Teach Your Children Well

by Duane May, North Bay, Ontario

Editor's Note: The following essay was submitted for our Does God Exist? scholarship in 2000. While it did not fit the subject we had given for the scholarship competition, it was an excellent commentary on how a young person today sees apologetics being handled by our brotherhood. We feel the honesty and direct approach makes it an important thing for Christians to read and consider.

Minister and child While I attended Great Lakes Christian College, I was an active participant in chapel, including many chapel talks. I rather enjoyed speaking in chapel. I always benefitted from the preparation and the experience. At Strawberry Point Christian Camp, every campfire is closed out with a mini-devotional talk, an object lesson, a lesson of the day, or whatever. That has become my job. I enjoy speaking to young people, I have some experience at it, and I think I have something of value to say; because of this, I have been asked on a few occasions to speak to an audience such as yourselves. When I have been given the opportunity to speak to an audience, I have always been hesitant; and in the end I have always declined. I feel as though I am a clumsy one-year-old trying to teach his parents how to walk. How do I who knows so little teach you who know so much? I am not a parent, but I can imagine that parents learn lots watching their clumsy one-year-old have successes and failures while experimenting with walking. They can learn a lot about human mechanics and movement, the power of determination, and how their little child thinks. They will also learn further the extent that God blesses us in our everyday lives and come to a greater thanksgiving and praise. In the same way, maybe you, the parent, can learn a little something from me, the clumsy one-year-old, as I stumble through my first steps.

Like I said, I do not know much; but I do know some things and so much of what will be said in this article will not be Scripture, but rather personal experience. I acquired a greater appreciation and respect for my father as a preacher when I started to hear him speak on a regular basis again. Previously, I never realized how much he speaks directly from the Scriptures as opposed to using them as a supplementary source. I wish I could do that today, but I have to speak from what I know, and what I know is my own personal experiences growing up in the church.

Much of what I am going to say is personal opinion that is not directly backed up by a Scripture. So I encourage you not to accept anything I say without first doing your own thinking. Think about it and then come up with your own conclusions.

I am a bona fide preacher's kid, or PK as we are affectionately known. Like many of you, I was born and raised in the Church of Christ. I went to church before I could say the word. I was a part of a Sunday school program before I could tie my shoe and certainly before I really understood what all this church stuff was about.

There was never a question of what I would be doing on Sunday or Wednesday evening. It meant that, if we were away at a lacrosse tournament, Mom looked in the phone book Saturday night for a church we could go to the next morning. It meant that if the hockey team's home games for my age group were every Wednesday at 7:30 pm, then I played for a different team. That is just the way it was. In my young life, church was not questioned. I did not look at it as good or bad, positive or negative; it was just a part of my life that was accepted. It was who we were and what we did.

Men in study looking over a book I have many fond memories of Sunday school and Sunday activities, in the vacation bible schools, the Sunday school picnics, the young people's activities, the youth rallies, etc. On New Year's Eve day, I started reminiscing about the New Year's Eve parties with the Tintern Church. On that evening, I felt like I was a part of a huge family. I felt like I was a piece of something very special. I felt incredibly loved. I also learned many things in Sunday school. If I am ever on Jeopardy and "The Bible" is one of the categories, I will "clean it." I am very glad I grew up in the church and I had all these experiences as a young child, but Sunday school did very little to instill faith in me as a child.

I think it would be very interesting to do a little experiment with the grade 5-6 Sunday school classes of all churches in Canada or America. First, pull out the Bible trivia questions. Watch the kids' eyes light up as their hands shoot up and their minds jog back to Jacob and Esau on the felt board. They would dazzle you--some of them answering questions that have long since slipped your grasp. Then ask them why they believe. Look around the room and meet the blank stare of every student. No hands shoot up. In the odd classroom, a hesitant student slowly raises a tentative hand, but for the most part, the once jubilant room becomes suddenly silent, and a look of confusion sweeps over the faces of the kids. They know that they should not say "Because Mom and Dad do," but beyond that they do not know why they believe. Our Sunday school programs do not do a good job of instilling faith in our children. Too many of us grow up as active participants in our church, but as soon as we move out from under Mom and Dad's roof, our church attendance becomes more sporadic. As our lives are shaken more and more by the bumps in life, we attend church less and less until one day we stop coming through the church building doors altogether.

