Nurturing the Faithful, by Jacob Aukeman
Recently during a visit to my hometown, I had a nice visit with the lady who ran the youth group that Richelle and I attended when we were in high school. She shared a neat little phrase with me that she had read: “God doesn’t have any grandchildren, he only has children.”
Which sounds kind of cool in a *woah man that’s deep* kind of way until you think “wait so exactly what does that mean?” So she explained. God doesn’t have grandchildren – just because your parents are believers, it doesn’t follow that you will be too. That is a personal choice and a commitment that everyone has to make on their own – you don’t get it for free by way of an inheritance. Your relationship with God doesn’t pass through your parents, it is something that you have to establish directly, one-on-one, with the Almighty.
I suspect most of us here who were not raised in the Disciples church were baptized as babies – I was. Truth be told, I was actually baptized Catholic. But we’re going to keep that on the down-low, if the Pope finds out he might want me back. Who am I kidding, he’d probably say “Eh, you can keep him”.
But infant baptism, while nice for new parents, and gratifying for the congregation, doesn’t really have much impact on the spiritual life of the child does it? Forgive me if I sound demeaning, but it does carry with it a bit of an attitude of ‘God’s grandchildren’ doesn’t it?
For the past few months, Pastor Jonathan has hosted a class with Dixie Ball, Jacob Drews and Roger Aukeman to answer their questions and to prepare them for today.
That Dixie, Jacob and Roger had to choose to attend Pastor’s class and have agreed to be baptized and to affirm their faith in front of all of us is evidence that they have taken it on themselves to start down the path of growing beyond a version of the faith built on Sunday School stories about what other people did long ago and into one built on a commitment to the lifelong task of seeking out, establishing and maintaining a personal relationship with God. A faith that will require study, introspection and prayer to discern God’s will for them and the discipline to obey that will. A faith that will place demands on them. A faith that will influence their role in the world around them for the rest of their lives.
No doubt, this is a big day for our young people. It represents a big decision on their part. But even though the decision is theirs alone, it isn’t made in a vacuum. Nor are Dixie, Jacob and Roger on their own in this journey, are they?
Their parents and families have set their feet on the path by modeling the faith for them and of course by bringing them (OK, to be fair, sometimes dragging them) to church on Sunday mornings. And we, as a congregation, their church family, have offered a welcoming place for them to start to take their part in a community of believers.
And we all have the opportunity to continue to watch Dixie, Jacob and Roger–and indeed all of our young people that we are blessed with–grow as people and as Christians, and may I say the obligation to help guide them and teach them through Sunday School or Bible Study, or through the Music and Drama Ministries or the Youth Group, or even just by being a friendly face and a positive presence demonstrating Christ-like behavior that they can look up to.
Being a Christian is a lot of work. Let’s face it, the outwardly-focused tenants of our faith given to us by Jesus – “love your neighbor as yourself”, “pray for those who persecute you”, “feed my sheep” – these run directly counter to our very inwardly-focused human nature. Being part of the church, we think of these concepts as fundamental truths but the fact is that without constant reinforcement and effort to pass these teachings on, they would surely be forgotten.
I like to think that we are blessed with many leaders here at First Christian. People who are mature in their faith, selflessly give of themselves in the spirit of Christ and—even though I’m not a young person myself anymore—are the sorts of people whom I look up to and learn from. And when I consider that the next generation of the faithful, like Dixie, Jacob and Roger, can take mentorship and draw inspiration from people like that, I know we as a congregation are faithfully nurturing seeds that have been planted and will bear fruit for years to come. And God willing, may it always be so.