Thursday, February 08, 2007

One Generation Away from Extinction

The Church is one generation from extinction.

I have heard this quote many times. So, today, I did a few web searches to try and determine the source of this quote. I found web sites from various denominational sources and various doctrinal positions all attributing this quote to someone from their camp. Regardless of who said it first, there is an obvious truth encompassed here. Yet, in spite of the proliferation of this message, there are precious few who have embraced this message and are actively discipling the next generation to carry the torch. A quick glance at the sites I brought up may give a reason why. It seems that the emphasis associated with this quote is on evangelism. Now, I’m all for evangelism, but I maintain that our primary “targets” for evangelism should be those children in our own homes. Evangelism means more than just simply soliciting an altar call conversion from someone, adding a notch in your Bible, and moving on to the next hunting ground. Rather, true evangelism will lead someone to discipleship. It will involve years of study and a pouring of one’s self into that person whom God converted through your witness. Our children are our main field of evangelism. For it is through them that we can actually spend all this necessary time. It is almost impossible (though with God all things are possible) to spend this same amount of time needed to thoroughly disciple someone not in your family. Men have done it (Paul and Timothy for example). You may be called to do this. Yet, we know from Deuteronomy 6 that God requires this of fathers toward their children. Why is it then that we fail in this endeavor so often? This phenomenon is not new by any means.

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old. And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash. And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.
(Jdg 2:8-10)

Here we see a description of mighty Joshua, one of only two spies under Moses’ authority who brought back a good report on God’s ability to deliver Canaan into Israel’s hand. Joshua and Caleb were the only two of their generation allowed by God to enter the Promised Land. The “up and coming” generation that did enter the Promised Land received their instruction from Joshua. They learned to trust Jehovah God from him. Joshua taught them the Law of Moses. He instructed them concerning the Providences of God on their behalf. However, what Joshua failed to impart into this people was the absolute necessity of carrying on a multi-generational heritage. The result of this was devastating to Israel. How can we miss this?!

You may have a heart that seeks after God. You may serve him with your whole heart. Yet, if your children do not carry on your vision, your family, your church, and your country will be shattered. This is what happened with Joshua. This is what happened with Eli. This is what happened with Job. This is what happened with David. And this is what happened with our American forefathers. We are kidding ourselves if we think it can’t happen to us. We must be deliberate in passing our values on to our children. We must be explicit in explaining our doctrine and the things of God to them. If we neglect this duty, we allow them to “explore on their own” what they will believe. I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I believe that He will lead them according to His will even if we neglect our duty. However, to the extent that we are obedient in His mandate in instructing our children, I believe that God will honor our commitment and preserve our children in the way of righteousness. If my children rebel and embrace heretical teachings, it will be in spite of my instruction, not due to my neglect of it. I pray this will never happen. Yet, while praying, I will do all I can to teach them rightly. I urge you to do the same. Solid Christian fathers, committed to obeying God in their duties to raise their children according to His precepts are the only hope for our declining nation.


Unknown said...

Terrific article Mike.

Blessings to you and your family,

Anonymous said...

I thank God that this is not always true. My father walked away from God when I was about eight years old (maybe sooner!)...and away from our family when I was twelve. There was still hope for me, as I was raised by a godly single mom who instilled in me values, integrity, and all that good stuff. Not to mention the pastors, youth leaders, Sunday School teachers, etc. who spoke into my life as I was growing up. Godly fathers are important, and are the ideal, but don't discount all the other soldiers in the army of God who serve faithfully at their posts, working diligently to rescue the many kids who could fall through they cracks. They...just as much as godly fathers...are the hope for this generation!!

Mike Southerland said...


That's why I said,

I believe in the Sovereignty of God. I believe that He will lead them according to His will even if we neglect our duty.

Obviously, your father neglected his duty toward his children, and yet God, in His sovereignty, preserved you in spite of his neglect.

