Home Wreckers - Week Four: An Extra Place At The Table
Today we are going to continue our sermon series, "Home Wreckers: Guarding Your Family God's Way."
The idea behind this sermon series is pretty simple: Families in our culture are facing a number of issues--any one of which could completely wreck them.
And Christian families are no different. In fact, studies have shown that Christian families are struggling at as high or higher rates as non-Christian families when it comes to these issues--namely: Busyness, Lack of Communication, Financial Troubles and Lack of Spiritual Depth.
So each week of this series we're going to tackle one of these home-wrecking issues as we learn how to guard our family God's way.
Today we're going to talk about how the discipline of spiritual practices can help pass our faith on to our family.
And the one thing that I want you to hold on to today--the take away that will change your family dynamics if you embrace it is this: Set A Place At Your Family Table For Jesus.
Do you know what the fastest growing religion in America is?
In a national survey that was conducted in 2017, 34% of Americans indicated that they had no religious affiliation. That number is up 11% from the same survey that was conducted in 2014.
To what do we attribute this huge increase? The Millenial generation, which holds the highest percentage of people who identify as "Nones." So what's at the heart of this?
According to the latest survey that was conducted by Lifeway (the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention) Millenials are leaving church for a variety of reasons.
Some of them are leaving because they are simply in college. Others because of disillusionment with the faith of their childhood. Still, others are leaving because they are struggling to reconcile the church's stance on big issues like war, race, economics, gender issues, LBGTQ rights and so on with their own.
But what's at the heart of it all according to Robert Putnam, one of the most well-respected sociologists in America, is simply this:
The faith retention rate among children of "nones" is higher than the children of people with faith.
In other words, if you want to ensure that your kids leave home with faith, so to speak, you have less of a chance of them retaining that faith than a "none" parent has of passing on their "none-ness" to their kids.
There are two things that parents of faith or no faith seem to all agree on, though:
Active parenting---they all agree that actively parenting, being involved with their kids' lives is a core part of their identity.
More Discipline/Guidance--they also all agree that now more than ever kids need discipline and guidance to help them navigate a world that is getting more and more complicated.
At this point you're thinking--why are Christian families struggling so much with this? If what you are saying is true, and they really believe all of this... if they are becoming more and more incolved as parents and even grandparents...
Why are so many kids leaving home without any faith?
Here's why, according to Robert Putnam and just about any sociologist worth their salt:
Their kids don't see the point. They aren't seeing a real and true committment to spiritual practices in their home. There's no table setting in their house for Jesus.
So they walk out of the house at age 18 or 19 and they are unconvinced that whatever faith their parents claimed to have is really something that is meaningful enough, relevant enough for them.
Or--they see the church that way... pointless, lacking depth, more concerned with it's own survival than making a difference.
So what can we do to make a difference? What can we do to change this trend in our homes, in our churches? What can parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, church members do to turn the tide, and help our kids leave home with faith?
In the end, it all comes down to having a balanced and leveled ground to set up your family table--a table that has a place set for Jesus.
We find our guidance today from the ancient Hebrew book of wisdom, the Proverbs.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.
As we've been learning, these verses are full of wisdom that is beyond the surface meaning that you get by simply reading it. When you start digging around in the ancient Hebrew words, you find so much more.
For example, the first word "Trust" is the Hebrew word batah which actually means to put confidence in and rely upon. There's something so elemental about that, isn't there? It goes beyond just an idea of trust.
Then we have the word "understanding," which is the Hebrew word biynah a word that means insight, wisdom, and discernment. Again, there's something deeper about that meaning, it goes to your gut--way down deep kind of understanding.
So what is it that we are supposed to have such confidence in God about? What is that we are supposed to completely rely upon God to do? What should we know deep down in our guts at a level where it can't be easily removed?
Well, that comes in the last verse--God will make your paths straight. The word "straight" is the Hebrew word yasar which means to make evenly hammered, to level.
And : Here's something that you can put your trust in. Something you can believe with all of your heart and soul, way down deep inside of you in place where you'll always know it somehow...
