When churches are looking and interviewing prospects to serve as Pastor, they often want to know something about their ministerial priorities: and rightly so. If a man cannot articulate his vision and how he hopes to accomplish it, what business does he have leading the people of God? Pastoral ministry requires direction and focus.
But what should be the priorities of church ministry? Or, more specifically, where does a vision for the next generation fit among the priorities of church ministry? Most of us are familiar with what have traditionally been the “the big three”: baptisms, budgets, and buildings. Success in ministry is often gauged by these things.
But while we have measured the success of the church in more immediate terms, we have often forgotten or ignored the future of the church or been guilty of poor investing. It has been mistakenly assumed that a successful youth group will lead to a new generation of church leaders and faithful Christian fathers and mothers. But the evidence tells us otherwise. The twentieth century witnessed the rise of youth ministry. But it did not witness the end of youth washout or nominal church membership.
We cannot guarantee that all of our children will faithfully follow Christ. But we can make a wise Biblical investment that will affect the next generation for Christ. That investment is in the the fathers of the next generation. Pastors cannot afford to assume that the men under their care are doing alright. They need to be discipled in the essential Biblical elements of being a godly husband and father. This assumes that the Pastor is also mentoring men in personal discipleship and is a model as a churchman, husband, and father. Ideally the church will be served by more than one pastor, so that one man does not have to shoulder this burden alone. Investment in men, in particular fathers and husbands, may seem slow and futile, but the investment pays long-term dividends for the Gospel and the future of the church. It is absolutely necessary if we are to change the next generation for Christ.
For God’s kingdom and glory,
Daniel will be pursuing the personal side of leadership for the next few weeks. He will be taking a look at the pain, the triumph, and the very essence of what makes a good leader. He begins with taking a look at Roe vs. Wade on this 40th anniversary week and its effect on leaders and their message.
Valuing humanity is inseparably linked to all that is good. When humanity is no longer valued, success is hated, decisions are illogical, personal responsibility is lost, and worst of all the image of our God is marred in the eyes of all humans. Mind you, God is still at work and his great purpose of glorifying himself is being accomplished. And, amidst this devaluing, hints and even profound evidences of beauty are displayed and discovered because, after all, the human being was created to display the glory of God. But as a society, we are rapidly losing care and passion for all that is truly good and beautiful.
It is very easy to lay blame here and to lay blame there. We herald the woes and evils of abortion but seldom address the root of the problem. There are many people in the church and even in the world who would say that abortion is wrong. There is even discussion that “pro-lifers” are on the rise – even among young adults. But why is nothing changing? Why are abortions on the rise in the church? Why do professing political “conservatives” believe that abortion is ok in case of rape and incest? Why do we seem to be advancing in a fundamental crusade of devaluing humanity?
We can leave the imperative discussion of the theology behind the value of humanity for another day. It is of equal if not superior importance [hinted at above]. But for now, we take a look at those who are responsible in forging this fundamental conviction – the leaders themselves. To be more specific, the context I wish to hold accountable is the leadership of the church [pastors, ministry leaders, fathers, etc]. [Note: I preface that there are many spiritual leaders who are faithfully and biblically proclaiming the value of humanity.] They have simply proclaimed for years the evils of abortion without giving the convictional foundation that all value is built upon. They have failed to give a clear and articulate God-centered worldview. To believe something is wrong is not enough. Nor is a rant against such evils enough. It gives law without giving the understanding of that law within its created significance and purpose. The result is quite catastrophic – the people they lead lack conviction and will do what people do when there is no clear vision or understanding – they fall prey to the status quo of culture.
We as leaders must be setting the agenda on this and all issues of our time. We have failed to do that. The culture, with precision and subtlety, has won the day in setting the agenda in regards to the value of humanity and many other issues. The next generation now lacks the correct worldview to engage the culture that they presently find themselves in. What was once considered and assumed foundational is now open to “new ideas” and more relevant discussions among the current generation of believers. The proverbial cry for strong convictional leadership within the church resounds within its walls. We as leaders must proclaim more than just law – that abortion is wrong. We must enter into the arena; engage, and equip – armed with an understanding and worldview that is securely founded in the conviction that all of humanity was created to proclaim the beauty and glory of our God.
Be not moved away,
Parenting Package: Stamped Fragile
Have you ever mailed a package that you carefully wrapped up and had the post office stamp ‘Fragile’ on the box; only to find out when it arrived at its destination that its contents were crushed?
I opened my Christmas ornaments this year to find one of my favorite ornaments broken in several pieces. It was an ornament I gave Charles about 20 something years ago that was from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”. I had wrapped this ornament so carefully, yet it was broken into pieces.
To quote John Piper, “There is no such thing as security or safety in this life.”
As parents, we spend a lifetime stamping fragile on our kids and wrapping them tightly. We are called to protect and gently guide our children in the right direction. As parents, we must not hold to tightly to anything but hold tightly to Christ.
