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Faithfulness with the Next Generation 1 – Sermon Notes

By March 3, 2024March 6th, 2024Sermon Notes

My friend was a pastor, an engaged father and husband and follower of Christ.

His son was a normal kid who went through a spell of rebellion in his teens.

One night the son snuck out (as I also did as a teen)…joined up with a friend, that friend went into a convenience store and shot and killed a man.

My friend’s son was convicted as an accomplish to murder, though he never left the car, and was tried as an adult at 16 in West Virginia and given life in prison.

For the next twenty years my friend and his wife…providentially named “Hope” spent holidays eating meals from prison vending machines.

His was released about 6 years ago, but that was after 20 years behind bars.

He learned a trade, grew in his faith, and later married a Christian young lady…turned out well.

But still…worse nightmare for a parent…and 20 years of that stress wrecked Hope’s health.

In my experience as a pastor and a parent…nothing can bring more joy and hope and nothing can bring more misery and hopelessness than being a parent

I have seen kids from broken homes thrive and kids from loving homes fail.

So, is it a coin toss? 

Do we (parents and those who come alongside them) have any real impact on outcomes?

How much really is our choice as parents, how much is our children’s choice as individual souls?

You have extremes out there:

-Christian determinism:

“Raising good children,” said Gary Ezzo, “is not a matter of chance.”

From his arrogantly titled model called “Raising Kids God’s way.”

The you have Biological determinism:

Carol Rubenstein, Ph.D., writes, “A child’s personality and temperament has little to do with his mother or her sacrifices, and a great deal to do with what she has passed on to him genetically.”

It’s not a coin toss…but it is a tension.

Your child must choose for himself or herself as they grow…you cannot force long-term compliance…you cannot through your own good choices compel and guarantee their good choices.

God, the very best of parents…did not compel Adam to fully obey…he could have, but then Adam would be less of son and more of a machine.

The fact is your own good choices do empower and encourage and clear the path so that you make it easier for your child to make good choices.

It is also without dispute…that the input of non-family has a huge impact on positive outcomes for kids.

So…if you are thinking of tuning out because you are not a parent, or you have raised your kids.

Stay tuned in…these are our kids.

We are in this together.

Starting today, for three weeks we are going to focus on faithfulness with the next generation:

-Sunday mornings: my preaching will be focused on this topic

-Sunday afternoons, starting next week: Aaron will present a theology of parenting.    

-Aaron and Elizabeth are expecting this first child later this year no he is no parenting expert

-I did not ask him to teach from his experience…I asked him to teach a biblical theology of parenting…and he is an expert on biblical theology.

-Neither Jesus nor Paul were parents, but I would be happy to learn from them about parenting.

*Aaron is going to give foundational biblical truths not current ideas or even his own experiences.

Because we want to know what God has said about this topic, and every topic on which he has spoken…for that matter.

Then…Wednesday night:  March 27th, 6:00-8:00 p.m….we will training led by experienced River parents

I want to highlight HOW we are doing this because it highlights…what we believe about this and other important things in our lives.

  1. I didn’t find the latest, greatest parenting program to unveil.
  1. I didn’t recruit an outside expert to come talk to us…and then fly off.

God has given the church the resources we need to live a thriving life…so we have his word and we are his people.

  1. His Word: “Terry ,I don’t need theology, I need to know what to do.”

-You absolutely need good theology…it is a fancy word for truth.

-God is there, and God has spoken…what he has said, we want to understand.

-Theology is the truth of God applied to our lives…who doesn’t need that?

  1. His people: We have here, people who are trying to live God’s truth out in their lives in community…we know them, we trust them…now we can learn from them.

That’s HOW we are doing this…and that HOW communicates what we believe.

-God has given us his word and God has made us his people.

Now to the WHY we are doing this…because it communicates what we value.

*The “Why “is because investment in and commitment to, the next generation is our highest stewardship.

Two key ways to lose your balance: Not just in parenting but in life as a whole.

  1. To believe you have more control than you do. (Arrogant, controlling, pushy, panicky)
  1. To believe you have less agency than you do. (apathetic, passive, discouraged, give up)

What is the balanced perspective?

*Understand Left and Right columns: Pray and trust God in the left, live decisively in the right.

Your child can choose to go a direction that will make you sad, or even break your heart…you cannot guarantee outcomes even with your best choices


You can make choices that make a certain kind of life look compelling, and desirable for your child.

In the end, you are responsible to be found faithful with your own choices.

I want to give you what I believe to be the most important, foundational, practical scripture on parenting.

