Preparing Your Children
About the Guest
What kind of world will our children face? Author Russell Moore explains that we live in a culture that is largely in opposition to Christian community. Now it's likely you'll be unpopular, marginalized, and ostracized for your counter-cultural views. Russell encourages parents to teach their children who they are in Christ and what believers do, even though it means being seen as different.
Russell Moore explains that we live in a culture that is largely in opposition to the Christian community. Russell encourages parents to teach their children who they are in Christ, even if it means being seen as different.
Preparing Your Children
Bob: Your children are going to hear things at school or from their peer group—things that are different than what you’ve been teaching them about right and wrong about how the world should be. Russell Moore says: “When they come to you with questions, be careful how you answer them.”
Russell: Make sure that you know what the child is asking because, sometimes, you’re tempted to answer far more than what the child wants to know. He or she just wants a simple answer to something; and you want to come in and prepare that child, apologetically, for every possible thing that will have to do with that issue. That’s burdensome because the child is like, “You know, I kind of am curious about this thing that I overheard on the playground; but if I go and ask Dad, he’s going to give me a 30-minute lecture.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, January 7th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. How do we train our children to hold fast to truth, and to stand for truth, in a culture where truth is being challenged?
We’ll explore that today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You know, the topic we’ve been trying to unpack this week is, I think, the topic that’s on the heart of a lot of moms and dads. I think about my grandchildren / I think about kids, who are being born today, and the world they’re going to grow up in. It’s not that I’m—I was about to say—it’s not that I’m scared, but I’m concerned about the erosion of faith in our culture and what that’s going to mean for their lives and the kind of courage they’re going to have to have if they’re going to stand for Christ.
Dennis: And if faith is going to have a starting point, I think the ideal is that it starts at home. It, obviously, is built upon by the church and other Christians, as children grow up; but God didn’t give children to the church—He gave children to families.
Dennis: I think families need to assume their God-given responsibility.
We’ve got a dad, here, of five boys. What are the ages of your sons, Russell? And, by the way, welcome back. Russell Moore joins us again.
Russell: It’s good to be with you. Thank you for having me. They’re 14, 14, 10, 8, and
Dennis: Oh, wow! You have got—you’re on the cusp! You’re in the game, right now—with 14 year-olds, the game does change a bit; doesn’t it?
Russell: It definitely changes; yes.
Bob: Well, and hang on—because some people are thinking, “14/14”—they’re not twins.
Russell: No, we adopted our first two children from a Russian orphanage; and they’re three weeks apart. Yes.
Bob: [Laughing] That is a tag team, right there!
Russell: Yes, it is; yes, it is.
Dennis: He and his wife are part of the tag team, there’s no doubt about it. Russell is the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He has written a book called Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel.
I wanted to ask you about this, Russell, because you have to have given this some thought. There are a bunch of our young people, who are growing up in the church, and they’re being confronted by the culture. The bottom line is—they’re being seduced by it, and they’re leaving the church by the thousands. Explain what you think is happening there.
Russell: Well, I think we’ve had that going on for a long time. The difference is—people would leave--and often, we expected them to leave after high school / sometime in college. We almost had this implicit expectation that people would go off and just run wild until they got married, and started settling down, and having their own kids. Then we expected that they would come back into the church because they wanted programs for their kids.
Now, what we’re seeing is—a situation where we have a mission field around us. Often, that mission field is children—some of whom are prodigals / some of whom, though, are children we have not discipled.
It’s not just that they have rejected the answers—they’ve never even asked the questions because they’ve not been rightly nurtured.
Dennis: And one of the things that a parent has to do is to think about, “What are my children going to face?” and “How do I best equip them to deal with issues?”—issues that are not going to be objective issues / they’ll be very subjective because they’re going to have a face to it.
Bob: In fact, as I’ve been chewing on this, I’ve been thinking: “Culture, by definition, is the shared convictions of a group of people / of a community”; right?
Bob: Well, now we are raising children in an era where the shared convictions of the community—of the culture, broadly—are in opposition to what have been the shared convictions of the Christian community.
Bob: Your kids are growing up in a day when it will be unpopular for them—they will be marginalized, ostracized, and persecuted, perhaps, for holding anti-cultural views.