The point of this article is not to discourage others from discipling children. Rather it is to encourage fathers to be the men they need to be in order to lead their families rightly. It is to point out that men can not always take it for granted that someone else is going to do their job for them. Praise God that He used others to raise you right. But God's design is for fathers to do this with their own children.

Can a child learn the values they need from a mother or others? I believe that Timothy is an example of this. Timothy was raised by a godly mother and grandmother. We are told that his mother was a Jewess, but his father was a Greek. His father was most likely an unbeliever. However, God sent Paul into Timothy's life. Paul discipled Timothy and became a "father" to him. In all our study we should never underestimate the relationship God has shown us in His Word between a father and a son. This relationship, along with the husband/wife relationship are the two most important relationships mentioned in the scriptures, for they relate the relationship we have with Father God, as well as the relationship we have with our groom, Christ Jesus.

So, I must take issue with your last sentence. All the "others" are not the "hope" for this generation. They are merely the means God uses when a father neglects his duty. If all we have are the "others," and fathers refuse to step up to the plate, then I fear that this generation will fall away and not enter the promised land, as exampled by the Israelites dying in the wilderness.

Anonymous said...

Mike, did you see this article?

It's a Barna study about moms vs. dads, who's more spiritual? Didn't know if you'd be interested.

Great post!

Mrs. Pilgrim

Mike Southerland said...

Thanks Mrs. Pilgrim,

That is an informative, but sad article. That is one reason for my passion in reaching out to fathers and encouraging them to be the leaders of their homes God has called them to be. The whole "promise keepers" movement was a good start in recognizing a need, but in my opinion it faltered because the emphasis began to become concentrated on a yearly football stadium rally where "unity" and "reconciliation" became more important that solid doctrine and biblical accuracy.

I blame this whole situation with men being "less spiritual" on the original sin of Adam. In the garden, Adam's primary sin was abdication of leadership. Why did he even allow Eve to have a conversation with the deceitful serpent? Most likely he was standing right there sloughing off his duty to protect her. It takes work to be an effective leader, and unfortunately many men are just too lazy to do it. It takes humility to be a Godly, submissive wife, and unfortunately many women are prideful enough to claim they can do just as well as "any man." The problem is the God has ordained the order, and when we violate His precepts we reap the whirlwind of destruction on our society.

Anonymous said...

I don't really have a whole lot to say, because the basic principles of your article are for the good, and that is commendable.

However, every time I hear that the founding fathers are the exemplimary people by which everything else is judged, I cringe.

Most of them were actually deists, which meant that they may have followed the social practices that were based on Christian ideas and were a part of the social structure/culture in which they lived, but they did not have a personal relationship with Christ.
They may have been good men - good at what they did and good by the standards of their culture, but every society has their own evils....I don't have to go into detail about slavery or the subjection of women and subsequent double moral standard for men in order to make this clear.
Society fluctuates...and God works through culture. He works in many ways we may not realize.

Mike Southerland said...

Dear anonymous:

When I read your comment, I had to go back and reread my article to see where I mentioned the founding fathers. This really wasn't the point of my article. The only mention I could find was "our American forefathers." This could be any of the godly men who have gone before us, including men like Jonathan Edwards, who has a large progeny of pastors that have come forth from his loins.

So, with that said, I will disagree with you though on your generalization of the "founding fathers" of our country. Yes, there were a few deists like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, but the vast majority were God fearing, Christian men. George Washington was an exemplery Christian for instance. Elias Boudinot was a very Godly man. Patrick Henry...the list goes on and on. The "fact" that all the founding fathers were deists is a myth perpetrated by a godless culture that would like to rewrite our history.

On the topic of stealing is condemned in the Bible. This would make the slave trade whereby free men were taken from the shores of their homeland and sold as slaves in the new world a sin. However, the concept of slavery or the social class of some people as slaves is nowhere condemned in the Bible. Rather, we read Paul's admonitions to slaves to "obey their masters." (Col 3:22) In the Old Testament, God ordained many times where the conquered nations would become the slaves of the Israelites. Yes, there were some abuses of chattel slavery in America. However, there were also many Godly, Christian men who also owned slaves with no malice in their hearts. They could, with clear conscience own slaves with an understanding that God in His providence had ordained them to serve in that manner. This is a *very* politically incorrect statement. However, I challenge anyone to show me *from the scriptures* where Christians are commanded never to own slaves. It just isn't there. Certainly slavery existed during Jesus' Earthly ministry. However, He never once condemned it.

