On Thinking Generationally

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Guest Blogger: Danielle Spencer, member at University Reformed Church

Whether I turn on the news, peruse Facebook, or people watch at the park, I can’t avoid the observation that animosity toward the Gospel is spreading. It feels overwhelming and urgently necessary to do something. But what? I don’t want urgency to turn into fretful busywork, but I can use it spur me on in obedience. Even in the midst of dark days, most of us are still called to live a quiet life, to grow in holiness and love, to work hard with our hands, and to be busy at home raising the next generation (1 Thess. 4, Titus 2).

While the Lord is certainly able to change a landscape by storm in an instant, he often works by growing trees over a century. Even if you’re not a parent, if you are stirred to see the truth preserved and the culture converted, investing in children is a vital part of your mission.

In Pastor Kevin style, I have 3 goals to keep in mind as we work with kids:

Love kids as your neighbor

At our church we are blessed with covenant kids popping out from behind every pew and pillar, corralled behind nursery gates, and hiding under the cookie table. They’re loud, busy, sometimes sticky, and they are my friends–my fellow man whose interests I am to consider more significant than my own (Phil. 2). It won’t be long before they are the adults that my husband may elder, that we might counsel in their marriages, and that we will teach to love their own kids. As our bodies age, they’ll carry on the work. We want them to stand on our shoulders with confidence, and not have to start from the ground up. So in the church lobby, once in a while, skip the conversation that might seem more likely to promote your influence, and talk to a child. Listen to their stories, jokes, and what they dreamed about last night. You’ll be investing in the future, and you’ll be surprised by the encouragement, life, and joy you get in return.

Teach kids the Bible

Keep Deuteronomy 6:7 in the front of your mind as you work with children: “You shall teach them [God’s commands] diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Biblical literacy is at an all-time low in this country. The word of God is hidden under a bushel. Kids are story lovers with a million questions. Answer them with the Bible. Teach them the stories, the systems, the promises, and the prayers of Scripture. Give them Christ colored glasses to make sense of the world they’re trying to figure out. Let them learn from expositional preaching, through regular family worship, and the study of creation. Make the Bible part of your own speech. It was said of John Bunyan that if you pricked him he would bleed Bibline. The world is going to prick our kids. Maybe the next generation could start a transfusion.

Prepare kids to suffer and to serve

Our Christian experience confirms what Adam taught us, that pain and misery follow sin. Greed, sexual immorality, vow-breaking, racism, abortion, entitlement, egalitarianism–I could go on–are increasingly celebrated rather than fought. The result will be misery for many, and misery loves company. As darkness thickens into the next generation our kids’ lights will grow all the more conspicuous. Many will be drawn to them, some with every intention to extinguish. Our kids need to be ready to call persecution for Christ their privilege, to stand firm in the truth of the gospel, and to return good for evil the way Christ has done for us.

But not all will come as adversaries. Some will be drawn to the light to find safety and truth and life. When the Supreme Court ruled last year that states could no longer ban same-sex marriage, I remember John Piper lamenting the tidal wave of pain that will come in the wake of such a decision. I started thinking about how my kids’ peers someday will be confused men raised by 2 dads or women scarred from wars they were drafted into. It doesn’t take special revelation to see a future full of broken people looking for answers and hope. It is our duty not only to this generation but to the next as well, to be ready to give an answer for the hope that we have and to teach our children to do the same.

God took Abraham, one man, and made him into a nation for His own. He takes parents, mentors, and church members of the most everyday sort and grows a kingdom of worshippers for Himself. Charles Spurgeon, a giant in the faith that the Lord has used for the masses, gives credit to the faithful cook at his school:

“The first lessons I ever had in theology were from an old cook . . . She liked something very sweet indeed, good strong Calvinistic doctrine, but she lived strongly as well as fed strongly. Many a time we have gone over the covenant of grace together, and talked of the personal election of the saints, their union to Christ, their final perseverance, and what vital godliness meant; and I do believe that I learnt more from her than I should have learned from any six doctors of divinity of the sort that we have nowadays.”

We don’t even know her name, but many know God’s name through a child she took the time to chat with. So Friend, have patience. Establishing roots is slow, unnoticed work now, but plant and water, God is growing a forest beyond anything we can imagine.

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