Russell: Yes, and I think part of the problem, though, is that we haven’t trained children to think through who “we” are. When we think of “we,” what is the answer to that pronoun? Who are “we?” I think if we don’t do that, then we’re all going to implicitly assume that “we” is my peer group rather than seeing “we” as being, first and foremost, the church of Jesus Christ all around the world. That takes intentional discipleship to come in and say, “This is who you are; and this is what you have come into, as a follower of Christ.”
Bob: So how do you do that with a six-year-old or a seven-year-old?—because that seems like a pretty abstract concept to be dealing with—with a six-year-old
Russell: Well, I think the way you do it is—first of all, by the sort of patterns and practices that you have in your home—so that you are praying, intentionally, for the rest of the body of Christ / you’re talking about, at an early age—not just when they’re facing particular cultural temptations—but:
“This is why we, as Christians, see things in a particular way. This is part of our story. We’re the children of Abraham / we’re the people who follow Jesus.” You’re intentionally inculcating those practices.
You don’t count on the culture around you to do pre-evangelism, where we expect the culture to teach you how to become a well-behaved person and, then, Jesus will show you how to do that even more effectively.
Russell: No, you’re intentionally training them: “You are going to be different. Here is how you are going to be different than the world around you.” You know, in our home, one practical way that that manifests itself is with technology. My kids are the only kids in our neighborhood, or in their school, or anywhere else—they don’t have iPhones or iPads.
Bob: Your 14-year-olds—you’re 14-year-olds don’t have them?!
Russell: My 14-year-olds do not.
Dennis: And the reason you know that is—who told you that you were the only parents?
Russell: Because they’re with the other kids.
Dennis: They come back and they tell you, “We’re the only ones!”
Russell: My problem is the opposite problem that I have to deal with. It’s not that they’re complaining, “We’re the only kids here,”—I have to work against a kind of Phariseeism.
Bob: The self-righteous-older-brother kind of thing?
Russell: Yes, yes. I even had one of my children say to the neighbor kids, “You know, it’s really sad that your dad is just such an ineffective leader—that here you are—with this iPhone that you have unrestricted access to.”
Dennis: Oh, my!!
Russell: “Okay; NO! That’s not the way we’re going to handle this,” but to come in and to say, “Why are you different in that sense? It’s because we have a different understanding of temptation / a different understanding of what it means to prepare you to deal with temptation. Here are the things that you’re going to have to deal with...”
That’s no promise that they’re not going to hit 18 and go out and buy 40 iPads with unrestricted access to the internet; but it does mean that we’re teaching them now: “Everything that you want is not necessarily what you ought to have.”
Dennis: You’ve taken a couple of your sons through Passport2Purity®.
Russell: Yes, yes.
Dennis: And you know that FamilyLife loves to help you, as a father, win in being the chief instructor, along with your wife, of your sons to know what it means to be a believer: “Who are we?”—as you said, spiritually-speaking.
I think you’ll be encouraged, Russell—we are about to release, in a couple of months, a brand-new passport experience called Passport2Identity™—It is spiritual identity, gender identity / it’s all about who you are, as a young man or a young lady, and what you’re going to encounter in this world. It’s setting you up, as a father, to know how to pass on the truth of God’s Word about who they are because they will be tempted.
Russell: That’s wonderful! Yes, that’s exactly right. That’s really what all of these questions come down to: “Who am I?” and “Who are we?” The devil came to Jesus and said, “If you are the Son of God, then…” So that question of identity is key; and it is key from very, very early ages on.
Bob: So carve out a weekend this summer and plan to take the 14-year-olds for a getaway—we’ll ship you one of the new passport sets, right when it comes out.
Russell: That sounds great / sounds great. They already think Dennis is a psychic [Laughter] because, when we went through Passport2Purity, he [Dennis] would say, “Your dad is probably nodding his head right now.” [Laughter] They would look and, sure enough, I would. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, as a matter of fact, we’ve included in Passport2Identity some interaction that we did with you in preparing the material to help boys, in particular, understand what it means to be a boy, at a young age. So they’ll, not only think Dennis is a psychic, they’ll think: “Dad! Now you’re talking through the radio!” [Laughter]
Dennis: I can’t wait to hear the story—with you not telling them they’re going to hear your voice—
Russell: That’s right!
