Perhaps one of the most disappointing things for a Christian, is to see another person who at one stage claimed to be a Christian, turn their back on the Lord Jesus Christ and no longer follow him. It is particularly discouraging when this person is a good friend, or a family member. It is even more devastating though, when it is one (or more) of your own children who turn their back on God.
It is not something I have personally experienced, and I pray every day that I never will. But I have grieved with other Christian parents who have, and ‘grieve’ is certainly the right word to use. It really is heart-breaking for a parent to see the child they love so dearly, choose death instead of life. In this situation the inevitable question these parents ask is, “What could I have done differently?”
First of all we need to understand that coming to faith in God is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit, that we can’t make happen. Only God can do it, for faith is a gift of grace from Him (Eph 2:8). But at the same time God expects us to co-operate with Him, and be His servants that He can use and work through. The Apostle Paul tells us that he and others planted the seed of the gospel and watered it, and then God made it grow (1Cor 3:6-7). While only God makes the seed grow, we can prepare the ground (plough, plant, water) in an attempt to produce optimum conditions for that growth to take place.
This is our responsibility as Christian parents, in fact the Bible commands us (Deut 6:4-9) to raise and nurture our children according to biblical principles where they grow in knowledge of God, and learn what it means to follow Jesus Christ. One very important and yet very simple thing that helps us do this, is becoming increasingly neglected in our culture. Studies show that one of the best things we can do for our children is to ensure they go to church regularly. I was very surprised by the following statistics from the US (Greg Laurie, Harvest Ministries, 5th Oct 2013):
- If both parents regularly attend church, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood is 72%.
- If Dad regularly attends church but Mum does not, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood drops to 55%.
- If Mum regularly attends church but Dad does not, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood drops to 15%.
- If both parents attend church irregularly, then the chance of their children later attending church in adulthood drops to 6%.
While raising our children in a biblical manner involves more than what we do on Sunday morning, these statistics suggest that regular church attendance alone increases the odds of our children being followers of Christ in their adulthood by 66%. We probably shouldn’t be so surprised by this, after all the Bible commands us to regularly meet together. Not only does this elevate God, but it is also for our own good, God knows what is best for us, even when we do not. These figures highlight that regular church attendance is important, and has inspired me to write a series of future posts outlining some of the reasons why.
Regular church attendance on its own though is no guarantee that our children will come to faith in Christ. At the end of the day all we can do is our best, and if we follow God’s instructions in His Word, then we can be confident we have given our children the best opportunity we could. Not every family has two believing parents, or even two parents. All God asks is that we do the best we can with whatever circumstances we have, and trust Him to do the rest, knowing our mighty God is bigger than these statistics.
My parents sent me to Sunday school but never attended church themselves and were not Christians, so the odds were stacked against me – probably somewhere less than 6%. But as Jesus told his disciples, “with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:25-26). When the odds are against us, we must do our best, and then be in regular prayer for God to do the rest. God can overcome any odds. I’d be happy to pray for you also, just let me know.