So then, men ought to regard us as servants of Christ and as those entrusted with the secret things of God. Now it is required that those who have been given a trust(stewardship) must prove faithful. 1 Cor. 4:1,2

The gospel is the most important stewardship of a believer, and that is the context for this passage.

For the parent (and I would say the church as a whole)…the most important application of that gospel stewardship is first with our children.

It cannot stop there…we are to make disciples of the nations not just our kids.

But our gospel stewardship certainly must begin with our own kids.

So…the key principle for the parent/church is “Be faithful with the stewardship of the next generation.”

Some are thinking…”Not again with this faithfulness stuff…can you give it a break?”

“Terry, What about someone who is faithful but really, it is their excuse to be passive?”

Do you see something wrong with that question?

You can’t be faithful if you are not proactive and seeking to love and to parent with passionate devotion…passive is not faithful…faithful is not passive.

Faithfulness requires everything from us.

We are to lay down our lives for others…of course this is true for our kids.

Faithfulness as a stewardship mentality can keep us from thinking:

  1. It all depends on us


  1. Our actions can guarantee outcomes…a kind of Christian determinism.

*This leads to foolish pride…when our kids do well

*Devasting shame, anger, disillusionment…when they don’t

If you focus on faithfulness it can help you live with a long-term perspective…and not be tempted to chase short-term relief when things get challenging.

If you have not been faithful…confess and be forgiven.

Faithfulness can keep you from the dangers of the “shiny new object” syndrome.

  1. Shiny objects….”The Key!” “Guarantee!

The new book, idea, conference, easy fix…come on!

Sure…read, learn…but don’t chase shiny objects in a vain search for a substitute for long term faithfulness.

I’m 65 but I am not cynical…except when it comes to quick, easy fixes.

For three weeks we are focused on our stewardship as a church with the next generation.

This includes your own kids, the kids of others in the congregation, and for some…kids at risk in our larger community…many of you mentor through YH.

We have a growing number of young men and women doing this, as well as older adults…well done you!

You are standing in the gap for absent parents.

Today we are going to work on a Biblical philosophy of parenting.

“I don’t want a philosophy, any more than I want a theology…I want practical help.”

Actually, you have a philosophy…but it may not be biblical, or thought through, or consistently practiced.

Philosophy=love of wisdom (philos and sophia)

Think of it like the rules of a sport…they allow you to understand how to play, how to stay in bounds,  and how to practice at getting better at playing…what is allowable, not allowable…what are the goals and indicators of success…it keeps you on track.

You are living out a philosophy of parenting, ministry, work…all the time…it is important to make sure it is biblical and well thought through.

A parenting philosophy determines your goals and roles as a parent…helps you not be side tracked by new ideas, issues, day to day emergencies and challenges.

“I’m going crazy, this is not working…I need a new book, new plan, new podast, new kid.”

Is this the right direction to head? 

Yes?…Well then make sure your day-to-day decisions are in line with the overall vision…but don’t punt on the vision.

Stay the course…my best advice sounds sarcastic, but I sincerely mean it…”Parenting works, just keep doing it.”

*But do it as well as you can…using all of God’s resources: God’s word, God’s people, God’s Spirit.

It is important that you have a well thought through, biblically principled, coherent(not self-contradictory) and faithfully applied parenting philosophy…sound complex?  Not ideally

It can be quite simple, in fact…should be.

3 crucial things to consider:

  1. What is your goal (purpose) as a parent?
  1. What is your role in that goal?
  1. What are the specific choices(day to day tactics) (processes you put in place) you will make towards the goal?

The goal and role don’t change…the choices, processes can and do change…as your kids change, you change, circumstances change.

  1. Goal as a parent:

-Subset of your goal as a person.

-Why are you on earth? Why do you exist?

Col. 1:16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

God being glorified in you and through your parenting…is your goal

God being glorified through your life…is your purpose.

You have “sub goals” for your child…but this is the foundational purpose of our lives…we exist for his glory.

We parent for his glory.

Now there is nothing I want more than the good of my 3 girls (7 little rascals brought into the world)…but this desire must be grounded on the foundation of my greater desire for God’s glory in my life…and theirs.

Notice I said their good, not their happiness.

Sure I want them happy…but ultimately since my purpose is the glory of God…my choices in regards to them must be focused on their holiness not their current happiness.

We know that ultimately our happiness is tied to our holiness…but that is the long view, it doesn’t always feel that way in the day to day battles.

  1. Role as a parent: Be faithful.

1 Cor. 4:2 Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful

Enough has been said about that…

Let’s think about how do you build out priciples and processes to be faithul in your role.


