Every parent, grandparent, and pastor I know all want to see their children grow up to know, love, and follow Jesus for a lifetime. We want our children to smell like the scent of heaven and to spend eternity there.
Unfortunately, many Christian young people are unprepared to navigate the tidal wave of unbiblical ideas that confront them. We all know teenagers who have drifted and walked away from Christ. We never think that person could one day be our own child. When the pressure is turned up, our children will struggle if they don’t have confidence that comes from knowing what they believe and why they believe it.
We are losing our children to the world at alarming rates. Evangelical mega-churches pride themselves on an attractional model that attempts to reach seekers with the gospel while our children are evangelized into secular humanistic thought by the very people we are trying to reach. Who is doing a better job evangelizing children, the world or the church? If we are honest, many churches are struggling to pass on a deep, lasting, Bible-shaped faith to future generations.
Parents and grandparents want the best for children, yet passions and priorities are often out of order. Athletics, academics, and the arts are often prioritized over the nurture of a child’s faith. Children may end up at a prestigious university or receive an athletic scholarship, but their faith lags far behind and leaves them vulnerable to the deception of the world. George Barna states, “A person’s worldview is primarily shaped and is firmly in place by the time someone reaches the age of thirteen; it is refined through experience during the teen and early adult years, and then it is passed on to others during their adult life. Such studies underscore the necessity of parents and other influencers being intentional in how they help develop the worldview of children.” High numbers of parents and grandparents are not developing their child’s worldview, and the spiritual vacuum is filled with cultural ideas and secular thought.
That’s why worldview matters. That phrase describes our message to parents, grandparents, and pastors. Biblical worldview is worthy of our attention and resources. Below are six reasons why every family and church needs to help children develop a biblical worldview.
A BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW:
1. PROVIDES WISDOM FOR LIFE
When you have a parenting problem, where do you look for answers? When you want to learn how to grandparent, where do you turn for guidance? When you want teaching methods, where do you look for ideas? When you have a decision to make, where do you turn for wisdom?
The Bible claims to provide everything needed for salvation in Jesus, growth into Christlikeness, and obedience to God’s commands. The reformers called this sola Scriptora, which translates to Scripture alone. The doctrine of sufficiency is found in 2 Timothy 3:15-17: “The sacred writings are able to make you wise for salvation in Christ Jesus ... and equipped for every good work.” Peter makes the same claim when he says that God “has given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Pet 1:3). The key word in these verses is the word “everything.” God has given us everything we need to do what he has commanded us in the Bible.
The most urgent need for Christians today is to reclaim the sufficiency of Scripture for all of life. James Montgomery Boice makes a similar observation: “In Martin Luther’s day, sola Scriptura had to do with the Bible being the sole ultimate authority for Christians over against challenges to it from the traditions of the medieval church, church councils, and the Pope. The reformers wanted Scripture to stand alone as the church’s true authority. Today, at least in the evangelical church, that is not our chief problem—we assert biblical authority—but rather, whether the Bible is sufficient for the church’s life and work. We confess its authority, but we discount its ability to do what is necessary to draw unbelievers to Christ, enable us to grow in godliness, provide direction for our lives, and transform and revitalize society ... in other words, in the sixteenth century the battle was against those who wanted to add church traditions to Scripture, but in our day the battle is against those who would have us use worldly means to do God’s work.”
“Using worldly means to do God’s work.” That is an unfortunate statement but a common reality. Families look to psychology to help them raise children instead of the Bible. Pastors import business practices while pragmatism drives decisions rather than the methodology of Scripture. Christian schools utilize secular textbooks instead of Bible-based curriculum. Psychology, pragmatism, and secular textbooks are symptoms of a deeper theological problem that results from an under-developed grasp of the sufficiency of Scripture and leads to replacing the authority of the Bible with another source. When it comes to parenting, grandparenting, education, and the church, will we look to the Bible for our instruction or to another source?
2. DEVELOPS THE FOUNDATION FOR LIFELONG FAITH IN JESUS
Perhaps you’ve heard about the high number of young people who are dropping out of the church, walking away from their faith in Christ, and the low numbers of young believers who have a biblical view of life. I’ve been a pastor to families for nearly twenty years and have seen the following patterns develop:
Biblical illiteracy: Alarmingly high numbers of children raised in Christian homes do not know what the Bible teaches.
Biblical confusion: High numbers of young Christians do not know why they should believe the teachings of the Bible instead of other views.
Biblical immaturity: When young people encounter a different belief system, many do not know how to defend their faith or explain the basic truths of the Bible.
What leads to lifelong faith for children? According to the apostle Paul, a Scripture-saturated, Bible-based upbringing shapes the beliefs of children. Paul instructs Timothy, “Continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings” (2 Tim 3:14-15).
