"...O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths” (Isaiah 3:12).
Isaiah was warning of coming judgment. The people had left the ways of God, perhaps thinking that the Word of God was antiquated. Instead of being a nation that shined as a light to the world around them, Judah had become like all the other nations. Morally, spiritually and ethically, the people who were called by God looked all too similar to the world around them. Isaiah points out one of the main contributors to their downfall: "Those who lead you cause you to err."
Those who should have been leading the people to follow the paths of God, we're in fact leading the people away from God. Jesus warned about blind leaders who led blind followers right into a ditch. A nation is in trouble when the leaders lose sight of the proper destination. But who are these leaders?
Who are the people who have the greatest influence on the next generation?
It is not difficult to see the influence that entertainers have upon a culture. Whether it is a sports hero, musician or actor, they have a powerful platform and a strong voice. Companies and causes alike understand that the way to increase their influence is to get a famous person behind their product. Billions of dollars are spent every year by marketers who realize the face of a famous person will lead to increased sales. Even politicians have come to realize that one of the greatest resources for increasing their constituency is to get a rock star or a famous actor to endorse their campaign. That being said, I think it is crucial for us to keep in mind that the most influential leader with the loudest voice into the life of the next generation is not a pop star or an action hero.
The most influential voice impacting the life of a child is the voice they hear within the home.
Even in our modern culture, with its vast array of pressures, parents continue to have the most powerful effect in the lives of children. The decisions we make as parents have a lifetime impact upon our children.
If we want to see the next generation walking with the Lord and seeking to honor Him, we cannot leave that kind of leadership to others. Christian parents cannot expect the church to be the primary tutor of their children's spiritual development. That is the role of the parent. Every mom and every dad who wants to see their kids walk with the Lord should determine to walk with Him themselves. If you want your children to read their Bibles, start reading yours. If you want your kids to make good choices, exemplify that in your life. If you want your kids to think that living for Christ means that we follow a higher standard than the world around us, then be sure you are living by that standard yourself. If you want to see your children lay up treasures in heaven, then make investments in eternity with your time, talents and treasures. If you want to see your children serve the Lord, then get involved in serving Christ with them.
Fortunately, we do not have to travel down the road of parenting alone.
God established the church where we can develop good and godly relationships for ourselves and our children. We have the resources of devoted people who are willing to pour into our children week in and week out. I think sometimes the most important and under appreciated people in any church are the children's ministry leaders.
That being said, it is important that each parent sees the church for what it is. God designed it as a support for what He has called each of us to do at home. If our children are seeing one model six days a week and being taught a different one for one hour on Sunday, there is little chance that they will make decisions to follow Christ. Robert Munger wrote a tiny little booklet called My Heart Christ's Home. In it, he imagines our life to be like a home, and we are to invite Jesus into every room. As He enters, there are things that please Him and other things that need to be removed. It is good for us as parents to take inventory of our lives and make any and all changes necessary for the sake of our children. Keep in mind, it is never too late to have a positive influence, and an apology goes a long way in the life of a child.
Allow me to share one more thought. Some of us are brokenhearted because our children have turned from the lifestyle they were raised in. They have walked away from the Lord because of the influence of an ungodly professor or group of friends. Keep in mind that although it is painful and it may seem like they are lost forever, God is far from done in their lives. Our fellowship is filled with people who at one time or another walked away from the Lord only to be drawn back to Him later. Jesus told the story of a young man who ran from his father's influence and almost destroyed his life. Yet he later came to his senses and returned home. Don't lose heart; God is not done. I met a woman just the other day who came to Christ at 88 years old, and it was the influence of her daughter that finally broke down the walls and caused her to soften to Christ.