The Apostle Paul once wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of the gospel that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:19). This is one of those verses that when I read it, I heartily agree. Of course! Paul’s not ashamed, nor am I! After all, ashamed is a really—I mean really—strong word. If I believe in Jesus, why would I be ashamed? If my kids have professed faith in Christ, been baptized, are attending church and youth group, and developing a strong faith, then why would they be ashamed? What’s there to be ashamed about?
That is until we are confronted face-to-face with a hard reality. It’s one thing to know the truth, agree with the truth, and even love the truth; and a completely different thing to live the truth. There is not a Christian parent on the planet who doesn’t want their kids to develop a strong faith in home and in youth group.
I think it’s a safe bet that if you took a few minutes to think about it, you could come up with at least one (if not more) moments in the last week, you compromised and forgot to live out what you profess.
Oh come on now, think about it. Maybe someone at work made a dig at evangelicals, and rather than engage, you just smiled and nodded in passive agreement. Or perhaps, a kid in your youth group (or worse your own kid) celebrated the discovery of their truth. And without ever seeing it coming, you celebrated with them. What about that family member, wrestling with sexual identity, decided to be gender fluid? Rather than engaging in the conversation, you sat in agreeable silence.
But if you’re like me, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s just better to keep the peace.” Why risk the argument, destroy a relationship, drive a wedge between you and your student, or even lose a job? Keep the peace whenever possible. Heck, it’s even biblical. Let’s go back to Romans. Paul said,
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18
But let’s dig a little deeper.
Remember how Aaron handled the nation of Israel when Moses disappeared somewhere up Mount Sinai for more than a month? People thought for sure Moses was dead, and they needed to move on. Their solution: convince Aaron to “make” them a new god. I don’t have space here to dive into the full story, but if you know it, you know it didn’t go well. All because Aaron buckled under the pressure to appease the rest of the people—a sort of mob mentality. Left to their own devices, they fell victim to creating something to worship made in their image rather than the God who rescued them from the slavery and oppression of the Egyptians. Not a wise decision.
Aaron witnessed first hand the power of God and yet very easily cracked under the cultural pressure to conform to their demands. How much easier is it for us to likewise—even more so, our kids? We don’t usually see it coming because it’s subtle at first. But before we can recognize it, we are following a version of Christianity that is likely closer to progressivism, pluralism, or even secularism. Os Guinness, in his book Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion, lays out this transformation in four stages. It originates from the difficulty of living “in the world, but not of.” It’s driven by our desire to get along, keep the peace, and remain relevant to the broader culture. For our students (and our own children), there is even an element of survival. Don’t rock the boat or risk getting tossed overboard.
Stage 1: Assumption. Guinness, notes the slide begins “when some aspect of modern life or thought is entertained as not only significant, and therefore worthy of acknowledging, but superior to what Christians now know or do—and therefore worth assuming is true.” In other words, when the world and biblical truth stand at odds, the culture’s voice creates a new and more compelling narrative. And before we know it, the world has a new yardstick in which to measure what is right and holy rather than Scripture.
For example, consider the growing LGBTQ movement. Instead of fighting the battle of sexual morality, the campaign was transformed into a civil rights argument. Therefore creating a different narrative, one that’s easier for a Christian to get on board with. After all, Christians would never deny one’s civil rights. This sends us down the road to stage two.
Stage 2: Abandonment: Assuming culture is making a good argument, and creating a new norm requires the elimination of anything that contradicts the new narrative. Modern thought is intended to be enlightened, inclusive, completely tolerant, and driven by love. Yet Christians, in their pursuit of truth with courage and conviction, are branded as arrogant, exclusive, judgmental, intolerant and hate-filled because it doesn’t fit. Given a choice between the two, which would you pick? So just think about the choices our students and children are being asked to make. What they believe is directly tied to how they are treated. For many, the only option left is to let culture dictate moral norms and abandon anything that doesn’t fall in line.
