A Three-Fold Responsibility
The Bible teaches that there is a three-fold responsibility in the rearing of Christian children.
First, the child himself is responsible before God.
“Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right” (Proverbs 20:11).
Though parents and churches have a dramatic influence on young people, no one will be able to stand before God and claim that he did not know the truth or be able to blame someone else for his rebellion. Jesus Christ gives light to every man (John 1:9). The book of Romans describes three forms of light: the light of creation (Rom. 1:20), the light of conscience (Rom. 2:11-16), and the light of the Scriptures (Rom. 3:1-2). When a man responds to the light he has, God gives him more. It is God Himself that enlightens men and guides them to the truth, but they must respond. The book of Proverbs describes this:
“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? And the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called and ye refused: I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil” (Proverbs 1:22-33).
Scorners have no excuse, and this is particularly true for those who grow up in Christian homes. They can read the Bible and seek God for themselves. They cannot blame their rebellion on the Christians they have known, regardless of how hypocritical or unscriptural they are.
Second, the parents are responsible to raise the child in the right way.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
This verse contains a promise for parents who train their children properly, though it certainly does not promise that the children will not go through some spiritual struggles. An ancient Waldensian instruction manual contained the following wise counsel:
“Instruct thy son in the fear of the Lord, and in the ways of God’s laws, and in the faith. Despair not of thy child when he is unwilling to receive correction, or if he prove not speedily good; for the laborer gathereth not the fruits of the earth as soon as it is sown; but he attends a fitting time” (Waldensian discipline, Jean Paul Perrin, History of the Ancient Christians Inhabiting the Alps, “History of the Old Albigenses,” Book 3, Chapter 7, 1618).
Third, the church is responsible, as the pillar and ground of the truth, to disciple both parents and young people in Christ.
“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
The Great Commission was given to the churches, and part of that command was as follows: “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20). Thus it is the church’s job to train both parents, children, and young people in their responsibilities before Christ.
Some Things That Produce Rebels
It is no accident that some families and churches produce godly young people and some do not. Following are some of the things that produce rebellious young people:
1. Hypocritical Christianity
Few things cause more damage in this world than hypocritical Christianity. Most of the rock music pioneers grew up in Christian homes, yet they turned out to be tenacious rebels. One of the reasons was the gross hypocrisy in the lives of their parents.
Elvis Presley’s mother, for example, was a churchgoer but she did not live a consistent Christian life. In fact, she drank herself into an early grave. She was extremely superstitious, though the Bible condemns this as a form of occultism. She even prayed to a dead son, Elvis’s twin who died at birth. She was double-minded and lukewarm, up and down in her spiritual life, unfaithful to church. Elvis’s father was even more of a hypocrite. Though he claimed to be a Christian and attended church sometimes, he was a moonshiner and a drunkard and lived for the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Jerry Lee Lewis’s parents were also professing Christians, but the home was filled with the flesh rather than godliness. A biographer says that his parents fought constantly. His father was a moonshiner who made and sold illegal liquor.
Marvin Gaye’s father was a preacher, but his Christianity was grossly hypocritical. He rarely worked, drank heavily, and even wore his wife’s silk blouses, panties, and nylons on occasion. He was mean to his boys, beating them unreasonably. Marvin described living with his father as “living with a very peculiar, changeable, cruel, and all-powerful king” (Rock Bottom, p. 104).
To use a more recent example, Marilyn Manson (real name Brian Warner) grew up in a Christian home. His parents are Episcopalian, and he was educated in an interdenominational Christian school. For awhile with a girlfriend he attended Ernest Angely’s charismatic church. In his biography he recalls being frightened at the prospect of being caught unsaved at Christ’s return. In an interview with MTV in 1997, he said he even had nightmares about that, yet he did not want to go forward during the invitations and be saved. Instead he hardened his heart to Christ. If we can believe his own testimony, Warner’s home life was not godly. His mother spoiled him, while his father encouraged him to visit a prostitute when he was a teenager. “For a period, my parents had violent screaming matches because my father suspected her of cheating on him with an ex-cop turned private investigator” (Marilyn Manson, The Long Hard Road out of Hell, p. 47).
