Parenting: Our Kids: Cultivating a Heart for Reaching Others for Christ
One of the things that I fear about parenting, and specifically being a father, is the sin of Eli. I’m sure you guys are familiar with the sin of Eli. You’ve probably talked about in here before. But basically what happened was Eli was a servant of the Lord. He was the high priest of Israel. And one of his duties as a priest was to pass that burden of service on to his sons. What he passed on was the technology. He taught his sons how to go through the motions of being servants of God, but he didn’t pass on a heart of sacrifice. His kids may have appeared to be servants of God the casual observer. But God saw their hearts and that they were selfish, that they used their position for personal gain, that they were taking advantage of the very people they were supposed to serve. My own burden here comes from my experience in Christian school. Almost all the kids there were proficient at doing the Christian thing, but most often the heart was not there. I was just a jerk on the other hand. But one thing that amazed me was later, as I started to get my own act together with the Lord, and I was involved in reaching my friends for the Lord, I went back to those old friends. To a man, none of them was interested in witnessing, studying the Bible, or doing anything spiritual. But I’m also burdened because I work with lots of Xenos kids in both the jr. high program and the high school program. Now a lot of the kids of Xenos parents really are burdened for the lost. They know about grace in their own life. They have a burden for others. They bring people. They pray for them. They try to talk to new people at meetings. But I have to tell you the truth, a lot of them don’t. It’s kind of severe sometimes, in fact, when our Christian kids are actually hostile to new, non-Christian visitors. Now I don’t want to get negative about Xenos kids or kids who come from Christian homes. I want to talk positively about what we can do to pass on to our kids a heart for the gospel, a burden to serve, a burden to reach the lost.
We have to have it ourselves
Obviously the first thing in passing along any burden to you kid is you have to have it yourself. I can’t assume that everyone here is empassioned about serving the Lord and reaching the lost. I know how that fire burns pretty dim in my own heart at times. So I want to talk first about our own lives as Christians and our own heart of service. I find myself getting more anxious as time goes on about the fact that I have only one life, and I want it to count. I feel like the Lord has been laying that on my heart more and more. And I feel like I’ve wasted so much time already. When I think about what life should count for, I think about sharing Christ with people. And I think about passing that passion on to other people, especially my daughter. This is a fire the Lord began to kindle in my heart through my own parents, especially my mother. And the Lord really stoked the flame with my first experiences of seeing my friends come to Christ. I went to Christian schools through jr. high. So I never witnessed to people at all. Non-Christians were like this mysterious mass of people out there. When I was thrown out of Christian school, I went into the secular high school and got into sin. And there was an impression in my mind that I think every kid has who is raised in a Christian home: Nobody is interested in this stuff. I remember being out with a friend of mine sledding one nightÿ.ÿ.ÿ. From there I started to get the feeling that more of my friends might also be interested. And they were. And they became Christians. And they grew. And my whole life was changed. My eyes were opened about the real meaning of life. I don’t even know if all of us here have had the excitement of leading someone to Christ and helping them grow. But I know one thing; every single one of us here can be building a friendship with a non-Christian and looking for that opportunity. All of us should have one or two or three people we are building a friendship with at work, where we work out, in our neighborhoods. It’s that kind of contact with non-Christians that kindles our fire. You see their neediness for Christ. You see how they struggle with their own family. You see that they really are hungry for spiritual things. I can suggest some other things that might increase your own burden for serving the Lord. Listen to tapes about missions, tapes about evangelism, tapes about the gospel. Pray that the Lord will give you the sense of urgency that we need to make our lives count. Without that kind of genuine heart for others, you’re not going to pass it on to your kids.
Passing it on
Now let’s talk about passing it on to your kids. I called up my mother for this one. Her record on this score seems to be pretty good. I know what I remember her doing with us, but I wanted to find out she was intentionally doing and what just kind of rubbed off. Because if you do have a heart for the Lord, it will rub off. But I think there are also some things we can intentionally do.
