Written on behalf of someone I know….
Even though I attended church until I was 16, I didn’t really know the Christmas story. I was clueless about prophecies and fulfillments, about Herod’s political intrigues, about the communicative appearances of angels for Mary, Joseph, and Zechariah. Imperial decrees regarding taxation and census meant nothing to me; the role of the shepherds in the Christmas story was a mystery. When I left the church halfway through high school, I had no idea Christ was the Incarnation, the image of the invisible God.
This had nothing to do with the doctrine of our church; the pastor preached the Bible as the infallible word of God, though I didn’t realize he did so. The reason I grew up so clueless about spiritual matters is because I grew up Deaf in a hearing church and family.
We went to a hearing church where sound carried all the relevant information. We had spoken dramas, sung praises, and verbal lessons. Because I started learning language with a two-year delay, Bible translations in the 70’s and 80’s were beyond my comprehension. Our church didn’t use Sunday School Board materials (pre-Lifeway), so there was little else to read. Once we went home, our family didn’t really discuss the lessons or the sermon; at least, that’s how I remember it. Home life was no less auditory than church, so you really can’t take my word for it; seriously, don’t take my word for it.
Just before my 23rd birthday I started attending a Deaf church, and suddenly things fell into place. The church spoke my language, so to speak, and I was able to understand for the very first time. My previously backslidden husband and I started taking God home with us, discussing the issues raised at church and spending time to discussing various perspectives. Sometimes we disagreed; at other times, he was more reasonable.
As I attend church these days, I look at the other couples present and think about their children. Which of them, I wonder, take the time to teach their kids about Christ? I mean, really teach. My parents, while doing their absolute best, assumed that I could figure out the content of the message, and never took the time to double-check. Do other parents do the same? Do I?
Too often, I think, we believe our children understand innately spiritual matters. We take them to church and allow instruction to happen. No, we assume instruction happens. In church-going families, parents seem to imagine that their kids are receiving all the spiritual education needed for life while at church. The hypothesis is that instruction equals comprehension, and comprehension equals application. Therefore, instruction = application.
Dangerous assumption, folks. Take it from me.
What “language” do your kids speak, and what is your fluency? Can you communicate the gospel in ways that make sense to post-modern youth and kids? Are your children in the habit of listening to you regarding spiritual matters? Are you capable of instructing your children?
I know from my own experience that my parents’ spiritual knowledge never passed on to me; for all their great intentions, there were just some accidental yet natural assumptions that got in the way. Does my spiritual knowledge pass to my children? What are my assumptions? Do my children and I speak the same language, or is there as great a communicative chasm between us as there was between me and my parents?
In Judges 2:10 there is a note about the new generation of Israelites, people who grew up without knowledge of the faith of their fathers and mothers. All of God’s wonderful acts of power and compassion – gone from public consciousness. God’s great works were not forgotten because too much time had passed; witness the celebration of Yom Kippur and its longevity if you want proof that great acts can be remembered for generations. No, the wonderful performances by God were forgotten because they apparently were not shared.
Mothers, stop saying, “Well, Daddy is really the theology person in the family, so I’ll leave that part to him.” Fathers, eliminate “My wife heads up the spiritual side of things” from your brain.
Teach your children, folks, teach your children. Grow your churches by teaching at home. Make strong the church of God by creating a strong family of God. Improve Sunday School through home instruction, not by purchasing better stuff from Lifeway. Prepare your children for the world by telling them about Him. Debate theology and doctrine. Ask about Calvinism, and teach them enough Bible to understand Arminianism. Theorize about the meaning of baptism together. Share Bible stories drawn straight from His word to help your kids through their days, and if you don’t know enough of the Bible to do that – fix it. Now.
Whether you are just sitting around, or going for a walk, talk to them. Pray with them at night and display Christ in the morning. Either instruct them through formal sit-down-and-teach times or debate stuff while sprawled out on lawn furniture after playing in the sprinkler. Fill your shelves with books about God and read them to your children. Do something and do it in a way that makes sense to them.
Just don’t assume they are getting it.