Many other examples could be given. Parents who claim to be Christians and who attend church but who do not live for Christ in their daily lives are in great danger of producing rock & roll rebels. Many Christian homes are filled with the works of the flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit. Instead of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance, there is anger, jealousy, strife, impatience, uncleanness, self-centeredness, self-will, unreasonableness, stubbornness, and bossiness.
Many Christian parents have a form of godliness by attending church and going through some of the motions, but their real love is the things of this world, such as sports, fishing, hunting, their jobs, politics, fashion, sensual Hollywood programs, etc. You can tell what they really love by observing how they spend their time and money. Children know what their parents most deeply love, and they usually follow in their footsteps. If the parents genuinely love the Lord Jesus Christ and His service, the children usually follow suit; but if they love the things of this world, they usually follow that.
Many parents who wonder what went wrong with their children should look no further than their own lukewarmness, double-mindedness, worldliness, and spiritual hypocrisy.
2. Weak Fathers
“And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
Another common problem is weak fathers. For some reason, it is easier for a man to fail as a father than to succeed. Many men in the Bible who loved God and accomplished great things for God failed as fathers. We can see this in the lives of many rock & roll rebels. We have already described the weakness of the fathers of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Marvin Gaye. Many others could be mentioned. In his misnamed biography, Marilyn Manson gives this testimony about his relationship with his father:
“It was emblematic of the way he [Warner’s father] had always treated me, which is that he didn’t treat me at all. He didn’t care and wasn’t around to care. … he would always find an excuse to blow up at me. … Most of my childhood and adolescence was spent in fear of him. He constantly threatened to kick me out of the house and never failed to remind me that I was worthless and would never amount to anything. So I grew up a mama’s boy, spoiled by her and ungrateful for it” (Marilyn Manson, The Long Hard Road out of Hell, pp. 46,47)
One of the greatest needs of our time is for Christian fathers to be real men of God and to be dedicated to Jesus Christ and to their families and churches.
3. Absentee Mothers
Another great problem in our day is that of absentee mothers. The Bible plainly describes a mother’s responsibility to her children and home. They are “to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, KEEPERS AT HOME, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2:4, 5).
The feminist movement of the past 50 years has sought to “free” women from biblical restraints, and today it is common for mothers to work outside the home and to leave the training of their children to baby sitters, relatives, teachers, and others.
We realize that some mothers are forced to work by circumstances entirely beyond their control, such as the death or injury of their husbands. No one faults this. What is fault worthy, though, is the large numbers of Christian mothers who choose to work outside the home instead of being there for their children.
Ronald Williams is the founder and director of the Hephzibah House, a home for troubled girls. For many years the Hephzibah House has been attempting to straighten out rebellious girls who grew up in Christian homes. Brother Williams has heard the sad testimonies of hundreds of parents who have lost their children to the world and who regret that they did not take the Bible more seriously.
“Recognizing the relatively short time a child is in the home, they would have put stress on teaching obedience, self control, personal responsibility, and character training. They would have taught them to work and would have diligently used the rod and reproof during the whole process of child training. They would have chosen their children’s friends and scrupulously kept them away from wrong influences, both in terms of other youngsters and activities. Because they love them, they would have purged their house of every television set. They would have insisted on regular family altar, Bible reading, prayer, and faithful church attendance. They would not have allowed wrong music or clothing, nor would they have allowed their children to participate in other ‘fads’ that were popular” (Ronald Williams, Working Mothers).
Further, since the accomplishment of all of these things requires a full-time parent, Brother Williams says that many grieving parents have told him, “WE WOULD HAVE KEPT MOM AT HOME.”
4. Lack of or Improper Discipline.
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Another area of failure that can produce rock & roll rebels is the lack of child discipline or improper child discipline.