Dennis: —and then you show up on the CD!
Bob: Here’s the thing that concerns me—the pressure of the peer culture is so strong in junior high and high school.
I was talking to a parent—a mom and a dad. They’re involved in evangelism and missions. When the Supreme Court ruled on gay marriage, their daughter came and said, “Can I change my Facebook® picture to a rainbow like everybody else in my class is doing?”
Bob: These parents were like: “What? Why?!” But it was just, “Everybody in my class is doing this.”
Bob: I talked to some other parents who said their daughter had kind of become friends with this other girl. The parents said, “Why did you become friends with this girl?” She said, “Well, because we’re the only two in our class who aren’t gay.” The parents were like, “What do you mean?” “Oh, all the other kids are gay.” Well, you and I both know that all the other kids aren’t gay.
Russell: Right; right.
Bob: But there’s such a cultural pressure that a 14-year-old, being brought up in a good Christian home, being instructed, at the dinner table, “This is who we are,” is going to face an onslaught, out in the neighborhood or down at the school.
Russell: Yes, and I think one of the mistakes parents tend to make, sometimes, is to think, “Well, if I don’t address these issues, and if I keep my kids siloed off from that, then I will prevent that.” That is not the case. I mean, my—at the time, he was six years old. He’s my—most well-behaved / sweetest-natured child—he came in one day and said, “Dad, how does a boy turn into a girl?” I said, “What do you mean, Jonah?” He said, “There was this boy on television who had surgery, and he turned into a girl.”
My immediate thought was: “Maria! What are you letting him watch when I’m not here?!” [Laughter] I said, “When did you see this?” He said, “I was in the dentist’s office, and they had it on the news.” Well, my response could have been, “I don’t want him to have this conversation at six.”
Russell: Well, that ship has sailed—he’s six years old. I’ve got to maintain confidence, and I can’t give to him the impression that somehow this question is something that Christianity is not able to address.
Dennis: You can’t freak out either.
Russell: I can’t freak out—that’s exactly right.
Bob: So what does a dad do when a six-year-old says, “How does a boy turn into a girl?” How did you address it?
Russell: Well, what I did was to say: “Do you remember what we talk about? How did God create humanity?” He said, “Adam and Eve.” I said: “That’s right—male and female. That’s how God created us.”
I said, “But, we’re sinners, which means that, often, we don’t feel the way that God made us to be; and we become very confused. Some people are really confused about who God created them to be, as men and women / as boys and girls. There are a lot of people really confused about that. They have the idea that if you just fix it with surgery or with hormones—that somehow is going to turn you into the other person.” I said, “But we know, from what the Bible teaches us, the only way we can ever be back to where we’re supposed to be is by being reconciled to God.” We talked about that, but I wanted to kind of make sure that I didn’t freak out in front of him—
Russell: —even though I kind of was, inside, “I don’t want to have this conversation now,” but you don’t want to give him the sense that: “I can’t talk about that with Dad. If I say that, Dad’s going to become alarmed.”
You want to give the impression that this is the place where we ought to have these conversations.
Bob: And maybe the lesson for moms and dads here is—there should be very little that your kids bring up that you freak out about at all.
Russell: Right—at all.
Russell: And sometimes you just need to say, “I don’t know.” It’s not that you have to have an answer to that. It’s perfectly fine to say: “Huh! You know, that’s a really good question. Let me think about that and what I think about it.”
Dennis: And what I would encourage that parent to do is—what I did when I wasn’t ready to answer a question—I said: “You know, that is really a good question. In order to give you a thoughtful answer that will be helpful to you, let’s reschedule this conversation for the day after tomorrow (or this weekend).” Then, I would go make a phone call—I would call another dad that I respected.
Bob: “Call Russell Moore,” is what you need to do.
Dennis: Yes. I’d call Russell and say, “Russell, how have you handled this?” But the point is—go get your powder dry and think through what the issues are.
Dennis: It will keep you from freaking out.