On the "subjection of women..."

This just didn't happen. Again, another myth. Christianity is the one religion that did not treat women as an inferior class of people. Christianity, and the chivalry embraced by Christians, held a very high esteem for women. The scripture makes it plain that men and women are equal in worth and value in the sight of God. However, our Christian forefathers rightly understood that there is a difference in *roles* between men and women. These roles are different in the family, in the church, and yes, in the state. Men are to be leaders. Women are to be helpers to men (to their fathers before marriage and to their husbands afterward). This is not my opinion. This is not the opinion of George Washington. This is the teaching of orthodox Christianity. When men fail to lead, they are in sin. When women usurp the authority that men are supposed to have, they are in sin. Modern feminism is a much greater travesty than the "subjection of women" by our 17th, 18th, and 19th century forebears ever was.

Anonymous said...


Let me say that I don't wish to cause unneeded chaos on your personal blog, but I was referred to this link from somewhere else, and I felt the need to at least show a different side. With that said, I saw this and had to read it several times so I made sure I wasn't misunderstanding what you had said:

"However, the concept of slavery or the social class of some people as slaves is nowhere condemned in the Bible. Rather, we read Paul's admonitions to slaves to "obey their masters." (Col 3:22) In the Old Testament, God ordained many times where the conquered nations would become the slaves of the Israelites."

Generally, I don't think it a wise practice to use Old Testament passages in interpreting New Testament ones. The problem is this: each Old Testament passage has very specific cultural applications that cannot be transferred over. The captivity of Israel is one such thing. That was a fulfillment of the Minor (and Major) prophet's prophecies on the punishment of Israel, meant to but also to show God's mercy for not completely wiping them out. He could have if he wanted to, but he didn't. The Minor Prophets are not all doom and gloom.
However, such captivity was a *specific* application that does not apply for all time. A similar thing would be the slavery issues in Philemon (with the escaped slave....I forgot his name right now) where Paul urges Philemon to be merciful. In other passages, Paul's urging for slaves to obey their masters is due to the cultural atmosphere in which they live. He doesn't encourage revolts or anything that would make Christianity (a new struggling religion) look bad. However, this is not the ideal situation. Freedom in Christ truly means that....and hopefully, we would all be striving for that ideal, before the fall, once again.
It's the same with women's treatment in society. The fact that adam has a God-given authority over women is a cultural myth. It is no where supported in Genesis. Anything pertaining to women's "correction" has to do with dealing with the cultural restraints, and is not something Jesus would have liked to perpetuate.
No one is responsible for another's salvation...and equality in Christ should mean that. No if, ands or butts about it. Difference, does not mean "less authority."
We are different, and we should exalt those differences, but authority is equally shared. In Genesis, there is nothing explicit to indicate Adam had first authority. Created order does not mean first authority. Neither does "head."

As for George Washington, there are more than enough Christian scholars who suggest he may not have had a personal relationship with Christ. Again, I will say: he could have been a great person, but whether or not he was a Christian or a follower of Christ, or just one in name, we will not know for sure in this life.

Mike Southerland said...

“Ms. Anonymous,”

Though I find it difficult to carry on a conversation with someone who will not own their own comments, your comments do at least betray your gender. Your comments also warrant the title of “Ms.” rather than the proper titles of “Miss” or “Mrs.”

You say, “The problem is this: each Old Testament passage has very specific cultural applications that cannot be transferred over.” And again, when referring to the New Testament, “Paul's urging for slaves to obey their masters is due to the cultural atmosphere in which they live.” Finally, you end your reasoning with, “Anything pertaining to women's "correction" has to do with dealing with the cultural restraints, and is not something Jesus would have liked to perpetuate.” I ask you, ma’am, where you get the authority to make such statements?

