What are we teaching?
By Mark Lubbock
“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Children learn by observation. They quickly pick up an understanding of their parent’s values by watching what parents DO.
What parents say is important, but only if it is confirmed by accompanying behavior. Today’s homes have self-identified “Christians” who make decisions and live their lives much the same as non-Christian households. They’ve compromised and lowered their values from a biblically based system to that of the current culture. The outcomes are children who see nothing wrong with cursing, watching sexual images/scenes, taking a me-first attitude, disrespecting elders, and failing to take personal responsibility for their actions.
A 2015 Gallup poll showed that 75 percent of Americans consider themselves Christian. Yet when you look at the choices and behavior of the average family and individual, most demonstrate values that are not in harmony with Christian discipleship.
Images, story lines and dialog on a prime-time TV channel that describes itself as “The Family Channel” reflect themes and language that would not be allowed in any Sunday school class. So why do we not even notice this in our own homes?
My wife and I visited the home of a nephew who is raising his family with biblical values. They have cable TV and while we were talking I saw him glance up and quickly change the channel. It puzzled me for a moment as no one was watching the TV. He explained with disgust, “Ah, it’s those Victoria Secret commercials again.” What took place was an automatic edit of the allowed images in his living room. He has a process at home to not only protect his family, but to pass on values he deems important. The point here is that he and his wife take responsibility for what is allowed in their home. Will this protect the children from being exposed to sexual content? Of course not. What does happen is the children have values in place that gives them a basis for knowing what is right and what is wrong.
A wise friend of mine constantly reminds me, “That which is permitted becomes acceptable.” So how do we in the church set appropriate boundaries and yet remain loving and relevant in today’s society? More importantly, how do we teach and establish biblical values as the norm in our own household?
According to research conducted by the Center for Bible Engagement (CBE) most churched and unchurched homes have similar behaviors.
In other words, by simply observing how the two neighbors act, one attending church the other an atheist, you would see few differences in their core values. The key indicator for positive change is a simple yet radically profound factor: The number of times an individual engages with God’s Word. Their studies showed that people who engaged the Bible three times a week or less, behaved just like those who are unchurched and do not believe in God.
However, when a person engages the Bible four times a week or more dramatic differences immediately appear. Here is how researchers report the results of their study:
The Power of 4
A key discovery from the CBE research is that the life of someone who engages scripture four or more times a week looks radically different from the life of someone who does not. In fact, the lives of Christians who do not engage the Bible most days of the week are statistically the same as the lives of non-believers.
In fact, according to their research, the following additional changes are observed in those who are in God’s Word four or more times a week:
- They are 228% more likely to share faith with others.
- 407% more likely to memorize scripture.
- 59% less likely to view pornography.
- 30% less likely to struggle with loneliness.
It breaks my heart to see Christian homes accept as normal and mainstream behaviors, images and practices that are far from family-friendly. It is not necessary to make a list here, for two reasons. Some would read and agree without hesitation while others would be astonished that anyone is concerned with items listed.
Getting back to my question, how do we teach and establish biblical values in our household? It always starts with “me” (or “you”).
We all need to be disciples of Jesus which means we are actively learning and applying behaviors consistent with the teaching of His holy Word. Sunday school can be good and important, or simple a social gathering where one can hide. The real meat of discipleship comes from small groups and personal study and prayer.
The commission and our men’s ministry specialists strongly recommend reading and then applying the practices contained in Dr. Kevin Watson’s book The Class Meeting. This quick read teaches the principles developed and applied by John Wesley. Kevin explains it this way:
“Class meetings were essential for the first Methodists, and they are essential today, because they helped people grow in faith in Christ and learn how to follow Jesus with their lives."
By becoming students of Jesus we will inevitably also become transformed through the Holy Spirit and start to look different to others. Last night at a men’s leadership meeting one of my buddies shared a quick testimony. He had been encouraging a co-worker to give in to Jesus and commit his life to our Lord.
My friend Ken shared his own personal testimony and simply asked his friend if he was ready to make a change in his life. This had been an ongoing conversation over weeks, and that day his friend said, “Yes, I’m ready.” He gave his life to Jesus, began reading the Bible, attended a small group and learned simple ways to speak with God.
As a result his life began to change. Tragically, he was killed in a car wreck just three months later. But the testimony of his transformed life was so compelling that an aunt called my friend Ken asking him to be a pallbearer as he was responsible for the radical change in this man’s life.
A quick review then shows us that for our household to look and reflect true Christian values we first must each “be” a disciple of Jesus.
It is important that we engage with like-minded friends and that we consider a model like The Class Meeting to help us grow. We need to share honest stories, complete with our real struggles, as we seek to grow as disciples.
It is equally important that as we read, study and pray, we also have encouraging friends around us to support us through our inevitable challenges. ‘
It is time for men to lead by example.
The commission and men’s ministry specialists offer training that can get this process started. Consider inviting one of these leaders for an evening at your church, district, or annual conference.
As always, I’m interested in your thoughts, comments, corrections and suggestions. Please contact me. I’m available to speak to your group and also to conduct training.
Mark Lubbock, deployed staff member
General Commission on UM Men