Raising Spiritual Champions According to Barna

So we want to talk about raising spiritual champions according to Barna research. So I don’t know if you guys have seen his book, Revolutionary Parenting, it’s a few years old but it was done after a lot of research into what really causes children to typically hold onto their faith. The research showed that 61% of 20 somethings were spiritually disengaged that grew up in families that were very faithful. And so, Jeff and I have talked a lot about this epidemic in the evangelical culture. So what Barna wanted to do is say, “Well, what about the other 39% that were holding onto their faith, what did they have in common?” And so, they were looking for what they called spiritual champions. These were people that had embraced Jesus as Lord, except the Bible as truth and seek to live in obedience to its principles.

And there were a bunch of takeaways I wanted to share with you guys three and Jeff, get your reaction. So one is that churches alone do not and cannot have much influence on children. In fact, the greatest influence a church may have in affecting children is by impacting their parents. And so, when they actually studied the impact that the church was having on the family, it was influential on the parents, but it didn’t tend to have as much of an influence on the children as they had expected, or certainly as the family did. A second takeaway is that our research found that parents are more likely to raise spiritual champions if they accept the fact that from day one their parenting efforts will stray from the norm and will put them at odds with parents who are pursuing a more conventional approach, so this is a big thing we talk a lot about within family teams.

One of the hardest things that a lot of families that are really adopting this philosophy that God designed family to be a multi-generational team on mission is that they were like, “Well, that really puts us in a different category from other parents and we just want to be normal. We want to just do it like the normal way, give us the normal stuff.” And one of the things that Barna found was that one of the predictable elements of what caused kids to hold on to their faith was parents who were not afraid to stray from the normal. And so, I encourage you guys don’t hold onto that too tightly. Our culture is headed in its own direction and it’s not been healthy for families or for children. The third takeaway is these parents intentionally identified their children as their main earthly focus in life during their parenting years.

And so, do you feel like you have something better to do? Do you have a better, more important mission than to disciple your children and to raise a Godly family? There are lots of other missions that you ought to take on throughout your life, but man, during those parenting years, do you see that as your primary focus? They’ve discovered that these kids who actually held on to their faith had parents who had that perspective. And so, this is another one of those predictable challenging things is that you think you’re “building the kingdom” by neglecting your family and going on mission but you have all of these kids now that are losing their faith and our impact for the kingdom could have multiplied into the next generation and maybe more generations beyond, but we’ve missed on that because we were afraid to really do the work of parenting and make that a primary focus during those years. So those are three really helpful takeaways, but yeah, Jeff, what does that stir up for you?

Yeah, I think I loved number two and I totally agree where you’re more likely to raise spiritual champions if they accept from the fact that day one that their parenting efforts will stray from the norm. I just think that’s so important that you have to be resolute and understanding that there’s different kingdoms, right? And if you’re going to raise kingdom of Jesus children, then that means they will have no allegiance and actually be subversively disagreeing with other kingdoms by their life. And if you’re vacillating and trying to be in different kingdoms, that just doesn’t make sense even physically, right? To try to give allegiance to four different kings, four different kingdoms, four different charters, four different governments, four different constitutions.

It doesn’t make sense, but a lot of us, we do that though because it feels more practical or feels like a lot of other reasons, but that’s not what the kingdom of Jesus is like, that when you’re under his reign and rule, you will look different. Now, hopefully you should be more gracious than everyone as well, right? And more kind than everyone else and as loving as everyone else, so it’s not just being distinct for a distinctive sake, but yeah, I just think that’s really, really important. So I love these and I think, man, chewing on those makes a big difference.

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