That our children might love Jesus
Our oldest daughter, Sarah Grace, was born almost 12 years ago. Shortly after her birth, which was a bit hectic because of some slight complications during delivery, we gathered together around her, and I held her and prayed for her that her heart would be turned to Jesus at a young age. From that time until now, Tracy and I have prayed diligently that our daughters would know and love Jesus. Not long ago Kessed, our youngest daughter, approached me to tell me that she had trusted Christ. After some probing questions, we felt confident that her commitment to Christ was genuine and that her comprehension of the gospel was more than sufficient. During this dialogue, our oldest expressed to us that she had also recently decided to trust Christ, but she had neglected to tell her mom & me because of nervousness. Once again we quizzed her, and once again we felt confident in the genuineness of her faith, as far as we could be confident. Thankfully our church offers a wonderful "New Christians Class" for children who have come to faith to help them be clear on the fundamentals of their faith, as well as the discipline of walking with Christ. After they completed that class, they were baptized. Even more special to me, however, was that I was able to baptize both of them, on the same day. Our church, like many other churches, asks each baptismal candidate to share their testimony of faith via video prior to each baptism. Below I have posted both of their videos because I think they can encourage you, and because I can't stop watching them. ;-)
However, before you see the videos, I thought I would mention four things that Tracy and I have tried to be diligent about with our children, in an effort to pastor them well and lead them to their own faith. I am occasionally asked by parents what it looks like to pastor your children, so maybe this can be a helpful anecdote to encourage you. I am convinced that these four helps were influential in our girls' appropriation of faith.
1. We prayed for our children's salvation, in private and in front of them. Tracy and I have prayed individually and together for the salvation of our children. This is not groundbreaking, I am sure. Hopefully most Christian parents are doing the same. However, one thing we began doing early on, and have continued throughout their life, was praying with them for their salvation. Daily, almost without fail, we would gather with our girls and pray that they would come to a day where they would understand their need for Jesus, his gift of salvation and their need to trust him. We were explicit and unashamed about this desire. In addition to this, Tracy in particular has diligently prayed scripture for them, asking God to confirm the truth of his word in their lives.
2. We imperfectly modeled a commitment to the gospel. We have tried to model for our girls dependence on Jesus and repentance when we have failed as individuals and parents. I am convinced that among the worst thinga a parent can do is model some sort of false perfection. I think our tendency is to avoid admission of failure to our children, in an effort to appear in control. This too often can backfire, however, making genuine faith appear out of reach to our children and failing to teach our children how necessary grace is in our lives.
3. We shared the gospel with them. We placed our children in situations where they would hear the gospel, but we very intentionally and persistently shared the gospel in clear and certain terms with them. I would imagine we shared the gospel with each of our daughters individually, and both daughters corporately, hundreds of times in their young lives. It seems to me that, as parents, we often assume much about our children and their comprehension of the gospel. However, the danger is to push our children prematurely or to coerce them into a commitment. That both of our girls made commitments to Christ individually, and came to us to share their decision was a great encouragement to our hearts.
4. We embedded our lives in a local church. Finally, we center our lives around our local church community. This was obvious and expected when I was a Senior Pastor. However, when we stepped out of that role and looked for a church to join, we quickly found one upon moving to Tennessee and embedded our lives in that church community. In fact, we recently moved closer to our church community, even though it doubled my morning commute, because we believe that God's design is for our faith to be developed in Christian community. Sarah Grace, in particular, shares in her testimony that an essential element to her faith was hearing our pastor encourage people who were not yet believers to take Christ, instead of the supper, as our church took communion. Do not overlook the spiritual importance of Christian community.
“Imprint these words of mine on your hearts and minds, bind them as a sign on your hands, and let them be a symbol on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that as long as the heavens are above the earth, your days and those of your children may be many in the land the Lord swore to give your fathers. - Deuteronomy 11:18-21