What would you say to a Christian who told you they wanted to get into major sin just so that they could repent thus giving them an experience that would affirm their faith as real? The thought of such a thing seems completely insane—and it is. But this sort of thinking is apparently alive and well in some churches and homes. I am not making this up! How can this be?
I remember speaking at a denominational youth and children’s ministry conference. In talking about the struggles children who are raised in the church face, one of the other plenary speakers made a startling point that knocked the wind out of the 400 people in the hotel ballroom that day.
He said that a growing number of children raised in faithful homes in the church felt like their faith was not as authentic as others because the church seemed only to highlight the people with glory stories who were saved out of backgrounds in illegal drugs, gangs, or illicit sex. He said that they felt like “second class citizens in the kingdom of God”.
This puts the spotlight on some glaring weaknesses in our churches and homes that need correcting. One of these weaknesses is that we tend to celebrate either the people who blew up their lives and were miraculously “saved” or those who possess something extraordinary while we rarely celebrate ordinary, faithfulness in homes that by God’s grace and mercy avoids major sins. Maybe this is because we prize entertainment. And nothing entertains like a good story spoken by someone who has a story to tell or a pastor who is a good storyteller. Ordinary faithfulness seems just, well, ordinary and nothing to celebrate.
Certainly, we should celebrate and give God glory for these exceptional stories! But here’s the point: we should also find ways to celebrate ordinary faithfulness because this describes many people in the church, especially our younger members. Faithfulness is not perfection. We are ordinary, weak, struggling people. More is accomplished in ministry through the ordinary than the extraordinary.
It is harder to maintain faithfulness when it seems like it doesn’t matter. These days some young people apparently reason, “Why not just sow some oats and enjoy what the world has to offer. Afterall, I can always come back later… and be a cause for celebration!” While I don’t believe people think about it or verbalize it in just those words, I think it represents a very discouraged, bitter faith experience in younger generations who are increasingly leaving the local church.
It is wise to celebrate ordinary faithfulness.
If you are a faithful parent, here are a few encouragements to keep going!
- God sees your faithful efforts.
In one sense, this is motivation enough to stay the course (Prov. 5:21).
- God is working through you.
Even if outward fruit is lacking, God is still working. His word that we lovingly and gently proclaim does not return void (Isa. 55:11).
- God will reward you.
God is a rewarder of the work we do heartily unto him (Col. 3:23-24).
If you are a church leader, here are a few ideas that will greatly encourage the parents in your congregation. Before reading these, be encouraged that faithfully functioning homes can be vital supports to the church’s ministry!
- Teach on the importance of faithful training through a sermon or mini-series. *Consider sermons that include not only the commands to teach but the comfort and power God gives to do those commands. See my notes on Deut. 6 and Psalm 78 in my book, Real Hope For Your Home.
- On some regular basis, dedicate an entire pastoral prayer (or segment of it) to parents being faithful in training their children. Pray for families by name.
- Share victories with the church body (or in small groups) that commemorate ordinary training efforts. “The Wallace’s just finished reading the Gospel of Mark.” “12 year old Maria is going to recite John 3:16 as part of our service today.”
- Provide families with excellent devotional material, practical guidance, and accountability.
For more ideas on how to encourage churches and homes to work together, see my book, Real Hope for Your Home.