The stats suggest that well more than half of young people will leave the Church after they leave their childhood Christian home. I’m convinced that the major reason for this is a lack of learned and modeled engagement in the deeper spiritual life on the part of parents and kids.
Mom and dad, you and I will go to incredible lengths and allow our kids to endure incredible difficulties to guarantee high test scores for college, to pass driver’s education, but why aren’t we urgently guiding them into deeper spiritual lives?
What is a great career compared to eternal life? What does it matter if they make a better living if it comes at the cost of really living life with God?
I’ve collected five principles we can apply in the direction of raising our kids not only as successful people but, most importantly, as capable spiritual warriors.
1. It starts with us. God has given us children for our benefit and for His glory. The warrior motif in Psalm 127 is pretty clear. “Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from Him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.” (Psalms 127:3-4 NLT)
It must become our joy to see them fighting spiritual battles. (Colossians 2:5)
2. It continues with God. I was talking to a loving mother one day about my willingness to die for the Lord if that was His will. I was telling her how we must entrust our kids with God to follow Him anywhere. She was stunned, proclaiming, “I don’t want that for my child!” Our protectiveness must end where God’s leading begins. It isn’t easy to watch your baby go off to spiritual battle, but if our kids would know The Lord in fullness we must entrust them to Him completely.
Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (NLT) Mom and Dad, their lives are for the Lord.
3. Have the hard conversations. I’m a Pastor. When your kids are at church I can do my very best to teach and preach God’s Word over them. But I can’t disciple them for you. Make the home a place for serious discussion on topics that matter.
Consider Proverbs 22:6, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” (NLT) The Greek root for “Direct” or “Train up” in the King James Version is “chanak” and it most literally means “to narrow.”
Our role in their lives is to narrow their focus to the most important things. The spiritual wars are waging and it is our calling in the lives of our children to give them the biblical and practical information they need to make wise spiritual decisions. (Matthew 7:13)
4. Teach them to put on their armor. I practice and teach my kids a system of self defense called “Totally Christian Karate.” Unlike so many other forms of self defense and martial strategy that I’ve been involved with for many years, it is a system of physical movements primarily aimed at teaching spiritual warfare. The physical movements are metaphor for the real spiritual battles we face.
The founder of the system renamed one hundred and one traditional karate movements after Bible passages. My favorite are the three primary blocks against our enemy the devil who is always prowling around like a roaring like seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:8) An upward block is a “helmet of salvation.”
Don’t make religionists of your kids. Lead them to Jesus to trust in Him for salvation. But don’t stop there! Teach them to walk in confidence in the face of trials in the world because if we are in Christ, we are not of this world. A low block is a “belt of truth.” We must model and instruct our kids to avoid the confusion of the postmodern world. We must model and shape their thinking according to the regular infusion of Scripture into their lives and our family conversation.
A middle block is a “breastplate of righteousness.” It is my favorite block of all. Short. Simple. It is an instant defense against the accuser. Model and teach our children to live rightly before God and man. Avoid scandalous behavior and learn to be content with godly living. Teach them that we’re not missing out on anything to avoid running along with the crowds. Holiness is a far greater treasure than popularity with people who are perishing. (Ephesians 6:10-20)
Of course, you don’t have to use something like TCK to accomplish it. We’ve got to instill in our kids to see their life as a useful instrument in the hands of God and that they can overcome temptation and trial using the weapons of our warfare. (II Corinthians 10:3-5, James 4:7)
5. Teach them greater responsibility. When Peter Parker’s uncle told him “With great power comes great responsibility” Spider-man sprung into action. The follower of Jesus has access to a power far greater than any spider bite caused genetic mutation. We have access to the Kingdom of God and the collective spiritual and practical strength of the Body of Christ in the world.
We have the Holy Spirit and love. We also have a mandate and a mission.
In Matthew 28:18-20 we get our marching orders as spiritual warriors. “Jesus came and told His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (NLT)
We have a responsibility to take Christ to our neighbors and the nations. Get your kids involved directly with local outreach and foreign missions. To make black belt level spiritual warriors, you’ve got to start with white belt training. Everything from shoe boxes to bake sales are a good start but keep them advancing until they are using their own spiritual gifts to make a Kingdom impact!
The day after they leave our homes, they will be the same person they were the day before. Make today count. Fearlessly get them ready to go. Our mission is to reach our neighbors and the nations, our mandate is the very presence and power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus filling our hearts.
Mom and Dad, making spiritual warriors starts with our attitude, continues with our modeling and training and continues with our prayerful support of them continuing in what they’ve been taught. Let’s get serious about training warriors for Christ!