Recently I picked up a book by Brett Kunkle and John Stonestreet called A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today’s World. So far it has been excellent. I would strongly encourage you to read this book, particularly if you have kids that are still living at home. Stonestreet and Kunkle issue a wake-up call to Christian parents in the opening chapters of the book.
“Dreher (in his book the Benedict Option) insists that, currently, culture is shaping the next generations’ understanding of faith far more than their faith is shaping their understanding of culture. Sociologist Christian Smith, who has conducted extensive research on American teenagers, coined the phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism” to describe how they understand religion and spirituality. For these teens, faith is about being nice and happy and believing that God is always there to help them when they need it.
Moralistic therapeutic deists believe that God visits their world not that they live in God’s world. They believe that God serves their agenda, helping them feel good about themselves along the way. God, in their view, demands nothing of them. Rather, He exists to help them in whatever way they wish. Moralistic therapeutic deism is not Christianity at all.”
The challenge to parents and pastors is to not ignore or even demonize culture but rather to help see culture through the lens of the gospel. Empowering our kids to see culture through their understanding of the faith that has been handed to them. The reality we face as parents are that our culture is doing all it can to erase and expunge the existence of God from the collective conscience of our country. Perhaps even more tragic is that the often the messages Christian kids hear within the church is one that pushes the Moralistic therapeutic deism that is not Christianity at all. They walk away from church believing “faith is about being nice and happy and believing that God is always there to help them when they need it.”
The past several days I have been listening to a song by Shane and Shane such a powerful song of lament and pain taken from the book of Job. The lyrics are both challenging and life-giving.I come, God, I come
I come, God, I come
Return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say You do it all in love
That I might know You in Your suffering
For those who don’t know or profess Christ’s name, there are no guarantees in life. As an adopted son or daughter of our Heavenly Father, we have a couple of powerful guarantees. We are guaranteed that we will suffer in this life.
We are also guaranteed that that suffering will be momentary and also meaningful. Paul says this so powerfully in 2 Corinthians 4
17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
John Piper expounding on this passage says the following:
If you regularly attend church conferences you will no doubt hear the rallying cry for excellence in the church. In some ways this is a good thing. I am all for pastors working hard and doing all they can do to reach people with the greatest message ever told. Where excellence starts to kill the church is when we make our church a polished flawless exhibition that we invite people to be impressed by.
When the church takes its cue from the business world and perfects its processes so that it can extend its reach and solidify its brand we have lost our way.
When excellence drives us to be efficient with people so we can be innovative with problems we are no longer the church we are simply a 501c3.
One the things that you notice the older you get you start to realize how much you have been given and how precious the time is that you have left. The things that I think kids will remember more than just doing things or going places is the traditions you build as a family. We have started a few in our family, when our kids turn 10 we go on an adventure anywhere they want to go for 6 days, when they turn 13 we are going to do a mentor dinner. We are always looking for ways to create memories but also to help them grow and deepen their faith. Recently a couple things happened that created for us another opportunity to deepen their faith and leave a legacy that reaches past us to our grandkids and even great grandkids.
After my grandfather passed several years ago I remember looking through his Bible with his daily devotional stuffed inside still open to the devotion he completed the same day the Lord took him home. I remember looking through the passages he underlined and wondering why those particular ones stood out to him. I remember wondering what he was thinking or facing in the moments God was speaking to him through the scriptures. Then two weeks ago I finished a biography on Martin Lloyd-Jones the author was talking about how we visited his church stood in his pulpit and even looked through Lloyd-Jones’ pulpit bible. The visceral connection between the author and the owner of the Bible was so tangible in the author’s experience at that famous English church where Dr. Lloyd-Jones spent his life making the Bible come to life through his powerful exposition. I realized at that moment I want my kids to have that same experience.
In doing the 10-year-old adventure I want my kids to know that their family loves them, in the mentor dinner I want them to know they are part of a bigger family, that being their church. What I want them to know when they graduate is that for all the knowledge they can acquire the Bible is the greatest source of truth and life, and it is on the Scriptures Alone we base our life and our decisions. The best way I could think to do that is for them to see me not only read a physical Bible in an age of digital everything but also to chronicle it for them what I was thinking, feeling and hearing as they were eating Lucky Charms across the breakfast table from me morning after morning.
I reached out to the folks at Crossway and they were extremely generous in gifting me a copy of their exquisite ESV Natural Leather Journaling Bible. It is much more portable than I was expecting and the leather and typeset are fantastic more importantly it is real leather with a stitched binding so it will last as I use it and will hold together long after I am gone. I plan on using it for the next year to two years to chronicle my devotional thoughts, sermon preparation, and personal reflection. My hope should God allow is to do this for each of my kids and gift them their Bible upon graduation from High School. Realizing I can’t make my kids love the Bible but I can help them see how I treasure it above all things. We live in a world that is temporal and fleeting the best thing you can do for your kids is to let them know they are loved, to see the church as formational and the Scriptures foundational.
One of the things I am grateful for in our world today is the attention given to the loving nurture and care of children. We see more and more products being made, articles being written, and churches being built, with children in mind. We see mom’s and dad’s more intention than ever about the physical and social wellbeing of their children. These are all good things. When our kids have a need we not only try to meet it we anticipate it and try to meet that need before they ask. So when our kids say they are bored it is not a warning sign in them it is a perceived deficiency in us. We didn’t anticipate the downtime they would experience and bring the devices or tools to occupy their minds to keep them from being bored. This wasn’t always the case I grew up in the Jurassic period before cell phones, cable and video game systems. We got bored… a lot.
Andy Crouch has written an excellent new book that discusses the joy of boredom in the world of anti-boredom devices. His new book The Tech-Wise Family is a must buy for every family that struggles with screen time and bored children (so basically everyone). Andy says that:
The technology that promises to release us from boredom is actually making it worse— making us more prone to seek empty distractions than we have ever been. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that the more you entertain children, the more bored they will get.
This rubs against the very grain of what we have been taught and indoctrinated within the past 20 years, yet rings strangely true for those us old enough to remember what it was like in the “Old Days”. We have an unspoken rule of thumb in our family. If our kids don’t say “I’m Bored” often something is wrong. We start assessing our schedules, we evaluate screen time. Boredom is a warning sign and is actually the beginning to doing something meaningful rather than achieving the next level in a game that doesn’t matter.
Boredom is actually a crucial warning sign— as important in its own way as physical pain. It’s a sign that our capacity for wonder and delight, contemplation and attention, real play and fruitful work, has been dangerously depleted…. We now have the technology to be perpetually distracted from boredom, and thus we never realize how bored we really are.