An old professor of mine used to say ‘The teacher’s questions become the students’ dogma.’ In other words, what the teachers fancies with, the students accept and develop.
Don Carson puts it a slightly different way. He relates the American Mennonite experience as somewhat paradigmatic of what can happen in any church setting. He says, roughly, that the first generation of Mennonites believed the gospel, and saw that it had certain social entailments. The next generation assumed the gospel and believed in the social entailments. The third generation denied the gospel, but was committed to the social entailments.
Every Christian parent and every Christian teacher I know wants to pass gospel-belief on to the next generation. But how do we do that? I would suggest, based on the above insights, that the way to pass the gospel on is to be excited about it.
As Carson has often related, he understands that as a teacher, most of what students hear will be forgotten. But what do students remember? Ultimately, students remember what excites their professors. Children will have impressed on their hearts and minds what was most important to their parents.
Do you want to pass gospel-belief on to the next generation? Then let me ask: What excites you? What occupies your thoughts? Your time? Your imaginations? Do you spend more time on hobbies than on developing gospel-passion and gospel-living?
Everyone laughs when children first begin to imitate their parents and do things we unwittingly do, but they clearly see. It’s funny. They are observant, they notice what we do, even when we don’t. Why would we expect any less when it comes to our spirituality?
What do you speak about most at home? What issues get you most passionate? What causes get you to get excited at the drop of a hat? What habits in your life are the most consistent? What priorities are evident in your home?
These are the things you will pass on… whether we are intentional about it or not.
So let’s be intentional! May it never be said of us that we passed on causes or diets or health-awareness or gender equality or views on parenting or anything that is less important and less eternally significant than the gospel of Jesus Christ.