This question highlights an unfortunate trend. As numerous recent books and studies have revealed, a large number of today’s youth are becoming disenchanted with the church. As a result, they are either leaving the church altogether or exploring other avenues to satisfy their spiritual appetites. And, contrary to what some may believe, more young people leave the church during their middle and high school years than will leave during their college years. Over 60 percent of young adults who attended church in their teens will ultimately become spiritually disengaged at some point during their twenties (The Barna Group).
Although the reasons behind this youthful exodus are many and varied, the answer to this epidemic is really quite simple. Our children need to fully understand that Scripture alone can give life and bring sanctification to a sinful soul, and only Scripture can equip us to discern truth from error. Yet, as the apostle Paul aptly pointed out, how can they believe when they’ve not heard? (Romans 10:14). In a world in which there is a growing tide of hostility towards Christianity, we need to teach our children the Word of God and how to defend it (1 Peter 3:15). There are three places our children ultimately learn and develop their worldview and belief system: school, church, and home.
Beginning around age five, kids will spend the better part of two decades becoming educated. And public school systems, along with the colleges and universities, continue to indoctrinate kids with the religious beliefs of humanists. Half a century ago, the United States Supreme Court recognized humanism as a religion. So, when the Bible and prayer were tossed out of public schools, they did not throw out religion. They simply replaced the Christian worldview with an atheistic one. As a result, practically everything a child learns in school about science and history has nothing to do with God. Everything is explained without any reference to our Creator. On the other hand, while kids are in school they are taught and expected to tolerate all beliefs, points of view, and different behavioral preferences. A sign at one college epitomizes this expected tolerance: “It is OK for you to think you are right. It is NOT OK for you to think someone else is wrong.” It should come as no surprise, then, that over 70 percent of young adults under the age 25 think all beliefs are equally valid.
Let’s look at the church, as this is certainly a place where the truth of God’s Word should be vigorously defended. Unfortunately, however, more and more churches are deviating from scriptural truth. The apostle Paul warned us this would happen (2 Timothy 4:3). Discussing the church’s diminishing adherence to the hard truths of God’s Word, Charles Spurgeon had this to say: “There will come another generation, and another, and all these generations will be tainted and injured if we are not faithful to God and to His truth today. …How is the world to be saved if the church is false to her Lord?” One theologian aptly commented in response: “We who love the Lord and His church must not sit by while the church gains momentum on the down-grade of worldliness and compromise. Men and women before us have paid with their blood to deliver the faith intact to us. Now, it is our turn to guard the truth. It is a task that calls for courage, not compromise. And it is a responsibility that demands unwavering devotion to a very narrow purpose.”
The development of a Christian foundation, then, must begin at home with the parents. Yet the truth is that, by the time the average child leaves for college at age 18, he or she will have never read the entire Bible (which can be read cover to cover in about 80 hours), and many will never have opened a Bible. Yet they will have watched roughly 21,000 – 30,000 hours of television, which will most definitely have played a significant role in developing their worldview.
The Bible tells us that children are a gift from God (Psalm 127:3). Even though we are their stewards for a relatively short time, our parental influence in their lives is significant, to say the least, and it is our responsibility to pass along our faith and values to them. In the Old Testament, Moses stressed to his people the importance of teaching children about the LORD and His commands, decrees, and laws: “Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 11:19-20). And in the New Testament, parents are taught to raise their children in the “training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), as all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, training, and correcting (2 Timothy 3:16). Parents need to instill in their children a thoroughly Christian worldview so they understand that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). This requires studying the Bible and a lot of hard work. For our children to be able to defend the Word of God (1 Peter 3:15), they need to know it well. The importance of teaching our children the truth of Scripture at an early age is put into perspective by this sobering statistic from Barna: only about 6 percent of people who are not Christians by age 18 will become Christians later in life. That frightening thought should reverberate deeply in the hearts of parents who aspire to have their children attain the eternal life that Jesus Christ died to give us.
Jesus Christ said, “Everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall as it had its foundation on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25). It is clear that the forces of our increasingly secular world will bring torrents of “rain” and “wind” into our children’s lives so as to turn their ears away from the truth. Christians are not surprised by this, as the Bible tells us this is going to happen to a greater degree as we draw closer to Christ’s return. The wise Solomon taught us to train our children in the way they should go and when they are old they will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6). Quite simply, it is imperative that we construct a Christian paradigm in our children’s hearts at a tender age.