Dennis: But also, to be thoughtful about how you’re going to explain it because one of the things you talk about in your book is how we have to be respectful, and kind, and nice, and compassionate—
Dennis: —to the boy who wants to turn into a girl.
Russell: That’s right.
Dennis: You’re training your son or your daughter, not just in how to respond to sin, but also in how to respond to people who are not like them, and don’t think like them, and have been raised in families that maybe don’t have a biblical worldview.
Russell: Well, that’s exactly right. And that means, also, making sure that you know what the child is asking—
Russell: —because, sometimes, you’re tempted to answer far more than what the child wants to know. He or she just wants a simple answer to something. You want to come in and prepare that child, apologetically, for every possible thing that will have to do with that issue. That then becomes burdensome because the child is like, “You know, I kind of am curious about this thing that I overheard on the playground; but if I go and ask Dad, he’s going to give me a 30-minute lecture.”
Dennis: Yes, or a 45-minute sermon.
Bob: We’re talking with Dr. Russell Moore, who is the author of the book, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, on FamilyLife Today.
Let me ask you: “How would you answer this?” Let’s say your son, who was asking about how a boy becomes a girl, is now a high school senior and says: “Okay, Dad, I’ve always believed God made them male and female. I just learned about intersex people today.” So what do I do with that?
Russell: I mean, you just explain intersex is a different issue than the transgendered person, who wants to change genders. What’s happening with intersex is—it’s not that God didn’t design this person as male or female—it’s that we don’t know whether this person is male or female. That’s the tragic issue involved here. It’s an entirely different question. Sometimes doctors, as they’re trying to deal with this, make the wrong call.
Bob: Yes; right.
Russell: But that doesn’t mean that gender isn’t part of our created identity.
It’s kind of the exception that proves the rule.
Dennis: Ultimately, you’re challenging parents, first of all, to know what they believe the Bible teaches about some of these matters. In Genesis 1, 2, and 3, God didn’t stutter.
Dennis: He made them two sexes, male and female. I’ll never forget the day my son came home from college; and he said, “Well, Dad, today I learned in college that there are five sexes.” Now, that was then—
Russell: Yes, yes.
Dennis: —that was in 19—
Bob: That’s way outdated!
Dennis: —that was 20 years ago; okay?
Dennis: Today, he may come home—a young lad, from having been on Facebook—and say, “Today on Facebook, I found out that there are over 60 different sexes.” So what you’re doing / what I’m doing, as a dad, is attempting to be a shock absorber, first of all, for the child—
Dennis: —and not freak out, as you’ve said before—but also to bring them back to the Book and to know how to think from the Bible, not to the Bible / to make the Bible prove some kind of point that somebody else is making.
Russell: And also, to train them to be evangelists. I mean, they’re going to be dealing with kids their own age who are going to be really confused on a whole host of issues. I mean, one of the primary questions that I get these days is from youth pastors, who are saying, “What do we do with non-Christian kids, who are coming to our church youth events, but who identify as the opposite sex, and they want to be referred to with female pronouns (if they’re male) or a girl’s name, and so forth?”
That’s a genuine question because these youth pastors are saying: “On the one hand, we don’t want to confuse them and confuse the other kids in the youth group. On the other hand, we don’t want to communicate, “Get yourself cleaned up/fixed up before you come and hear the gospel.”
Dennis: And your answer to that youth pastor is?
Russell: Well, my answer to that is going to really depend, contextually, on the situation. I say: “You have to make it really clear that you don’t buy into this notion, but you also have to make it really clear that that’s not your primary concern with this kid.
“Your primary concern is to see this kid come to faith in Christ.” That’s going to have different manifestations, at different points.
Dennis: And your book is really pointing people to making sure we don’t sacrifice the gospel on secondary issues.
Russell: Yes—well, either direction. There are some people who sacrifice the gospel because all they care about are the issues. They’d rather win an argument than see people won to Christ. Other people sacrifice the gospel because they think, in order to reach people, we ought to reach them without addressing those issues that really are defined as sin and need to be taken to the cross. So we have to be the people who speak with both truth and grace.
