Psalm 1 | September 13, 2020
Pastor Ken Larson
Do you know what makes me nervous? Weddings and funerals. We the funeral for Detlef Bordthauser here yesterday, and everything went well. Yet no matter how much you plan and prepare, you never really know what’s going to happen. Several years in the last church I served a young woman from our high school ministry asked if I would visit her grandfather, Jim, who as in the hospital and not expected live very long. I went to the hospital, but he was on life support and unable to talk. I did speak with his wife June and some other family members. We talked for a while and then I prayed with them. Jim died soon after and then June asked me to do the funeral. I met with her to plan the service which would be held at a local funeral home. She asked to have recorded song played that spoke of her love her husband. The song was entitled, “You are the Wind Beneath My Wings.” Sung by Bette Midler, it has a gentle flowing quality to it. We agreed place the song at the start of the service. When the day came the funeral home was filled friends and family. I began by introducing myself and said we’d hear a musical tribute to June’s love for Jim. However, the funeral director played the wrong track on the CD. So instead of the “You Are the Wind Beneath My Wings,” the room was pierced with a wild trumpet riff that introduced Ms. Midler belting out “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B.” Immediately the whole place erupted with laughter and I’m sitting up front wondering how to pull this together. The right song eventually came on and the service proceeded as expected. Afterward the funeral director was very apologetic, but everyone else thought it was great because the man in the casket had been a notorious practical joker and said, “Jim would’ve loved it.”
Life is often as unpredictable as that funeral. We can make plans for the future but you never really know what may happen to require an adjustment. This weekend usually marks the fall launch of programs in the church. Under normal circumstances Discovery Hour classes and youth groups, adult Bible studies and Awana would be starting up. Instead, we face the ongoing challenge of conducting ministry amid a pandemic.
Do you know what else is unpredictable? Parenting. All moms and dads want their kids to grow up healthy, achieve some measure of academic success and form positive relationships. As Christians, we want our children to know, love and follow Jesus for all their lives. We want them to develop a strong faith. Such a person is described in Psalm 1. If you have your Bible handy, open it up to that text.
Psalms 1 and 2 were likely written as an introduction to the whole collection of Psalms. Psalm 1 is different from most other psalms, in that it is not a prayer, lament or praise addressed to God. Rather, it describes the attitude and actions of someone who has a vital relationship with God. This person is described as "blessed" and his or her life is symbolized by a tree. Trees are a marvelous part of God's creation. They symbolize strength, stability, and endurance. Maybe you have driven among the huge redwood or giant Sequoia trees in California, some of which were growing when Jesus walked on the earth. Whether it's a Douglas Fir or a maple or palm, they can endure tremendous forces, bending over before a howling wind, but then popping up again when the tempest has passed.
Is your faith strong and sturdy like a tree? Is it firmly planted in the soil of the gospel? Trees grow and spread their branches. How have you grown in the past year? Has your relationship with Jesus Christ produced spiritual fruit that pleases God and is visible to others? Don’t we want our children to be like that? A tree will grow and prosper as long as it has a solid source of nourishment. The one described in Psalm 1 stands by a stream of water. What spiritual stream feeds you and your kids? How do we pass along a growing faith that stays with our kids as they go through the different life stages on the path to adulthood and beyond? That happens when a child who became a teenager who grew into an adult was impacted by a long line of believers that includes their parents and many others. For the next six weeks we’ll focus on how to hand off a “Sticky Faith” to the next generations so that they can embrace a vibrant, enduring faith in Jesus.
This is a challenge today in a way that was not true for my generation. Most of us who grew up in a church stuck with our faith as we navigated the various stages of life. Some wandered away as young adults, but most came back when they got married and had children. It’s different now. So what is the situation?
There is good news and bad news. The good news is that there is a high level of religious activity among American teenagers. Most adults who identify as Christians say they had a formative experience as a child or teenager that connected them to faith. In fact, 80% of Americans under 18 spend at least a part of their childhood or teenage years attending a church. (Kinnaman, Ch. 1) The bad news is that Americans in their 20s are among the least religiously active. The most recent research tells us that among young adults with a Christian background there are four distinct groups:
A study done among kids who regularly attended a church youth group in high school found that 80% intended to keep practicing their faith, yet almost half abandoned this pursuit in college. Statistics tell us that between 30 and 60% of those who fall away do return to faith their late 20s, but by that time they’ve made crucial decisions about friendship, marriage, career, and lifestyle with little or no input from their faith.