I am learning, and yes, I have not arrived, that none of us will ever be perfect this side of heaven. As my adult children follow Christ, I am learning I cannot stamp fragile on them. I can’t wrap them so tightly as to protect them.
Parenting is by grace. We are not handed any instruction guide tied to our child when they are born. But as believers, we are given the greatest instructions to follow in the word of God.
“Stand fast; therefore, in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” [KJV Gal. 5:1]
As parents, we must not get tangled up with our own ideas or man’s ways of perfection. We must work hard to understand the Gospel and the Word of God. We must teach our children to understand the Gospel and the Word of God in their lives.
Sunday, my Pastor, Dave Teruel said this, “The Scriptures give us understanding of our own hearts and minds, and we must have a spiritual transformation.”
Be careful that you do not slip into bondage in your personal performance or your child’s performance. Beware of rules and law creeping in instead of the Gospel of Christ. Your children need to understand the Gospel.
The rules are necessary, and laws are given to us for our safety and protection. But the grace of God – the Gospel – must be the center of everything we do and believe. The Lord will give us our direction that is proven in His word. We should always acknowledge the authority of God in His word. Let it be our guide.
I must daily give my expectations of my children to the Lord. “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him [Ps. 62:5].” Your children are a package that belongs to Christ. We can wrap them and prepare to send the package out – stamped fragile. But we must trust grace and leave the results to the Lord.
“It’s a wonderful life.”
Who moved the landmarks? What has happened to our culture? Will things ever be the same? I’m not a follower of prime-time television, but such titles as “Modern Family” and “The New Normal” are a telling commentary on where we are and where we are going – and woe to the person or persons who do anything other than go along.
What does this say about and to the church? Where do we fit? How do we respond? Can we have a positive impact on and leave a lasting legacy to the next generation? Can we touch and change the next generation for Christ?
It is always good to determine the first step. Where do we begin? Assuming that we are already attached to and are being changed by the Gospel, we must start in the home and, more specifically, with the fathers. The front line of passing on a passion for Christ, His Gospel, and Gospel living is fathers. Men without vision and passion leave children in a spiritual vacuum; waiting for something or someone to fill the void – and they always do.
So where does that leave the people of God amidst a generation in which fathers are being, indolent, or missing? Is there hope for the next generation? Are we forced to substitute a worldly surrogate, or can we rebuild the foundations and raise up godly generations?
We must start with the fathers. We must start with the father we have. We must continue with fathers to be – many of whom are from divorced homes, dysfunctional homes, and do not know a father at all. This challenge is daunting but not insurmountable with the help of the Holy Spirit. It only magnifies the need to embrace, proclaim, and mentor the Biblical model.
If we are to touch and change the next generation for Christ, we must begin at the beginning armed with a Biblical Gospel. We must embrace the challenge of leading men and equipping them with a vision that will stand the test of time.
That the generations to come might know Christ,
For the next couple of months, Pam will be exploring the realities and depths of releasing children into the world for the work of the gospel and the ministry of Christ. She will be sharing truths identifying the gospel as the reason and center of raising children. There’s much to look forward to – stay tuned!
The car was packed to the top, the door was closed, and I stood there and watched my son of 24 years drive away. He was headed to Texas to begin a job as a Legislator Coordinator. It was hard to say good-bye. He will be gone for six months – so far away. Then my heart was reminded by the Lord: “Pam, letting them go is just as important as raising, teaching and nurturing them when they are young. This is the Lord’s will.”
Psalm 127:4 says, “As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of one’s youth.” When you shoot arrows, you do not shoot them close to you. I have observed in some circles of parents, a desire to cling too tightly to their adult children, run their lives, and control their wills. This is not to be, because our children are the Lord’s arrows given to us, their parents, on loan.
When this son of mine, Micah, was 8 years old he had to have a 9-½ hour brain surgery. It was at this time that I realized that the Lord has my children in His hands. Psalm 31:15a says, “my times are in they hand, says the Lord.” The Lord spared my Micah’s life and I am grateful to have been given the joy of watching him grow into a man.
We must be willing to release our children and continue to parent in faith and not fear.
So, do I stop parenting? No. The journey of prayer, love, and encouragement for my son will always be my life’s work. I still pray for Micah’s future [“This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth” – Joshua 1:8] and his life work [“For this cause we also since the day we heard of it do not cease to pray for you, and desire that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” – Colossians 1:9]. I pray for his needs, his protection, and for his continued spiritual growth.
But, I don’t look back. I step forward in faith – a new day, a new season in my life as a parent. I am so fulfilled being a wife and mother, but my significance must be found in the person of Jesus Christ.
Oh that our arrows would always be ready to be released for His glory – not kept close to us for our desires and designs. Instead, may our longing be that they will make a mark in life for Christ and Christ alone.