The table of faith that you pass on to your family rests best on well-hammered, balanced and leveled ground. If you are willing to embrace a close relationship with God, God will make this happen. God will level the ground around you. You will always have a level place to put your family's faith table. No matter where you go, no matter where you are.
And as Christians, we need to make sure that table has a place set for Jesus. Our children and grandchildren need to know that our faith matters to us. They need to know that this isn't just something that we give lip service to.
If we want them to leave home with faith, we need our kids and grandkids to know that there's a table setting for Jesus at our table of faith because we fully expect him to be at dinner, can I get a witness?
How do we do this then? How do we make it a reality?
First, we need to make our faith community a priority.
The book of Hebrews provides a primer on why gathering with our faith community for worship, mission, ministry, and life is the right thing to do:
24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Your family needs to know that your church, your faith community matters to you. And not in a we-go-to-church-because-we're-supposed-to kind of way.
I often joke about how my parents were always at church. We went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening and on Thursday evenings we sometimes went on what was called Visitation where we went out and tried to get other people to come to church.
So when I moved out of the house and didn't have to go to church anymore, that was a pretty big relief.
But over the years: I discovered something. I missed belonging to something that mattered more than me. It was true that I didn't want the same kind of community my parents had been a part of (hell, they didn't want that anymore either), but because I'd seen this modeled, I wanted it.
I need to say something to parents and grandparents. I get that it's hard to negotiate with your middle schooler or high schooler about coming to church. I get it. I've been there. Heck, I am there.
But I just need to say this: If you want your kid to know that there's a place set for Jesus in your family, then you have to make being part of a faith community a non-negotiable. And that means getting them to worship. Getting them to youth group. Getting them to mission trips and camps.
Let your faith community pour into them, teach them, love them, support them. Your family needs to know that church matters.
Second, create a safe space for questions.
Jesus once told his followers:
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
What I'm about to tell you is one of the truest things that you will ever hear when it comes to passing on your faith to the next generation.
The best way to make sure that your kids and grandkids leave home with faith is to instill in them the sure and certain knowledge that it is okay to ask questions.
If you foster a thoughtful faith for your family---the kind of faith that lives with the questions... the kind of faith that is okay with the tension between what you know and what you don't know... your kids and grandkids will be more likely to come out of early adulthood with a faith that will last.
So many Christian tribes are all about the certainty... all about ensuring that kids have their arguments for faith well-formed and put together. But teaching kids to argue rather than be curious... teaching kids to debate rather than to question and listen... it's not working, obviously.
Jesus didn't say, "Make sure you have your theology correct and you will find. Know what you believe and believe what you know and the door will be opened..."
I have spent almost my whole life struggling with my faith, wrestling with the Bible, filled with faith that seeks to understand, and I'm filled with certainty that the older I get the less I seem to know. Let your kids know that this is a lifetime journey.
And if your kids ask questions that you don't have the answer to---hook them up with someone who might. Ask one of your pastors over for dinner--we love dinner. Go to lunch with a trusted friend who you know has been on the journey for a while. Urge them to go get coffee and doughnuts with Neil...
Finally, tell the story---again and again.
In the Hebrew Scriptures we have this awesome bit of advice about telling the story of your faith to the next generation:
19 Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. - Deuteronomy 11:19
Don't ever apologize for sharing the story of your faith with your kids and grandkids, with your nieces and nephews... Don't ever apologize. Tell that story. And when you think you've told it to them too many times, tell them again.
My wife Merideth and I are firm believers in this. We share the story of how we were miraculously brought together after spending years apart---a story that is full of divine intervention. We share the story of how God called us to ministry, how God went before us and performed unbelievable miracles in our life.
We tell the story of how God continues to do amazing, miraculous things all of the time. We tell these stories because we want our kids to know two things: 1) They are part of a bigger story about the great love and redemption of God. 2) That love and redemption is something they can carry with them no matter where they go...
And one day, and this is my great hope and prayer, they may begin to tell stories of their own to their own children.
If you want to keep our homes from being wrecked by our lack of spiritual practices if you want the next generation to leave home with faith...
Set a place at your family table for Jesus.