Following are a few of the essential areas of biblical discipline:
The discipline must begin early. “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Prov. 13:24). Many parents do not discipline their children when they are young. They try to reason with them instead of using the rod to teach them obedience. They ignore the child’s disobedience. Undisciplined children are a shame to their parents and a nuisance to everyone else. They grow up self-willed, angry and frustrated with themselves, and they do not understand or possess the fear of God.
The discipline must be godly, meaning it must have qualities such as compassion, patience, firmness, and consistency. Proverbs speaks of the “rod of correction,” not the rod of anger. Inconsistent and harsh discipline frustrates children and causes them to rebel against authority.
The discipline must be given from a basis of unity between father and mother. “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as BEING HEIRS TOGETHER of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Children quickly sense division between their parents and attempt to work one parent against the other to get their way. It is crucial that the parents have one mind in rearing their children and that they work out any differences in private.
The discipline must not become lax in the teenage years. If anything, parents need to have a closer relationship than ever with their children when they reach their teen years. It is customary, though, for parents to back off and give teenagers unsupervised adult liberties. Many young people have their own cars, televisions, computers, mobile phones, internet access, etc., with little or no adult supervision. Parents who grant such liberty should not be surprised when their children succumb to the powerful temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” (Proverbs 29:15).
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
5. Unholy Associations
Another cause for failure in Christian homes is to allow children to develop unholy associations.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
“He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20).
“Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, WITH THEM that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22).
“But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; OF THE NATIONS CONCERNING WHICH THE LORD SAID UNTO THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL, YE SHALL NOT GO IN TO THEM, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that HIS WIVES TURNED AWAY HIS HEART AFTER OTHER GODS: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father” (1 Kings 11:1-4).
In looking back on my own life, I am convinced that one of the most major causes for in my rebellion was public school and the ungodly relationships that I made there. I spent far more time in that worldly environment each week than I did at church. I made worldly friends and developed a taste for worldly things.
Though some young people who have attended government schools have turned out strong for the Lord, that is the rare exception and not the rule. For each one that has turned out right, there are probably a thousand who succumbed to the lure of the world.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Dr. Keith Wanser, a physics scientist in California, grew up in a Bible-believing church but lost his faith and morals in a secular college. This sad story has been repeated countless times.
It is not only public government schools and colleges that are dangerous. Many Christian schools are such in name only and are almost as worldly as the public institutions. When choosing a Christian school, wise parents will look at the product. How do most of the young people turn out? There will always be exceptions, but what do you observe in the majority? Do a high percentage of the graduates go on to serve Jesus Christ, or are they more committed to the things of this world? I do not mean that most of the young people should be going into “full time Christian service.” That is a special calling of God. What I mean is that a high percentage of the young people should be true disciples of Jesus Christ and this will be evident in their daily lives.
It often happens that worldly relationships are developed by young people even in their own Bible-believing churches. Parents must jealously guard against this. If they find themselves in a church in which the majority of the young people are worldly and they see their own children moving in the direction of the world, it is essential that they leave before it is too late.
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33).
Leaving a church is not easy, but it is far better to do that than lose one’s children to the world. I recall a family that was forced to do this a few years ago. They home schooled their kids and were separated from the world in their family life, but the relationships the children were developing in the church were undermining this separation. The church had a reputation of holding godly standards, but in practice this was not the case. The youth director was worldly, and this was eventually reflected throughout the youth group. Some of the parents approached the pastor about the problem, but he turned a blind eye to it. Since there was not a good church nearby that supported their godly standards in practice, this family was were forced to move their home.
If a church or school is consistently producing worldly young people, something is wrong. Many church and school leaders blame the parents for all the failures while taking credit for any successes. One youth leader told my wife that he is not accountable for how the young people turn out, that the parents alone are accountable. That would be a pretty neat trick, if it were true, but it is not reasonable. If parents alone are responsible, why did the Lord establish the church? And why do churches have programs for young people? It is nonsense to say that a church or a Christian school has no responsibility in how its young people turn out. The parents have their responsibility, and the churches and schools also have theirs. Everyone who touches the lives of the young people has some responsibility before God for his or her influence.
