Statistics reveal that church attendance is on the decline in America. Many Christian denominations and fellowships report stagnant growth. As one looks around the sanctuary on Sunday mornings, it is all too common to see an older congregation, with fewer and fewer young people. Yet, the Scriptures mandate that Christian believers pass the torch of our faith in and through the church to the next generation. These in turn will carry on the work of the ministry of Jesus Christ on earth.
Passing on our faith through the church is largely the responsibility of leadership. Ephesians 4:11 says that God gave “some apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers” for the “equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry.”
Thank god for pastors and teachers and all five ministry gifts who feed young believers the pure Word of God, and faithfully disciple them to maturity. But it is the responsibility of every Christian believer to participate in effectively passing the torch of our Christian faith.
After 50 years in pastoral ministry, this is my conclusion: Churches that are successfully reaching the next generation have learned a great spiritual truth. God works largely in the context of relationships. Therefore, the passing of the torch must be done in this context. The New Testament encourages those mature in the church to be fathers and mothers in the Lord!
The Apostle Paul addressed Timothy as “a true son in the faith,” in his first letter, and called him his “beloved son” in the second epistle. Paul of course was addressing his “spiritual” son. Timothy must have been quite young, because the apostle counselled him to “let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” ( 1 Tim. 4:12) He also instructed Timothy to pass on to other “faithful men” the truths that he had learned from Paul.
Likewise, Titus instructed the older women in the church to be mothers in the Lord and to teach the younger women how to “love their husbands and to love their children, and how to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, etc.” (2:4,5)
Many in our society grew up without a loving, strong relationship with their absentee or perhaps non-Christian fathers and mothers. So parents “in the Lord” are so needed in the Church to personally mentor the next generation.
Praying for the young people, teaching them Biblical truth from Genesis to Revelation, sharing personal testimonies of the miracle-working power of God with sons and daughters in the Lord, fellowshipping with them in casual settings, cooking and eating together, and personally mentoring them in the practical applications of God’s Word, must be prioritized in the church!
Passing the torch of our faith to the next generation through strong, loving and caring relationships in the church is the Biblical pattern.
Judy Vaught are ministers at Calvary Assembly of God in Mount Airy.