“Tell Me A Story, Mommy/Daddy!”

1(A Wisdom Song by Asaph)
Open your ears to my instruction, turn your ears toward the the words I speak.
2I will open my mouth in a teaching song.
I will speak hard sayings from ancient times.
3Words which we have heard and known, and our ancestors have told us.
4We will not hide them from their children, speaking YHWH’s praises to a later generation,
His strength, and the wonderful things he has done.
5And he raised a testimony in Jacob, and set instruction in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors
to teach to their children.
6So that the later generation might know, the children who would be born would rise up, and teach them to their children.
7That they might set their hope in God, and might not forget his mighty deeds, But observe his commands.        Psalm 78:1-7 (HN)

– Henry Neufeld

This is one of my favorite passages of scripture. I think it says something about the nature of our faith as Christians. Ours is supposed to be a generational faith—a faith that propagates through generation after generation.

One of the major problems that Israel had as a nation was that it had great difficulties keeping the faith true through multiple generations. If you read the story of Israel and Judah in First and Second Kings you will find that in Judah there were occasional good kings, but only very rarely did a good king succeed another good king. In Israel there were occasional partial reforms, but things always began to deteriorate again quickly.

There are many congregations in the American church that are “graying.” What is meant by this is that the congregation is growing older, but there are no new members coming in to fill the spaces of those who pass on. As a result, whole congregations that were once vibrant, with full life, pass slowly into obscurity. No renewal of the lifeblood of the congregation results in congregational death. In other churches, it’s an accepted fact of life that college age young people will leave the church for some time, and then probably return when they have children they want to raise in the church.

Generations can be physical or spiritual. We need to tell our faith stories to people with whom we share our faith. Our testimony—our personal story of faith—will go much further than our explanations of what to believe.

Why is it that we have such difficulty passing the faith on to the next generation?

I think it is because we fail to follow the advice in this Psalm. What we try to teach our children is our doctrines, the way we do things, the things we believe.

What we need to do is tell our children our stories, letting them know what God has done in our lives, and how we have built a relationship with God. It’s the difference between teaching someone precisely what to do, and helping them to understand not just why they should do it, but also how it is they can figure out what to do.

The key elements to this are:

1.      Tell the stories that were passed on to us

2.      Add to those stories our own personal stories of what God has done

3.      Encourage the young people to develop their own stories to pass on by living them

We may not be able to make our children be just like we are. We shouldn’t do that anyhow. What we need to do is make sure that whatever they do, they do it together with God, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our personal example may fail; but the example of God working in our lives will lead them to a personal relationship with God.

And God will take care of the rest!

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