Crashed car and disappointed man I am proud to say that I have a faith that is my own. It is not my parents and it does not belong to any Elder of this or any other church; it is my own. I came to church this morning behind the wheel of an '89 Plymouth Sundance. It is definitely not the best ride in town. It is not the best on gas. The heater barely works anymore. It gets me from A to B, but sometimes it leaves me stranded at B when I was really on my way to C. It costs me a lot on repairs, and one day (I think this day is coming soon) I will have to say good-bye to that old beloved Sundance. That will be a sad day. As far as cars go, mine is a piece of junk, but it is mine. My faith is not the greatest one in the parking lot, but it is my own and it is rooted where it should be.

For as many hours as I spent in Sunday school classrooms, little was done to bolster my faith. I came to understand what was going on and I did believe. I believed that God created the world, but I only believed because I respected my parents and I did not believe they could be tricked into believing in something so wholeheartedly if it were not true. I believed, but it was a borrowed belief.

My faith really came into its own when someone took the time to prove to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Bible was and is the Word of God. Now it is not that the person told me that the Bible was God's Word, because people had told me that my whole life; it was proven to me. We owe it to our kids to not just tell them about the Bible, but to prove it to them (to physically prove it to them). If we do not, the school systems will fill the void with something else.

  When I went to the university, I was amazed at the wealth of knowledge that my professors possessed. These are very bright individuals, and I often wondered how they could believe in the particular theory of evolution that they taught. Imagine with me if you will an infomercial in which two frying pan manufactures go head-to-head in a cook-off. One company makes a Teflon frying pan; the other a cast iron pan. The company that makes the Teflon pan hires the Urban Peasant to make its pitch. As he is frying away, he is explaining in detail what he is doing, giving pointers, highlighting the advantages of the frying pan, and pointing out but downplaying the disadvantages. Meanwhile, the cast iron company has promised one of their workers a week's paid holiday if he shows up to do the Saturday infomercial. Now this guy has never fried an egg in his life, so during the cook-off portion of the show the guy leans against the stove with the frying pan at arm's length, but cooks nothing. To close out the show, they each have a courtroom style closing argument. The Urban Peasant goes first and makes a powerful appeal to the audience as they munch on the crepes he just finished cooking. The other guy closes with these words, "No, you're wrong. Cast iron's better," but that is all he says. Which frying pan are you going to buy? Is it so hard to believe that my professors believe in evolution? These people do not take anyone's word for anything. For many people, belief in evolution was taught to them, it was explained to them, and it was all they knew so it was believable. They knew about the Bible to the extent that one day someone told them that evolution is a lie because the Bible says that God created the earth, but then that person did not bother giving any proof and did not take the time to give any explanation.

Frying pan Which "frying pan" are people in the example above going to buy? Which belief system is your child going to buy into--the one that is explained and outlined in depth or the one that is merely stated to them and they are expected to believe?

If the frying pan metaphor seemed a little "out there," let me tell you this. I just finished teaching the teen class on Wednesday; we used commercial literature. The literature was divided into three units, the last one called "Science and the Bible." I could not wait to get to the unit "Science and the Bible." I was terribly disappointed; there was nothing at all scientific in the whole unit. It could have been better termed "Popular Thinking vs. the Bible." Each week would start out outlining some philosophy or theory. Then it would conclude that this theory is wrong because the Bible is absolute truth. Then this becomes an exercise of compare and contrast, like comparing two novels to each other. That is something you do in English class, not Science.

If a coworker who does not know anything about the Bible asks you a question about what you believe, it is obvious that you cannot answer with the statement, "because the Bible says so." The Bible means nothing to your coworker. Yet, time and again, we give this answer to our kids. Please do not misunderstand me. We need to have such a faith that we follow what the Bible teaches even when we do not understand. Take the passage in 1 Timothy 2:12 . I do not understand why women are not to lead in the worship service, but God said they are not to and so that is the way it should be. Too often we use this argument of "because the Bible says so" on our children and people new to the church before we have given them a reason to believe that the Bible is God's Word and before they have developed the faith and conviction to follow the Bible even when they do not understand.

Angry woman Imagine you move to North Bay. Your house is rather large so you put up ads at the University: "Wanted: Nonsmoking quiet female to rent out basement apartment." It turns out your tenant quickly becomes a good friend. Her single mother raised her. Single because her father walked out on them when she was but a baby. She is a child of the politically correct 1990s and a strong proponent of women's rights. She is intrigued by your devotion to the church and, after a while, she starts to go to church with you. She likes the family feeling of the church, a feeling she never had growing up. She likes that sense of belonging and acceptance she feels and the love that is extended to her. She keeps going to church because of the way she feels while she is there, not because she necessarily believes as yet in what is taught there. On the way home from her 4th time at church, she makes it known that she has noticed that women never lead in the worship service and she inquires as to why this is. Quickly you pull out your Bible and read 1 Timothy 2: 12 , adding at the end, "Women do not lead in worship because the Bible says they should not." To her, that is oppressive, not fair, and just not right. She has not had the time to develop your attitude of where the Bible speaks I will listen, and so she never comes back to church. We need to do better than "because the Bible says so."