Bob: So let me just give you one more scenario. Let’s say your son says: “I want to have a group of guys over for a birthday party / a sleepover party. And there’s this one guy in my class—he says he’s gay. I’m trying to reach out to him / trying to share the gospel with him. Is it okay if he comes to the sleepover at our house?”
Russell: Well, I don’t think sleepovers are a good idea, really, regardless. But in terms of an activity—a birthday party—coming over to the house to hang out and play video games or whatever—“Yes!” I mean, I want to communicate to my sons that we eat with “tax collectors and sinners,”—to use the charge that Jesus had to navigate around. To say, somehow, that your friend, who is not a Christian, is somehow off-limits—I think is a very, very negative message to send to kids.
Dennis: I do think there may be a situation, though—and I want you to speak into this that we faced, raising our kids—where they had a child who was not a good influence.
Russell: Yes, sure.
Dennis: We never made a personal issue out of that child, but we did let our children know—by making it, not impossible, but by making it very difficult—
Russell: Right, right.
Dennis: —for him to go to his place or for him to come to ours for any extended period of time because it was real clear that he, not only didn’t hold to our values—
—in some ways, he was undermining our values.
Dennis: Comment on that.
Russell: Well, you have to look at the particular vulnerabilities that you have with your child. For instance, there are families who have children, who are very easily provoked. There are other friends who come in, who kind of provoke them to anger; and they can’t handle it. Well, yes, you have a responsibility to say: “This is your particular point of vulnerability. We’re going to protect you from that.” But I think that, as you’re doing that, you’re not saying to your kids, “This particular kind of sinner is the kind of person we don’t hang out with.”
Dennis: What I hear us saying, repeatedly—number one is: “Let’s be evangelistic in our thinking, as families. Let’s think about how we take the gospel to our friends.”
We did that through a party, where we bought pizza for kids. At one point, we had one-fourth of the entire student body coming out to this pizza party, where we—
Bob: That’s a lot of pizza!
Dennis: That was a lot of pizza! [Laughter]
We started charging, at that point—one buck for a slice of pizza. [Laughter] But the point was—we were training our children to think about their friends needing the person of Jesus Christ, and His redemption, and forgiveness of sins. In the process, we loved on those kids / we listened to those kids—we were not judgmental of those kids.
I think a lot of families today are not treating their assignment with the kind of respect that they need to be. It’s why a book like yours, Russell, is so important—because I think what Onward does is—it forces a follower of Christ to look at his assignment and go: “I’m not just here to raise a family. I’m here to be an ambassador for Jesus Christ and to raise little ambassadors, who end up knowing how to relate to their generation with the same truth about Jesus Christ that, hopefully, we’re sharing with our friends as well.
Bob: Well, I think what we’re talking about here is that this is going to demand a new level of intentionality on the part of moms and dads. That’s where having resources like the book that Russell Moore has written, Onward: Engaging the Culture without Losing the Gospel, can help you determine how you’re going to be intentional about this. In fact, this is a book that, especially if you’ve got teenagers—this is a book you could read a few pages each night, at the dinner table, and just talk about it / read a couple paragraphs and talk about what you’ve read.
You can order the book from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. We also have copies of Larry Osborne’s book—called Thriving in Babylon—that we’ve talked about this week as well. Order either or both books when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to request either book—1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
Now, as we begin a brand-new year, I want to take just a minute and say, “Thank you,” to those of you who, at the end of 2015, called us / got in touch with us and let us know that you believe that what we’re doing, here at FamilyLife, really is important—that it really does matter. Our goal is to provide practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family, day in and day out, on this radio program, on our website, through our events and our resources. We can’t do that unless we’re joined by people, like you, who say, “This really does matter.”
We’ve not seen the final numbers for 2015 yet, but we did hear from many of our listeners during December. We’re grateful for those of you who got in touch with us. Of course, the need continues, month in and month out. But, again, we just want to pause and say, “Thank you for being a part of what God is doing through this ministry.” Of course, anytime God would lead you to make a donation, it’s easy to do.
You can go to FamilyLifeToday.com—make a donation online; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY and donate; or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO
Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
And we hope you can be back with us tomorrow. We’re going to continue talking with Dr. Russell Moore about standing firm for the faith in a changing culture. That comes up tomorrow. I hope you can be here.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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