Evangelism, Family & the Church
What if we raised the next generation of Christian children to prioritize Love?
Last year, I attended a church after I’d been away for a while. I can’t remember the exact topic of the sermon but it was about Evangelism and how the family unit is one of the best instruments to push the Gospel to more people. I don’t think a revelation from any sermon has stuck with me like this one did.
In that sermon, the pastor made a comparison of how Christianity is advanced vs Islam; that you never really see Muslims doing evangelism to grow their tribe, at least not like Christians typically do, yet they’re still one of the biggest religions in the world, with a very steady growth rate too. Indeed, I had never heard of Muslim evangelism before (maybe I need more Muslim friends). He went on to talk about the strategy for Muslims being family; a Muslim marries a Muslim/non-Muslim, they give birth to children and the children are typically (most cases) raised as Muslims. With regard to children deviating from their religious upbringing, he explained these deviations happen more times with Christians than Muslims, and even when Muslims try to deviate, their community (mainly through family) works hard to keep them in check.
The point was, family is one of the best evangelism plans to grow the Christian population, because if we have more families that are very committed to God, they are more likely to raise Christian children, so we won’t need to go out to evangelise to people when they’re old — we would’ve gotten them early. This also ties to relationships and marriage: when picking your partner, it’s important that it’s done with God at the center, because every family unit is responsible for raising the next generation of Christians.
(I’m so glad I did not miss service that day)
Many Christians I know started their journey because they were raised in Christianity. I’ve always been involved in various kinds of evangelism but until that day, I never saw the connection with family and evangelism. It was so illuminating that even after a year, it’s stayed top of mind.
In the past couple of years, going to Church has always been a struggle for me. All I’d want is a space to grow my relationship with God but with many Churches, you go and they either say or do something that leaves you in despair after the service. Yes, one can grow their relationship with God outside of a Church institution, I do that, but there’s just something about fellowship with believers. It brings consistency, new light, it drives spiritual growth and so much more. On one end you want to go because you know that can strengthen your Spiritual life, on the other end you don’t, because you can’t afford to be hit with stray bullets on every visit. It gets exhausting.
If you’re thinking, “Well fellowship doesn’t have to happen in Church, you can find it elsewhere”, yes, that might be true, but when most people think of Christianity and attempt to connect with God, they don’t think random fellowship groups, their first thought is Church. Church is the entry point for almost everyone.
In my plan to get back to Church again, I wasn’t asking for much: great worship, sound sermons, good prayer life and very importantly, while I’m there I’d really appreciate not getting hit by stray bullets. Unlike before, I’m way past the point where comments like that have a visceral effect on me, but it would still be nice to at least experience peace and love in God’s house. An experience void of condemnation and condecession. I don’t think people should regret coming to God’s house.
Amongst my group of friends, we’d discuss this issue repeatedly. Almost everyone had a personal story of various encounters in Church that forced them out. Experiences that were clearly void of Love. For most of us, we just had to carry on with our personal relationship with God (outside the institution of Church), but we still acknowledged the value Church fellowship could bring to our spiritual life and our desire to maybe give it another chance. The plan was to visit a couple Churches and let the Spirit lead, at least if we did it together it would be fun. In shortlisting options, we unfortunately couldn’t pick a place that we knew.
Just like making any kind of group plans, everyone’s Sunday schedule was clashing. However, one random Sunday a month ago, I had a lot of energy and joy so I decided to go alone — I will be the Caleb of the group.
I visited two Churches and one of them felt right for me so I stuck with them. My first Sunday at this Church was very memorable. In the sermon, the pastor explained why marriages and family should be built on a solid foundation of the Word and the Holy Spirit because that will help them raise Christian children and these children get to influence the next generation of Christians.
Considering I’d had that same word at the top of my mind for almost a year, it was really great to hear it repeated in a different Church. It was a confirmation that it wasn’t top of mind by accident and in that moment, it dawned on me: Yes! The family is indeed the best unit to raise the next generation of people so why shouldn’t the Church also use the family to raise the next generation of children that do not have all the phobias stacked like the infinity gauntlet? Just like racism and other isms, phobias and prejudice for others are not genetic, children learn these things as they grow, the first touch point being their parents.
If the Church really wants to make a bigger impact on the world, especially as it is today, it should really consider raising the next generation of Christian children to choose God’s Love over condemnation. Condemnation and hate towards any group of people wasn’t installed at birth for Christians. It was learnt, they were in many cases raised to do that.
Of course the idea to raise more Christians to prioritize God’s Love isn’t novel, but I think it’s important we try to visualize a new generation of Christians that prioritizes God’s Love first; the interactions they would have with the world, the way they will advance the Gospel, not on personal ideas, anecdotes or half truths, but God’s Love being a guide for what they say and do. What a concept!
In the past one month I’ve attended this new Church, they met the bare minimum requirements I prayed for and a little more, so I was very grateful to keep going back. In the weeks prior, they announced the series for October was marriage. Now if you’ve been in Church for a while, you’d have a mental list of topics that have a high propensity to get you hit by a stray bullet, and marriage is at the top of that list. Even though I was very weary, I reminded myself I’d had a great time so far so at least I should try and see for myself. This was a new era so I would not let my prejudice keep me away from a possibly good time in God’s presence.
