Taking Responsibility

by Helen Cates

I recently overheard a conversation about a man who insisted that it was the public school’s responsibility to educate and discipline his children. He was complaining that the public school system was failing him. As a home schooler, I was appalled at the thought that this man was not exercising his parental responsibilities; but immediately after I overheard this conversation, I began to realize that perhaps I, too, had relinquished some of my own responsibilities.

This startling revelation came from a conversation I had with a teenager who attends public school. We were talking about how evolution was being taught in his classroom. Unbelievably, this teen (who goes to church on a regular basis) believed what his textbooks and teacher taught him. How can this happen? Is it possible that some of us parents have the same attitude about the church being responsible for our children’s spirituality?

This past Halloween I decided to distribute candy and gospel tracts to the trick-or-treaters. My fifteen-year-old son and his cousin were instructed to hand out the booklets along with the candy. Unfortunately, I did not check on my boys until it was almost too late. While checking to see if we were running out of candy, I noticed the stack of gospel tracts. Counting them, I realized that not one of them had been handed out.

Deeply disappointed, I called to the boys and questioned them about the tracts. They answered me with shrugs and downcast eyes. The doorbell rang as I was reprimanding the boys. Standing at my door was Batman, a football player, and a skeleton. With eager faces, the children held out their bags. I slipped a tract into each bag along with their candy.

“Can I have some more for my brother?” asked the skeleton.

I grabbed another handful of candy.

“No,” said the skeleton pointing at the tracts. “Could I have some more of those?”

With joy, I handed him some extra tracts.

The doorbell rang again. This time it was a sad-looking punk-rocker who looked about fourteen. While sorting through my dish for her candy, I wondered from what type of home life she came. Was she on drugs? Were her parents divorced? I wondered as I selected her tract if this would be the first time she hears about Jesus or whether this would be her last opportunity? I felt like weeping as I slipped the gospel into her sack. I watched after her for a moment as she disappeared into the night.

Traffic had virtually stopped, and the candy was down to a handful. The stacks of gospel tracts stared back at me with accusation.

Although it was after ten and the streets were long vacant, I was reluctant to turn off the porch light. I kept pacing around the house expectantly. Unbelievably, just as I was about to lock the door, the doorbell rang. Standing on my doorstep were five huge grins. Each and every one of them looked about seventeen or eighteen years old. I do not know who was grinning the most, them or me. I blurted, “I’ve been expecting you! I nearly gave up hope!”

I humbly distributed the rest of the candy and slipped them each a gospel tract. As they waved goodbye and stepped into the darkness, I marveled after them. Is it possible that God had sent them to my doorstep this late in the night? God does, after all, work in mysterious ways.

The following morning, I questioned the boys about the tracts. My son, quick to blame others, pointed at his cousin. My thirteen-year-old nephew said that he had felt embarrassed. That morning the boys and I had a discussion about how important it is to share the gospel. I listened to their concerns about how un-cool it is to hand out tracts. The entire time we were having this conversation, my mind kept traveling back to my own experiences as a teen. Would I have felt the same way? I pictured my own circle of friends and how they would have mocked me. I also realized that I had never witnessed to any of them.

Should we blame Hollywood and our televisions for the stereotypes of today? Ask any skeptic, and he will tell you that a Christian is a weak-minded individual who serves a weak and powerless god. It is no wonder that the lost teens of today think that hell is preferable to heaven. Should we blame the churches for this stereotype, or should we dig deeper and look at ourselves? I had to pray to God to burden my heart and to open my eyes. According to the scriptures, we wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. (Ephesians 6:10)

Man’s first battle had begun in the Garden of Eden when Satan had cast doubt upon God’s Word.

The NIV Teen Study Bible (that boasts more than a million sold) is a radical and graphic book that is meant to attract our teens. The study guide covers all the contemporary issues that our teens are facing today, like sex, drugs, dating, witnessing, etc. This teen Bible gives a standard dictionary definition on each of the issues of today. Trying to be cool, this Bible also gives its own fun alternative definition.*

The alternative definition for sex (1993 edition) is “another fun thing mean adults tell teenagers to keep away from.”

The definition for prayer is “talking to the ceiling and wondering if anybody is listening.”

The definition for church is “what you have to get dressed up for so you can be bored for an hour at a morning service.”

The definition for witnessing is “a way to get friends to laugh at you by telling them about God.”

Right in our own churches and in the Word of God, our teens are getting mixed messages.

I wonder just how much it grieves our Lord that we Christians have been allowing these stereotypes to run rampant in our world. It is no wonder that the lost teens (and even some Christians) question the scriptures and the sovereignty of God. Is it possible that the world perceives Jesus as weak and feeble because our own faith is presented to others as weak and feeble?

I thought again about the Christian teenager who believed in evolution. How many parents even bother to read or question what is in their children’s textbooks? How many of us have even questioned and examined what is in our Christian bookstores? When we do find doctrinal errors, why do we tolerate them? Are we leaving the responsibilities for our children’s spirituality on the doorstep of our churches? Are we parents really testing all things? Are we taking full responsibility?

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

* These are not the definitions that this version of the Bible endorses; they are just definitions that teenagers in their ignorance would say. The 1998 version changes those definitions, but this article addresses a much broader issue. Christians are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” When a “new packaging” of God’s Word arrives in Christian book stores, the parent—who is in authority over the training of a child—should examine and prove that which will enter the mind and heart of the child. Why would home school parents relinquish this responsibility when they expend such effort and pay such close attention concerning that which they teach in their home schools?