In the ninth in a series of articles from Through-Lines: Defining What a Christian Is – Christians discern the idols of our culture and become culture-makers.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
—Romans 12:2 (NIV)
The Great Pyramid at Giza, the Temple of Artemis, and Statue of Zeus. Archeologists know what’s important to a culture by studying how the people spent their resources and time. They’re able to point out the objects of worship pretty quickly, because they can tell where the most time, the most money, and the most effort went. I wonder what future archaeologists looking at our North American societies will say about what we value. Well, I think they’d find just what they found in the ancient cultures: the idols of our day are the things and people on which we spend our time and money. Except for some huge church buildings, and a whole lot of “Jesus junk,” they might have a hard time understanding how we worship God in our day.
Kids can learn to discern their own idols by reflecting on what they spend their time and money doing and buying. They can see what we adults worship too. But it’s not enough to discern for ourselves. We need also to be prophetic-speakers who, like the Old Testament prophets, call it like it is, and point others to the One who alone is worthy of worship. Churches are supposed to be communities that are counter-cultural, and because of that, sometimes uncomfortable, with calls-to-action. How are we teaching our children that when they serve God it makes them different?
Think about training parents about culture and media consumption and encourage them to talk about what they and their children watched, use and participate in. Teach parents to share about what they liked, disliked, or found interesting about the culture around them.
In today’s church culture, it seems that many parents leave the nurturing of spirituality to “professionals” (church ministry leaders). For example, one research study stated that most American children, including those who support a Christian religious preference, do not read or listen to the Bible regularly. It was reported that even among children who identify as born-again Christians, typically a group with the highest rates of Bible engagement, one-quarter to one-third do not read or listen to the Bible at all in a given week. If that is the case in your church, then it’s only ministry leaders who might be reading the Bible to kids, or teaching them how to pray, or singing with them often and loudly. Here too you as leaders need to call out what’s wrong with that picture, and work to change the culture.
You can help equip and encourage parents with resources to teach Bible literacy, guide prayer, and to sing with their kids. Family dinner table or bedtime Bible reading and discussions are vitally important to do. We should encourage prayer at meals whether at home or in a restaurant, and before important family moments. Singing is a great way as a family to praise God, and a little in-the-car songfest can be lots of fun.