In all the time I’ve been back in Church, I’d always report back to my friends saying it’s going great and they should consider coming with me soon. After a lot of groveling, I forced them to come with me to this Church for the first time — last Sunday. I did tell them the series of this new month was marriage and we all laughed because we had a clear idea of how topics like this could go.
We got to Church and the service was going great (as usual), then the sermon on marriage started. We were barely five minutes into the sermon and it got ballistic, and very quickly I must add. I geniunely wonder if the pastor made a list of phobias beforehand because he made sure he touched all of them. From experience, one typically has an idea of how these things play out, but having it go exactly like the standard template with mockery, jest and condemnation was quite jarring. We just kept staring at each other, not that we were surprised. I felt even worse because I invited them. I’d been telling them everything was fine, and for some of them this was their first time back in Church after so many years.
When things like this happen in Church, it’s one thing for the pastor to give a quick comment and move on immediately, painful, but at least you too can move on, but for some reason he just couldn’t stop, he just kept going in for another 3–5 minutes, I assumed we’d been teleported to a comedy set because the congregation continously cheered and laughed with every word. I know how we got here but at that point, I was geniunely confused about the direction of the sermon.
While a lot was said in his deep dive of jest and mockery, one thing that really stood out to me was the comment on children. He explained that children (of the church) go to school in recent times and get to interact with other children that say they have two dads as parents, and having the children (of the church) see that as normal.
The obvious inference here is they see that as normal as opposed to “abnormal” and if we’re being honest, the abnormal label is a free fall to treating people differently and we’re all familiar with how this goes from here.
(The service ended and we went home)
Examining all of the above, you’d see it all starts from the Church. Yes, families raise the children, but families get their doctrine from the Church. So if the Church consistently preaches a sermon that emphasises hate, mockery and condemnation for others, that’s what the next generation of Christians will look like.
With the focus back on the Church, the next step is questioning not just the doctrine preached, but how the Church treats people. If we’re going to draw more people to Christ (something we’re commanded to do), is jest, mockery and condemnation the way to propagate the Gospel? Of course my experience last Sunday is not unique to that Church, a lot of Christians everywhere in the world experience this — that’s why a lot of people have stopped going to Church. One of the very few commandments from Jesus is “Love your neighbour as thyself”, are any of the afformentioned actions in accordance with the Love of God? Should people that come to Church be made to feel sick?
A few years back, I listened to a sermon on the upfront discrimination and condemnation in most Churches and how that drives people away before they can even experience God. The preacher talked about most people going to Church in search of refuge and comfort in God but are met with disdain, mockery and condemnation. They come looking for Love, Love only God can give, but are shown hate and disdain way too quickly that they can’t even stay.
This is something that plays out in countless ways and it’s sad because it’s always masked in religion. As a Church, the way to treat people should always be grounded in God’s Love, but the reality is most people in Church do and say things void of God’s Love. It would be great if Churches filtered so much of what they said and did through God’s Love. Will God’s Love do this? Will God’s Love say that?
In discussing this issue with a friend a while ago, he shared a very sad story of one time he was in Church and it was offering time. In his Church, people typically walk to the altar to give their offering and this lady was wearing a short dress so as she approached the altar she was pulling down her dress to avoid drawing attention to herself. Not so long after that, the sermon began and the pastor randomly made a remark about women wearing short dresses they know is short but then try to pull it down.
I really wish I could’ve hugged that lady, that must’ve been so embarrassing and sad. Why is she being called out on the pulpit because she came to Church in a short dress? Is that something Jesus would do? Definitely not! The Bible tells us Jesus let EVERYONE in, no matter who they were or what they’d done, without condemnation, mockery or hate. For every Christian, Jesus is the blueprint, so this approach of jest, mockery and condemnation is clearly not the way to win people to Christ. We really have to bring back the 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 kind of Love to the Church and by extension the family unit. I believe that’s what Jesus will want us to do.
If you call yourself a Christian and you believe someone is doing something wrong but want to win them for Christ, yes, we know God’s hand is powerful enough to reach anyone anywhere, but should this person be close to God and be in fellowship (while you also pray for them) or is it better for them to not have a relationship with God at all because you chased them away with your unloving approach?
As we navigate Church communities, it’s important we ask ourselves if we really want to get people saved or if we are just interested in lauding our piousness over them.
The Bible says the most important thing is Love, but Churches today are doing everything but showing God’s Love to people, everything but Love. The world we live in is starved of love, and the one place people should find Love, the real Love, should be the Church. This article is already too lengthy so I won’t even get into Christians receiving Grace from God, Grace we did not earn, yet, are unable to extend that same Grace to others.
In summary, as Churches focus on families to grow the next generation of Christians, I think it would be really great to prioritize raising Children that emulate God’s Love first. A new generation of Christians that prioritize Love will be great for all. The Bible says Love conquers all. If you believe the Bible, then you should emphasize God’s Love first and trust it will conquer all, or do you not believe the Word ?
The world is already very dark and gloomy, people are struggling, showing Love to people will always have a bigger impact than jest, mockery and condemnation.
With regard to last Sunday’s experience, I’m actually fine. In the last one month of going to that new Church, I’ve really enjoyed the momentum I’ve built so I’m not going to let that experience make me stop altogether. There’s this other Church in Lekki — Tribe Church — I use to attend in the past, their stance on God’s Love and inclusion has always been clear, so I’ll just go back this Sunday and see how things go from there. ❤️