College students face enormous pressures on campus to fit in. Every month almost half of all full time college students binge drink and abuse drugs, and casual sexual encounters are common. One student told a researcher that it’s “really hard to meet people if you don’t drink.” If joining the party scene is the pathway to satisfy their need for relationships, many students take it. Key decisions like this about campus lifestyle are often made in the first two weeks of a students’ freshman year.” (Dr. Cheryl Crawford, Sticky Faith)
Have I got your attention yet? If you are a parent you may be thinking, “We’re going to hold our kids close and never let them out of our sight.” That probably won’t work. We need to pass on a sticky faith, but it must go beyond “Jesus loves me this I know.” This faith must address the real questions young adults have about…
The role of parents is crucial, but it’s not just up to them. The whole church family has a part to play in passing on a sticky faith. We can all get serious about praying for our kids. Perhaps you don’t think you have much to offer because it appears that the younger generations are so different from your own. There are generational differences, but maybe we just need to give a bit more thought to how we can connect with younger folks.
Earlier this week Pastor Mike and I both attended a webinar led by Mark Matlock who for years worked with a national youth ministry. He has also been part of a Christian organization that does extensive research on how younger generations think and live, and how the church can interact with them. I was struck by one of the characteristics of millennials, particularly the ones who are under 18. He called them “generation safe” meaning that much of their life is focused on staying safe. This group has no individual or corporate memory of the World Trade Center attacks or the kids who died at Columbine High School in Colorado. But they have been constantly made bombarded with warnings about online predators, and they have seen the reports of mass shootings in schools and movie theaters and on campuses. For most of their lives our country has been at war in some part of the world. Mr. Matlock said that many in this generation don’t feel safe in school and other places. They think differently about security issues. Can we make a difference in this regard?
Some of you have been through very difficult circumstances. Maybe you served in the military in places like Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Have you faced personal tragedy in your family that came about because of illness or accidents or addiction? Perhaps you’ve endured periods of unemployment where economic uncertainty was a daily companion and there just didn’t seem to be a job anywhere. Or maybe you’ve watched a child or grandchild wander away from faith or make self-destructive choices that you were powerless to stop. And yet through every experience you’ve known that grace and companionship of Jesus. You can give person witness to the power of prayer. You know firsthand that the community of believers can hold you up and see you through when the world around you was teetering. You know that life isn’t always safe, but God is always dependable. You have something to share – it’s called life, and there’s someone who needs to hear your story. Are you willing to tell it? It might be hard and it may bring up strong emotions that you are hesitant to relive, and yet maybe there’s a 20-something whose life could be impacted by hearing it.
The future is unpredictable, but God is not, and he calls us as his church to display and divulge a sticky faith to those coming behind us. There are several books which can help parents and others, and I’ll include a list with the written copy of this message which will be available early this week. Please consider joining a growth group or life group to talk about sticky faith. Most important, make a commitment to do something as the Holy Spirit prompts you. When you do, your faith will grow, God will be at work, and all the generations it benefit. AMEN
Parenting Faith Resource Guide
“The Sticky Faith Guide For Your Family” by Dr. Kara Powell
Nearly half of Christian teens abandon their religious beliefs when they enter college. What can you do to help them establish a lasting spiritual foundation? Drawing on the field-tested "Sticky Faith" action plan, Powell shares 100 practical, biblically based ideas to help you equip young adults with the tools they need to remain---and flourish---in Christ.
“You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving the Church” by David Kinnaman
More than half of all Christian teens and ‘twenty-somethings’ leave active involvement in church. Based on research conducted by the Barna Group, You Lost Me exposes ways the Christian community has failed to equip young adults to live "in but not of" the world--to follow Christ in the midst of profound cultural change. This wide-ranging study debunks persistent myths about young dropouts and examines the likely consequences for young adults and for the church if we maintain the status quo. The faith journeys of the next generation are a challenge to the established church, but they can also be a source of hope for the community of faith. Kinnaman, with the help of contributors from across the Christian spectrum, offers ideas for pastors, youth leaders, parents, and educators to pass on a vibrant, lasting faith, and ideas for young adults to find themselves in wholehearted pursuit of Christ.