View your whole life as service to God
One thing that happens in Christian homes is that the parent’s lives are dichotomized. We divide up the parts of our life: Here’s the part where I serve God; Here’s the part where I’m with my family; Here’s the part where I’m at work, etc. And there’s a very subtle message that comes accross when your life is divided up like that. From a kid’s point of view, when we’re together as a family then it’s time to be into us. He’s here for us. And there’s all that world that’s out there; it has nothing to do with us right now. I remember people coming into our home constantly. I remember both of my parents taking me with them to be involved in some ministry. I remember going along with my mother to give the gospel in churches where most people were non-Christians. Her ministry was brought into our home. Her ministry was a part of my life too. If you can’t do it in the home, then you need to take them with you. If you dichotomize your life, then it just makes the kids selfish. Because the family is so private and closed off. Another side effect of this dichotomized life is the kids view ministry as something that takes their parents away. They’re detached from it and have no burden for it. And all they know is that it takes their parents away. Now, I firmly believe that there needs to be times of personal and exclusive attention to your family. We need to get time alone with our wives, kidsÿ.ÿ.ÿ. So I’m not promoting no personal family time. What I am promoting is getting your kids involved in your own ministry. Another angle on this is involving yourself in your kid’s ministry. My mother used to have Bible studies for us kids when we were small, and invite neighborhood kids. She would have projects to do, etc. And she would often reach the parents through the kids. Take your kids with you as soon as you can. I remember my mother took us to adult conferences on subjects like prophecy, sex, etc. She took us to the groups she worked on.
Share your struggles and needs with your kids
Secondly, share your thoughts, struggles and burdens about your own ministry with your kids. When you’re reaching out to someone in the neighborhood, tell your kid about it. Have them pray with you about it. I remember my mother taking me to these Bible studies and on the way sharing her fears with me. She’d say, “So and so is going to be there and I’m worried. I think he may be hostile to the gospel. Let’s pray before we go in.” Or, “Satan has really been trying to stop me from this work and I’m feeling really inadequate. I need you to pray with me that I won’t be afraid.” My mother needed me! She leaned on me. After we would come out of a study, she would share her discernments with me. She would tell me who she thought was listening and how excited she was. She would share some of the struggles she saw people having and how burdened she was. Those kinds of things made a deep impression on me.
Teach your kids stewardship
I think another thing we can do is teach our kids about stewardship. What I mean by that is 1ÿCor.ÿ4:7, “What do you have that you did not receive?” My mother was very encouraging with me. I remember her pointing out, “Scot, you are very intelligent.” Or, “Scot, you’re a leader of people.” And she would always say, “That is a trust from God. That is an obligation. Not everyone has the smarts God gave you. When he gives one person something, he gives it to share with others.” Tell your kids, “Your looks are a tool God has given you. You’re good looking. And you should be thankful. But I’m telling you now that if you take an ability like that and just use it for yourself, that’s a crime. You should use it for the Lord’s service. Use it as a tool to get your foot in the door with people and share Christ.” “You are a great manipulator of people! You can get people to do what you want. And it’s not an evil thing. That’s a gift from God! But if you use it for your selfish desires, then it’s a sin. You have to turn that ability over to God” “You are a strong willed kid. You are rebellious. And no matter what anyone tells you, that is a gift from God. But the problem will come up when you don’t let him use that strength.” These kinds of messages can be communicated from a very young age. You know what your kid’s strenths are. You boast about them all the time. And that’s great! Boast about them in front of your kid, in a way that shows you know where those gifts came from. Give them a sense of responsibility. I think this also applies to money. You’ve got to be open about how you give, how much you give and why you give. And you’ve got to teach your kids to give. Make them part with their money. You’ll find that they actually get quite a bit of joy out of it.
Encourage your kids to take risks
Finally, we can encourage our kids to take risks themselves.