I’m going to give two big biblical ideas about how to live faithfully in line with your goal and role.

  1. Faithfulness requires community
  1. Faithfulness is a settled direction not parenting perfection
  1. Long-term Faithfulness…Requires Community

To stay faithful through all of the years…requires living in community.

It is one of God’s most important resources for your life.

You can’t outsource parenting to the youth group or to a Christian school…no one can take your place as a parent.

But you cannot parent well alone either…if you want to go fast, go alone, you want to go far go together.

This quote is profoundly true in parenting.

God has designed life such that our best chance for success: personally, marriage, parenting…comes as a result of living in like-minded, like-hearted, biblical community.

Author Julia Grant

*Writes that she doesn’t care whether you let your baby cry it out at night or not, but she is interested in why you think an expert’s book (as opposed to your mother, or your church, or your own common sense) might give you a trustworthy answer.

*The experts are always “out there” not “right here.”

-“A prophet is not without honor, except in his own town.” Jesus said.

I think this is because we hope…there is someone out there…who has figured it out and is living it out perfectly…we don’t see perfection around us(these are people like us).

Folks from Jesus’ hometown said …”Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?.”

How can he be special…we know him

So, we look for the person who flies in from their place of perfection and gives us the secret key in a conference.

Or now, the person who blogs from somewhere out there…living who knows what kind of life… and we put our confidence in them rather than the real-life people living right here with us.

Over the years different experts with vastly different models of parenting have messed up generations of kids.

*These schools of thought rose and fell…and the experts were discredited…by the next expert…never mind that a generation was raised on now discredited parenting rubbish.

*Grant’s conclusion: The best thing the church can offer parents is not another list of books by parenting experts but a network of childrearing knowledge…community, mentoring.

“Without this help the conflicting advice of the experts just makes us more confused.”

*I am no parenting expert…And we worked really hard at parenting, I gave it my full passionate attention…but I was still far from perfect.

 My conviction is, no one is all that good, all by themselves.

Again…we did not outsource our responsibility…but we trusted the trustworthy community God had put us in.

We have learned through success AND failure together.

But we have, as a foundation for our community…God’s word, not just mere human experience.

“But Terry people who believe the Bible disagree on parenting.”

Okay…but at least they have an authority from above not one from below to evaluate their choices by.

God has given us his word…we can understand it and apply it…we can disagree on certain things…but we have an absolute authority that we are looking at.

Others are living from an authority from below…the next human expert…who is guessing…and there is too much at stake to be guessing.

Second sub principle under the idea of living out your goal and role…

  1. Faithfulness is Direction not Perfection

Don’t lose heart, don’t lose hope…stay the course…especially when you fail.

Keep the big WHY in front of you as you muddle through the daily choices and ups and downs

The failed pursuit of perfection or the wrong headed idea that should be easier than this… can rob you of the emotional and spiritual energy needed for a long term successful direction.

Direction (faithfulness) not perfection (flawlessness) is the way we are to think and act.

How do you measure your success as a parent?

(Not your child’s success as a person, that is a different question)

Well, you don’t measure using a stopwatch…but by a calendar…TWT…stay the course.

 How do you measure your success? 

1Cor. 4:1   Am I being faithful…not in every action…but in overall life direction?

-Does this mean it doesn’t matter how your kids turn out, just that I am faithful?

*Of course not…nothing matters more to us…the point is simply this: When anything other than faithfulness becomes the main thing we give our energy to:

-Fear/Anxiety (future)

-Depression and guilt (past)…who doesn’t make some bad choices, mistakes…I made a lot of them…still do.

-Panic/control/anger/passivity (Present)

*Our children’s best hope for success in terms of our efforts as parents and our best hope for sanity as we raise children…is to fix our hearts, continually on faithfulness rather than a misguided idea that we can get this perfect, we must get this perfect.

One very practical outcome of this: Direction not perfection for me was, is…

Relationship with God, today,  is essential.

It must be priority.

“Terry, I wish I had time for relationship with God.”

Of course you have time…what do you think relationship with God is?

*Corrie in ICU with Norah.

You need to be in vital union with God and others…not just for parenting, but for everything.

A lack of perspective on faithfulness, and a lack of understanding about our need to abide in Christ… may help explain why so many parents are so anxious and depressed.

Above all else guard your heart, out of it flow all the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

-Focus on what you can control…guard your heart.

-To worry about the left column is to expend energy that could be used in the right column.

This is enormously difficult to do, but life is more difficult if you do not learn to do it.

