I’ll own up to it, I am terrible at basketball and I mean really really awful at the game. I could rightfully blame my basketball woes upon a multitude of reasons including my diet and lousy hand-eye coordination, but the biggest reason for my basketball struggles is simply the fact that I never really learned to play the game the right way. While I certainly had basketball lessons in gym class growing up, most of my peers and I grew up learning basketball primarily from the Sega Genesis. In the early to mid nineties sports video games took gigantic steps forward and everything became flashy and cool. The focus of these games became less upon the sports themselves, but more upon cool sports moves you could do with the faster processors. Fast breaks, steals, and most of all slam dunks were the core parts of basketball for my friends and I. When the neighborhood kids played basketball everyone constantly traveled and charged and no one either followed plays or covered players without the ball. We became excited about highlight basketball dunks we saw on ESPN but never cared about what our favorite players did to enable the trick shots. I’m bad at basketball because I grew up playing a game that wasn’t even really basketball and I fear that in the church we can have the same approach to teaching our children the faith.
I was hindered as a young person by learning basketball without ever learning its core principals and we can do far worse damage by teaching the Christian faith to young people without adequately showing them the core principles of our Christian faith. Perhaps you are reading this and thinking, “What are these core truths of the Christian faith?” The answer to such a question is sound doctrine; clearly understanding the basic Biblical truths of the natures of God and mankind and how we are to relate to one another. Studies show most children raised in Christian homes and brought up in Evangelical churches grow up to not even understand the historic Protestant understanding of how and why one can be saved from their sins through Jesus. While Christians today have not been shy to teach their children a lot of the cool and exciting stories of the Bible, we have neglected to pass down the foundational truths of the Bible and thus quickly miss the point of the cool stories in the first place. Most Americans have grown up in Evangelical churches and Christian families that passed down the Christian faith much in the same way as my video games passed basketball down to me. This “Christianity” may have some things in common with true Biblical Christianity but at the end of the day many Americans are really playing a whole different sport.
This has not always been the case by any stretch of the imagination. Before even reaching the promised land the Israelites were commanded to pass down the truths God had taught the nation of who He is and what He has done for His people (Duet 4,6). In the New Testament the most notable positive example of teaching a child God’s Word is inherently doctrinal (2 Tim 3:14-16). When stories of brave or heroic men and women were passed down to children in scripture it was never primarily for simply character development but it was a working out of right doctrine.
Evangelicals have a long and proud history of instilling doctrinal clarity. Martin Luther wrote a popular question and answer doctrine lesson that both parents and churches continue to use today. One of the greatest concerns of the English Puritans who I am so obsessed with was to make sure the next generations understand the beautiful truths of our Christian faith. Many of our favorite old hymns were written to instill and enforce right doctrine for generations to come.
We are not without hope for our ancestors and the little ones in our churches brothers and sisters, we can with God’s grace stop the tide of moralism in our sphere of influence. One might hear otherwise, but parents have more of an impact upon the worldview of children than anyone else. Parents (especially fathers), take the time every week to talk to your children about God and our relationship with Him in scripture. Explain the truths of our sinfulness, Christ’s redemption on the cross, God’s triune nature, and much more because the world will seek to teach them man-centered lies. If you need help in this most Biblical pastors are happy to teach you. Church members, volunteer to minister to the young ones of your church in a way that really teaches them. It is a shame when ministries like children’s church, Sunday school, and other children’s ministries of our churches become mainly entertainment and moral lessons with no substance to them. Take time to deliberately instruct the children you serve on how the Bible is all a story about Jesus, explaining what He has done for them and why He needed to do it. Let us pray that the next generation might love the profound core truths of the Christian faith and not merely know a few exciting stories from the Bible.