6. The Wrong Church
Another very common factor in the failure of child training is the wrong church. For parents to take their kids to church is not sufficient to rescue children from the world. It must be the right church. Though most rock pioneers were raised in church, they were not strong Biblical churches, for the most part.
Most were Pentecostal, for example, and held the doctrine that a born again child of God can lose his salvation. This produces great confusion in the Christian life, because the individual does not know where and how he stands with God. He doesn’t understand the difference between his eternal position in Christ and his practice in this present world. When he sins, the devil tempts him with the thought that he is lost, that God does not love him, that he might as well go into the world.
False doctrine is not the only church problem that can spoil children. Such things as lack of godly standards for leadership, lack of separation from the world, and lack of spiritual zeal and vision can create a church atmosphere that produces a crop of spiritually bankrupt youth
Exceptions aside, godly young people are the product of God-fearing homes working in harmony with God-fearing churches. If the church does not back up the home’s biblical standards, the home is undermined. If the home does not back up the church’s biblical standards, the church is undermined. They must work in harmony. Even a godly home can be undermined by a worldly church, and vice versa.
How the church can undermine the home:
Unqualified, unspiritual leaders and workers. Even a home that is God-fearing and zealous for the Lord will be undermined by a church that has worldly leaders and teachers. The pastors, Sunday School teachers, and youth workers will influence the young people one way or the other, either toward the world or toward the things of God. This is why it is so essential that churches have high standards for workers. If men and women have demonstrated that they are worldly and that they do not have the ability to lead young people in God-fearing paths, they should never be allowed to teach or otherwise be involved with the training of children and youth. I know of many churches, though, in which teachers and youth workers are very worldly-minded and have even lost their own children to the world, yet the church places them in positions so they can continue to influence other people’s children. This will undermine the homes.
Lighthearted, entertainment-oriented youth programs instead of spiritual discipleship. A church that has a worldly, entertainment-oriented youth program will drag down the spiritual condition and zeal of young people from God-fearing families.
Boring preaching and ritualistic church services that lack God’s power and blessing. Many church services among fundamental Baptist churches today are almost completely lacking in Holy Spirit guidance and power. Everything is a ritual. The song service is a ritual. No one, including the song leader, is thinking seriously about the message of the songs. The preaching is boring and lifeless. A church that has boring preaching and ritualistic services will produce hypocrisy and deadness.
By allowing improper boy-girl relationships. Few things have destroyed God’s calling in young peoples’ lives more than improper dating and the resulting marriages outside of God’s will. The reason it is so essential that boy-girl relationships be diligently supervised by parents and church authorities is so that young people will marry in God’s will, strong Christian homes will be established, and God’s work will be accomplished in this needy world.
1. Parenting is a very difficult and serious responsibility, but parents who are serving the Lord must be careful not to lose heart. God’s grace and mercy are sufficient to cover our weaknesses and failings.
“It is of the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:22-26).
2. Any problem can be overcome if faced before God. Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” What cannot be overcome is neglect and carelessness. Following are some tips for parents who are struggling with their children:
Dedicate yourself anew to this task. Quit vain activities and spend your time with things of eternal value.
Study to gain wisdom for the task of raising your children for the Lord. The books of Proverbs and Ephesians are an excellent starting place. Most of the books that are generally available today are filled with humanistic psychology and self-esteemism. Beware of these. We recommend Keeping the Kids: How to Keep the Children from Falling Prey to the World, available from Way of Life Literature.
Follow godly example and get good counsel (Proverbs 12:15; 15:22; 19:20; 20:18; 24:6). Seek help from wise pastors and other men and women.
Draw near to your marriage partner. Successful parenting needs to be a matter of unity between a husband and a wife. Husbands need to communicate with and listen to their wives, who are usually more expert in the matter of children than the men are.
Share your burdens with prayer partners. “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 18:19). “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16).
Practice earnest prayer with fasting. “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mat. 17:21). “But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Mat. 6:17-18).
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