How do you guard your heart?

Phil. 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do I guard my heart…or does God’s peace guard my heart?


When we read…God’s peace will “guard” your hearts and minds.

It sounds sort of “warm and fuzzy”

“When I pray and give my anxious thoughts to God, he will help me feel better.”

Maybe, maybe not…I often have not “felt” better…but I have thought better and lived better when I present my requests to God…when I rethrone God and dethrone me.

There is a lot more going on here…than warm fuzzies.

  1. Do not be anxious: Do not allow worry to take over your mind (ongoing conscious decision…that is you guarding your “heart”…the real thinking, choosing you.)


  1. In everything take the things you worry about and give them to God (ongoing conscious decision)

*This is about training not trying.


  1. God’s peace will set a watch on your heart and your mind…these two words used together like this…stand for all of the real, choosing, thinking “you“…

“Guard”=sentinel, watchman, or a referee

So its not…pray and you will “feel more peaceful”

It is do not take on worry but take your worry to God…his peace will set a watch on over your mind and emotions…sounding the alarm of “no peace, no peace” when you get out bounds.

This peace of God is like a referee here, blowing the whistle when your mind and emotions run out of bounds.

You are trying to control what is not yours to control…you are off in the future or back in the past…they don’t belong to you

Stop…you are out bounds…trust God…remember that he is Lord…you must trust him in this.

This kind of Holy Spirit “refereeing”…requires a daily, often minute by minute…walk with God.

So two practical applications of parenting faithfulness lived out:

  1. Live in community
  1. Direction not perfection: which requires vital, ongoing relationship with God.

Does this guarantee results?  Yes and no

What kind of results are you referring to?

You being able to say you have “Good children” (they didn’t make my life hard/they are completely happy/they walk with God/they pay their own bills/they aren’t in jail)


You being able to hear someday “Well done, good and faithful child”

But Terry, what about the promise of…

Proverbs 22:6:  “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

Proverbs are truths about the way life generally works…they are a principled approach to life…they are not “penny in, candy out”.

Prov 10:27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short.

*Do the righteous always live long lives and the wicked always die young?

-No, that’s not what that Proverb means…living life in line with the Lord’s will and ways does maximize life span, and living otherwise often leads to shorter lives…just ask Greg Greer he sees this as a doctor every day.

But God has his overall plans for the lives of people that are not simple human cause and effect.

Prov. 22:6 does not mean your choices will “determine” your child’s…but they will impact them…they matter.

And it’s also saying…don’t measure too soon…it aint over, till it’s over…stay faithful, keep the faith.

Faithfulness (as a life direction not a life of perfection) guarantees the pleasure of God and that you have done what you can to provide a level path for your child to walk if they choose to walk it.

Let’s call it…Parenting with Proactive Humility for the glory of God and the good of our children.

SOME THINGS WE VALUED: Real, fun, secure

  1. REAL: A single story life

-We talked about the Bible in the context of everyday life

-We showed up at church and had the church in our homes and lives

-We messed up, fessed up, moved on.

*We worked at having a single life…not a church life and a non-church life…that kind of unreality is confusing to us and our kids.

  1. FUN: Worked hard at making life fun…kids learn best in that environment

-Experience the joy of a live lived with God.

-Majored on what we were for not just what we were against.

-Small things…like Suckers…they aren’t for you, by the way, grownups…you can buy your own suckers.

-Very small way of saying…Church is a fun place

  1. SECURE: This was tied most closely to Christy and I in our relationship before them.

-I have heard it said, “Better a divorce than seeing a bad marriage.”

-First of all, the data says: “Nonsense.”

-Second of all it is not a binary choice: “Divorce” or “Bad marriage”…Change!

*Show them how God has designed the world to work…security comes for the child, first in seeing his parents love each other.

If you are in the next Generation

*With all this in mind, what will you do to make it easier for your parents (and others) to lead you?

*Will you trust God by trusting them?  The Bible says you are flirting with disaster if you play the fool and trust yourself over them.

*Will you fully engage the resources God has given you to grow into a godly man or woman…your generation is floundering…you have the opportunity to fly…to thrive…to lead it.


*What can you do to make those in the midst of the throes of parenting successful?

*Serve in nursery and upstairs…no small thing.

-We don’t have children in here so parents can grow in their walk with God and that very directly impacts the kids they are leading and loving.

*Engage them, pray for them in small groups

*See their kids as someone you will take appropriate responsibility for…get to know their kids.

We are the church, we have God’s word and we are his people…we are not guessing at this…but we must work hard at this.