Christ, and we are light in a dark world. As a pastor, I feel there are three things every pastor should be influencing the families in their congregation with.

1. Prioritize: I am a husband and father before I am a pastor. My greatest ministry I have been called to is my family. They have to come first. The only thing that comes before them is my Savior, Jesus Christ. In order for me to love my wife best, I need to love Christ most. In order to love my children correctly, I have to love my wife and put her before them. I am responsible for my part of the next generation. The part God has given me are my children.

2. Family Worship: I believe the engine to the vehicle of evangelism and discipleship in families is Family Worship. Church is a great place to worship, but I have to be worshipping, praying and seeking God in my home with my kids during the week, not just on Sunday. Who I am at home is who I truly am. My kids see the true me, and if God is just important on Sunday, then I am teaching bad habits to my kids.

3. Widen the Sphere: As a leader in a church, I am most concerned about what we feed the sheep. All the sheep. Is our church a safe place to learn and grow? We need to widen the sphere of influence in the lives of the next generation. My faith was shaped by my family, but there were others within the church who also helped shape me and who were in my sphere of influence. We need to train others to see that they can partner with parents and influence the next generation with Biblical teaching and be a consistent voice.

Here is the point. How can you get your programs to the point that the next generation is learning sound Biblical lessons and then parents are being communicated with so they can discuss these principles during the week when the hearts of their kids are most open? This is truly the challenge. It takes coordination and communication for this paradigm to change. It is work, but I believe it is worth it. Imagine that thirty years from now all those kids and teenagers from your church have their own families. They love God and are serving in churches. That is leaving a solid legacy. I want my legacy to be that my three children love God and are truly following Christ. I want my faith to live for thousands of generations. We are always one generation away from growing and losing our faith. It’s a big challenge, but it is worth the investment.

Rob McKinney is senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Minford, OH. He spent 13 years in Children’s ministry before becoming a senior pastor. He is a graduate of Cedarville (BA) and The Master’s International School of Ministry (MDiv; PhD).

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  1. […] pertain to ministry.  We hope you have enjoyed this week’s articles from Brad Brandt and Jeff McKinney, and offer the following articles for your weekend […]

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