“Faith for Exiles: 5 Ways for a New Generation to Follow Jesus in Digital Babylon” by David Kinnaman & Mark Matlock
Negative perceptions. Church dropouts. Prodigals and nomads. It's easy to get discouraged by all that's going wrong when it comes to Christianity and the emerging generation. Yet what's going right? In fact, signs of hope are springing up all around. In Faith for Exiles, the author of unChristian and You Lost Me unveils major new Barna research that uncovers what's working--five practices that contribute to resilience. Enter the world of resilient young adult Christians and learn how they are sustaining faith. Finally, you can find hope in all that God is doing among young disciples today.
“Five Reasons for Spiritual Apathy in Teens” by Rob & Amy Rienow
When teens are struggling, disconnected, and apathetic, they need parental engagement more than ever. It's not the time to passively accept the behavior as normal and ignore the situation. Rob and Amy Rienow share from a place of genuine concern for teens and parents alike. They remind readers that spiritual apathy is a serious problem that needs to be given proper attention. The Rienow's share five reasons spiritual apathy exists in the lives of teens, and counter those reasons with practical steps parents can take to resolve the issue. Readers are reminded teens are in the midst of making decisions that impact the rest of their lives, and parental involvement is needed more than ever. This book offers an action plan parents can use to cultivate faith and character during the challenging teen years.
“Parenting Teens Pamphlet” by Richard Ross & David Booth
Parenting Teens is a full color laminated product containing 14 panels of valuable information for parents. Each panel contains valuable content for parents seeking to raise teens to live a life of faith and fellowship with God. Topics discussed include: real success, the role of parents, discipline, church involvement, facing tough issues, praying for your teen, and much more.
“Intentional Parenting Workbook” by Doug & Kathy Fields
In this book and study guide, you’ll focus on 10 doable actions you can implement into your parenting strategy and see immediate results - no matter the age of your children. Instead of performing quick-fixes to resolve immediate problems, you can start dealing with deeper and more important issues. This book/study can be done in a variety of settings - as an individual, couple, small group, mentor, classroom - and inside the book you will also find a free code to stream 10 videos online and a small group discussion guide.
“It’s Not Too Late” by Dan Dupee
It has long been said that once kids are in high school and college, they are beyond the influence of their parents. This pervasive cultural myth is not supported by research, biblical teaching, or even anecdotal accounts. Yet because of it, many Christian parents live in silent angst about the faith of their older and adult children, thinking they can no longer do anything to shape their kids' spiritual and life decisions. Drawing on sociological research and Scripture, Dan Dupee shows parents that it is not too late--and in fact these turbulent years of transitioning into adulthood are a time when their kids may need their guidance the most. He shows parents how to make the most out of the opportunities they have to offer guidance, wisdom, and spiritual support, with the goal of seeing their children not just survive college with faith intact but enter adulthood with a faith of their own--one that will carry them through all that life brings their way.
“Think Orange” by Reggie Joiner
Families and churches are each working hard to build faith in kids, but imagine the potential results when the two environments synchronize, maximizing their individual efforts. What can the church do to empower the family? How can the family emphasize the work of the church? They can Think Orange. Former family ministry director Reggie Joiner looks at what would happen if churches and families decided they could no longer do business as usual, but instead combined their efforts and began to work off the same page for the sake of the kids.
“Faith Begins at Home” by Mark Holmen
A book for parents that will inspire, motivate and equip them to establish their home as the primary place where faith is nurtured. This book is filled with inspirational stories and practical ideas that families can begin implementing today to bring Christ and Christ-like living into the center of their home. This resource is a perfect gift to give to new parents and it also has discussion questions at the end of each chapter which also makes it a perfect resource for family small groups.
“Parent Wellness Compass Workbook” by Scott & Holly Stoner
Families are not meant to live in isolation, separate from one another. All families have a better chance of thriving in the context of community when they can both give and receive support from one another. It seems that in no other area of life is this truer than in family life and parenting. This book is centered around eight areas of wellness for families and provides a number of discussion questions to reflect on and space to record next steps to take. Hopefully these reflections, and the conversations they give birth to, will help create new communities of parents who can support one another as your healthier, happier families grow.