In our Sunday school program, we teach facts, people, places, and stories. It was a '69 Dodge Charger. It was originally black. They converted it into a stock car, complete with roll bar and doors welded shut. The finishing touches were a burnt orange paint job, double zeros on the door, and a rebel flag on the top. They were cousins, Bo and Luke. They lived with their Uncle Jesse and another cousin, Daisy, on the Duke family farm in Hazzard County. The mayor of the town, Boss Hogg, was always after his Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane to catch those Duke boys. Rosco was always after the advice of his dog Flash on how he should go about catching those Duke boys. The Duke boys, however, always seemed to outwit Boss Hogg and Rosco, usually with the help of their friend, the local tow truck guy Cooter. These are all facts about the television show "The Dukes of Hazzard" that I learned on Saturday mornings as a young boy. But facts do not make it real. It does not mean that Bo and Luke ever lead real lives. We know that it was fiction. Facts do not equal proof. Just as some pretty unbelievable stuff frequently happened on the set of "The Dukes of Hazzard," the Bible is filled with some hard-to-believe stories. Facts do not equal proof. We need to do more than just supply our kids with the facts. We need to show our children the evidence that is out there.

A young, soon-to-be preacher can graduate from Harding with a degree in Bible. He can know the Bible backwards and forwards and be a powerful speaker; but if he cannot show a nonbeliever who is searching for evidence the evidence that is out there, he might as well have gotten a degree from Harvard in English and be teaching this nonbeliever Shakespeare. We need to prove to our children that the Bible is Truth and that the scientific evidence verifies the creation account as found in Genesis.

All my life, I was told that the Bible is Truth. Why is it Truth? Because the Bible says itself that it is the Word of God. When your five-year-old asks what quickly means you do not tell him/her "It's when something happens quickly." That does not make sense, but so often we give this kind of answer to kids in the church context. Kids ask questions about something the Bible says and we answer them with "because the Bible says so."

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their slander ( 1 Peter 3:15-16 ).

We need to be ready to give our kids better answers than because the Bible says so. We need to educate ourselves so that we can present them with the external evidence and let them conclude themselves that the Bible is inspired by God. Then the answer of "because right here in the Bible it says such and such," will actually be worth something.

hand reaching out and touching planet Earth There is so much evidence of God in the natural world around us. Time and time again, the Bible speaks of things the scientific community is only coming up with now. There are many books available on natural evidence and biblical truths. It is not new stuff; it is just not taught in our brotherhood!

When I was at Great Lakes, we had Bible class everyday for 35 or 40 minutes. During my time there, I spent 525 hours in Bible class, give or take. Out of that 525 hours, not one hour was devoted to evidences. Sometimes it may have been mentioned in passing or used in answering a question, but not one hour was devoted to proofs and evidences. That is a crying shame considering that much of the student body is not from Christian homes. Not to mention the students as a whole are at a very searching time in their lives, yet no collaborating evidence was or is given to them.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose ( Philippians 2:12-13 ).

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. When I was growing up everything I needed to know was simply told to me, and I was expected to blindly accept it. No one in the Sunday school context presented me with the information and then allowed me to make my own conclusions and do my own thinking. I was rarely encouraged to work out my own salvation. People wanted to hand it to me and expected me to take their word for it.

Kids with borrowed faith are a dangerous thing. All they have to stand on is their parents' shoulders. Satan gives their parents a little nudge and the parents make it through fine; their faith is rooted deep and they can spread their legs wide and dig in. Their kids though, they have got nowhere to go, nowhere to go but down, and even the slightest of nudges brings them crashing to the ground.

This church has done things to instill faith in our children. The grade 5-6 class spent some time going through the evidence, the teen class was exposed to John Clayton's Does God Exist videos and they also studied world religions, but certainly more can be done. History has taught us that the Church of Christ as a body has not done a good job of making believers of its own children. Billy Graham has said, "Being born in a garage does not make me an automobile." Being born in the Church of Christ does not make kids Christians. Why do you believe? What do your kids believe? Why? We need to give our kids a reason to believe. We need to give our kids something to stand on. We need to do a better job of instilling faith in our children.

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