Stage 3 and 4: Adaptation and Assimilation. If the first two stages take hold, all that’s left is to follow the path we carved out by adopting modern ideologies into an ancient faith and abandoning tradition. All that’s left is to follow that path deeper and deeper into a post-Christian world. And while we weren’t looking, according to Guinness, what was once rooted in Christian tradition, “is absorbed and assimilated into the culture with no distinctive Christian remainder.” How then, do we stop false ideas from entering our churches and families?
I know this all sounds horrible, and you’re now mad at me for making you depressed. But there’s hope. I promise. I love how Alisa Childers puts in the latest Mama Bear Apologetics book. “The gospel has already survived all these systems of thought, and it will survive progressive Christianity.” And I would add pluralism, secularism, naturalism, post-truth, post-Christian, etc. But of course, that does not mean we stand idle waiting for Jesus to rid us of all that is untrue. We are on mission and have been commissioned to share the truth at all costs. This goes for us, our churches, and, more importantly, our families.
So Here is How We Develop Stronger Faith In Our Kids
If you’re a pastor: How do I train my students in youth group to stick to truth? How do I, as a youth leader, speak truth without falling victim to the unfair branding of being hate-filled and intolerant?
If you’re a parent: How do I keep my kids on the right road embracing truth while being bombarded with contradicting narratives? How do I, as a parent, not be so timid at work, in my neighborhood, and family, when an opportunity to speak truth arises?
I do want to be clear here, there is no easy answer or simple process to follow, but I believe it starts with three things first.
Key #1: Develop stronger faith by teaching worldviews
There is sort of an unspoken untruth infiltrating how we raise our kids. It’s the notion that we need to protect our kids from anything that might harm them, including ideas—even the really bad ideas. But the problem is, although this sounds nice, it is, in itself, a bad idea.
Strength of faith is built by exposing our kids to a multitude of ideas and worldviews and discovering together how these ideas attempt to answer life’s most important questions—and consequently, where they fall short.
Key #2: Develop stronger faith by helping those in your student/youth ministry, or your family recognize even the slightest detour from biblical truth.
Bad ideas need to be weeded out. Even if it sounds helpful, loving, and tolerant, the end result could be contradictory and even destructive. Bad ideas have a tendency to live dangerously close to the slippery slope.
For example, modern culture celebrates the notion that we ought to discover our own truth. That sure sounds nice, doesn’t it? It’s repeated time and again in movies, music, talk shows, self-help books, and new age spiritual gurus with little regard for where such a ridiculous thought can lead. What if my truth dictates that I kill whomever I desire, or take what I want from anyone? What if said truth deems the physical or sexual abuse of another? It raises a simple yet important question—where does one draw the line? How far can one’s truth take them outside the cultural norm until a new norm is created? You can see where this is going.
Giving our students a firm understanding of biblical truth and the views of opposing ideas help them clearly see when we start to get off track and make the same mistake Aaron made. That work begins by asking great questions.
Key #3: Develop stronger faith by teaching the art of asking great questions
I am always surprised—although I shouldn’t be—with how close-minded people can be. Even if people are not overly confident in what they believe, they often want you to think they are and therefore are quite likely to dig their heels in. Even if their ideas fail to align with reality. The only real way to break through is by asking great questions.
The right kind of questions—not the intrusive or rude kind—are incredibly powerful. Let’s get back to Os Guinness. He gives us two reasons this is the case—questions are indirect, and involving. “A good question will never betray where it is leading to, and it is an invitation to the listener to pick it up and discover the answer for him or herself.” In other words, it helps another person discover the truth on their own terms rather than just being told they are wrong.
From even their elementary years, our students are being exposed to far more ideas than they can process. So when we offer the Christian worldview as nothing more than just another option in the marketplace of ideas, it can easily get lost in the fray. And even when we seem committed to biblical truth, the desire to keep the peace, blend in, can easily supersede truth, creating something wholly new thing we now call Christianity.
Don’t trade the truth of convenience. But teaching our kids to be smart and stubborn when it comes to truth will not only preserve the gospel but also move it forward and introduce others to real freedom and real hope–and in the process, kids with a strong and lasting faith. Want a good place to start? Check out our youth apologetics curriculum