One of Paul’s goals for Timothy is firm belief which is the result of three things: what Timothy learned (biblical truth), who he learned from (parent, grandparent, and spiritual mentor), and how he learned (being taught the Bible from childhood). Notice, the Bible is concerned with what children learn, who teaches children, and how children are to learn. If we want children to live a godly life, for their entire life, then these are God’s methods toward that end. Scores of Christian children have not been taught the Scriptures, leaving them susceptible to false teaching, immaturity, and unbelief.
3. SHAPES CHARACTER AND CONDUCT BY TRUTH
A common phrase used to communicate how to pass on faith to future generations is this, “Faith is caught, not taught.” It sounds spiritual. Unfortunately, it’s unbiblical. The Bible elevates both as important. Faith is caught, which is why we must be able to say to young people, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Faith is also taught. The Bible prioritizes teaching as the primary method of helping future generations know Christ and grow in maturity. Let’s explore a few passages (paraphrased) that command parents and grandparents to teach the truth of God’s Word to young people.
Teach these things to your children and your children’s children (Deut 4:9).
You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk about them when you sit, walk, lie down, and when you rise (Deut 6:7).
He commanded our [grand]fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children (Ps 78:5-6).
Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and forsake not your mother’s teaching (Prov 1:8).
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4).
Older women ... are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind and submissive to their own husbands. Older men ... urge the younger men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:2-6).
Parents and grandparents are to use the Bible to shape who a child becomes and how the child lives. This is the pattern and command of Scripture. Parents and grandparents in Deuteronomy were commanded to teach the law of God (Ten Commandments) to children so that future generations develop an understanding of right and wrong. The father and mother in Proverbs provide an example on how to train children to develop a biblical view of life as they instruct their son to make wise choices about friendship (1:10), money (3:9), marriage (5:18), and work (6:6), and more. The grandparents of Titus 2 shape future generations by providing character training and guidance on how to be a godly mother and wife.
4. DEFENDS AGAINST COUNTERFEIT IDEAS
A biblical worldview helps children defend their faith. Raising children today requires a Colossians 2:7-8 mindset: “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”
The strategy that Paul provides is simple. We are to teach the core truth of Scripture so that a Christian is established in the faith, then introduce a competing belief system and dismantle it by exposing why it is false. When I teach kids, I refer to this as the Bible’s big truth and the world’s big lie.
The two most prominent philosophies children are exposed to today are secular humanism and socialism. Familiarize yourself with them, learn what they teach, why they are deficient, and be able to point out these arguments when you see them in education, media, or culture. In a post-Christian society, children are going to face strong opposition and competing belief systems, and unless they are rooted in the Bible, they will absorb the ideas of our day and assimilate to the beliefs of our culture. Our aim is to shape the beliefs of young people, and to do that, we must train children to defend their faith against deceptive and competing belief systems.
5. ANSWERS THE BIG QUESTIONS OF LIFE
A biblical worldview answers the big questions children ask: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Who am I? What went wrong with the world? What is the solution? What is the purpose of life? What happens in the future?
Young people are hungry for truth and are searching for answers. They desire open and honest face-to-face conversations. Young people want real answers and are attracted to authenticity. Due to an overabundance of information, young people do not know what information is trustworthy; thus they have a prove-it-to-me mindset. One of the most compelling proofs for young people is an authentic life. The individual that speaks the truth in love and practices what he or she preaches is incredibly influential in a young person’s life. Here are three suggestions to answer the spiritual questions children will have:
Ask questions before children ask them. Don’t be afraid to talk about difficult topics. Encourage children to think deeply about the truths of the Bible.
Answer with Scripture. Encourage children to become a student of God’s Word. They either know the answer or know where to get the answer.
Aim to be an askable parent, grandparent, pastor, or teacher. Invite questions, take them seriously, and answer them diligently so that the child who is weighing the claims of the Bible will be persuaded to believe in Christ.
6. EQUIPS INDIVIDUALS FOR SERVICE TO CHRIST
The world does not need Christians who are culturally-saturated. It needs agents of the gospel filled with the aroma of Christ. A biblical worldview not only shapes what a child believes but also equips the child to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, for the good of others and the glory of God through their future vocation. A biblical view of topics such as science, law, medicine, and education will provide the framework so that children can positively impact the world for Christ. A biblical worldview equips children to serve God using the gifts He has given them.
Dr. Josh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation. He served as a pastor for nearly 20 years and helped launch The Legacy Coalition, a ministry that equips grandparents to pass faith on to future generations. He holds a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting and Preparing Children for Marriage. Josh is married to Jen, and they have five children. Connect with Josh on Twitter at @DrJoshMulvihill.