I am a Christian. I believe that the Bible is absolute truth.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
(2Ti 3:16)

What you describe, ma’am, is a “cafeteria style” Christianity whereby you flip through the pages of God’s Holy Word, throwing out anything you don’t agree with under the premise of “that’s no longer culturally relevant.”

I ask you this. Is the Almighty God, the creator of the Universe, able to inspire (or “God breathe” as in 2 Tim 3:16) timeless words that transpire ages and cultures? Certainly, if there are sections of His Holy Word we are to treat differently in different ages, He tells us so. For instance, we no longer sacrifice animals for our sins as *His Word* has told us this has been fulfilled in the sacrifice of His own son. To say there are sections of the *New Testament* that is “not something Jesus would have liked to perpetuate” is either extreme blasphemy, or else you worship a different Jesus than I do. My copy of the scriptures declare that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Heb 13:8). My Bible declares, “For I am the LORD, I change not;” (Mal 3:6)

When you indiscriminately throw out scriptures as being not “culturally relevant,” then our basis for discussion is over. The Word of God is the only standard by which we shall live our lives. Can two walk together, except they be agreed? (Amo 3:3)

So, unfortunately, ma’am we can no longer "walk together." You can blog all day on your own blog about how God’s Word is no longer relevant for today’s Christian, but I don’t believe I’ll be allowing such blather in my comments section going forward.

Mrs. Fitton said...

Dear Mr. Southerland,

Well said... but then, God said it, so of course!!!

Anonymous said...

So what is a parent to do when a child rejects God? (besides pray?)

Mike Southerland said...

First of all, never discount the effectiveness of prayer.

The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Jas 5:16b)

Prayer is a mighty tool God has chosen to use to work out His will in our lives.

Next, you can apply sanctions. This would include the use of the rod if the child is young and at home. If they are older, then consequences such as withholding inheritance would apply.

The key is to raise them right from the beginning. If that has been tried (or even if it was neglected) and failed, then we must trust God to work out His will in their lives. The Doctrines of Grace can bring great comfort in these situations. For we know that if a child is counted among God's elect, they *will* come back into His kingdom. If they are among the reprobate, then no amount of our persuasion or nagging will lure them into the kingdom. That's why God has ordained prayer, particular the prayers of a parent, as an effective tool to intercede on their behalf.

Mike Southerland said...

I was thinking about my last comment and wanted to add something else.

Please don't stop praying for this child. I hope by mentioning "reprobate" in my last comment that I didn't cause you (or anyone else) to lose hope for your children. While what I said is true, none of us can firmly know that our family, or anyone else for that matter, is truly reprobate until they have died unrepentant in their sins.

No matter the depth to which your child has sunk or the distance he has run away from God, he is not beyond the powerful reach of Almighty God. God has told us to pray diligently for others, and particularly our children. Don't give up on this child unless he is already dead.

Some of the "vilest offenders who truly believe, that moment from Jesus forgiveness receives." (from "To God be the Glory") While modern examples abound of vile sinners who turn to God and become powerful preachers of the Gospel, you need look no further than the Apostle Paul who persecuted the Church and stood by consenting unto the death of Stephen. Yet Paul was arrested on the road to Damascus and powerfully changed. The Lord still turns the hearts of his enemies to make them into His own sons.

The Halseths said...

Dear Mike,

I just randomly came across your article and really enjoyed your challenge to me as a father. I'm 33 yrs old, married, have three children (so far) - ages 6 to 1yr and work for a Christian missions organization, all of which I am so blessed. Recently God has been showing me that it is easier to make time for ministry outside the home rather than inside the home. Please pray for me. I want to "impress" the truths of God on my children as we are instructed to do in Duet. 6. But I often feel tired and unmotivated at the end of the day and as a result lack the self-discipline to make them a priority. If you have any suggestions on how I can be a better father in leading them spiritually that would be awesome (perhaps ideas that you do with your kids). God Bless,