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.”
What if I told you that if you did just one thing as a family it would change everything. What if I told you doing this one thing would mean, less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents.
Well tell us already! What is the one thing?
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.
Around ten years ago I started following a few blogs on the internet as they were a relatively new thing. I found that there were many about lots of things that were very helpful but there were very few that provided wisdom and resources for kids and youth pastors. I think I remember there being about four to five blogs for kids pastors (David Wakerly, Jonathan Cliff, Matt Mckee, The Kidologist, I think were about it.) I can’t remember now what prompted it but I decided to jump into the blogosphere and in the following years, I shared what I was thinking about what I was processing through, good books, good ideas, and a few really bad ideas that sounded good at the time. So I thought I would share a few thoughts on blogging for a decade.
- The more you do something the easier it becomes
- Writing down your thoughts reveals the gradual changes we generally find imperceptible in our day-to-day lives. I have changed in the last ten years more than I even realize. Looking over posts that I wrote ten years ago I find myself strongly disagreeing with myself. Which feels weird but it also helps me be more gracious with others because in ten years from now I’ll disagree with some of what I am writing at this point in my life.
- Sustained disciplined writing is the rings of an oak tree. You can see what happened in the life of the tree by studying its rings. I find it interesting to look back through my archive and see what God was doing and what things I was wrestling with at that season of my life.
- In the past ten years, I have connected with people I would never have met any other way. The community I have discovered through my blog and because of my blog has been a means of God’s grace to me in more ways you will ever fully know. For that, I am profoundly thankful. The reason I started blogging and continue to blog is to be to others what I wish I had I started and in the family community ministry community, I have found what I always wanted as an isolated kids pastor who knew no one and painfully aware of his own inadequacy. Thank you, for taking the time to read my meandering thoughts. Thank you, for your comments your help and friendship. I am grateful to God for his grace and for your grace as well. I look forward to the next ten years with you all.