Prevailing families: the building blocks for a prevailing church

By Frank King

Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children, to another generation
— Joel 1:3

I recently purchased a new phone, and was not looking forward to the usual data transfer process.

Surprisingly, the instructions simply read: Use NFC (Near Field Communication). 

Really? All I had to do was push the NFC button on both phones and sit them together on the table?

I did, and almost magically, my new phone was easily cloned with the programs, data, and information from the old phone. I set up a few passwords, and was up and running with no lost productivity.

I was amazed. I had set aside an entire day for what I foresaw as a dreaded process, so now I had plenty of time left over to play (I mean, explore the valuable features of my new device).

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.
— James Baldwin

While this is not a technical journal, it occurs to me that an NFC feature could greatly benefit our parenting efforts. Near Field Communications may help us to understand a method by which we can transfer godly heritage – our beliefs, values, and manners – to our children, and see the family prevail.

I am not suggesting that simply being next to our children will transform them, but studies do show that being “present” goes a long way toward that goal. Josh McDowell once said “rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” The relationship part of that quote is a parent’s NFC.

When I preach family revivals, my foundational statement to parents is: 

The church is made up of strong congregations, and strong congregations are made up of strong families.

Taking my cue from Pastor Warner’s 2016 theme, The Prevailing Church, I would like to explore what it takes to prevail as a family, thereby seeing families become the building blocks for the church.  

As easy as the data transfer was, my new phone would only have been useful if the old one had been useful first. The old computer jingle, Garbage in/Garbage out, always applies.

So prior to using NFC to clone my new phone, I made sure I had cleaned all the junk off my old phone. This was fairly painless, because I tend to regularly tidy up in that area, anyway. But I did have final judgment calls to make regarding what I really felt I could indeed live without on the new phone.

Decisions were made, and unused apps, old photos, music, and outdated podcasts were gone. The original phone was as clutter free as I could make it before I attempted the copy.

If a parent is to be a good role model – a pattern worthy of copying – he must first clean the “junk” out of his life as much as possible. Old attitudes, habits, and pastimes should be measured against biblical standards. If found lacking, they should be deleted so they will not be passed on. 

This process must continue day by day, delving into a study of the Bible to find godly standards, and complementing that study with prayer and repentance.

Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.
— Robert Fulghum

When a parent is trying to decide whether he should behave in a certain way, he need only ask himself if he wants his child to act that way. Because here is a great parenting truth: your children will become you.

This is a very scary thought to those of us who are honest enough to admit that we are not perfect. 

If my kids will become me, that thought should give me impetus to be the best Christian I can be. 

The old adage “Do as I say, not as I do” is deadly in the arena of families.

There are certain behaviors that seem more “acceptable” for parents than for children, but good parenting is based on the fact that our job is not to raise Christian children, but to raise Christian adults. Children are just the raw material that God gives us to achieve this.

A child who imitates his parent’s “acceptable” behavior will likely imitate the unacceptable as well. I once had to correct a Young Servant for using crass language in Children’s Church. Upon investigation, I learned that he was merely copying his father’s behavior at home.

Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.
— Jim Rohn

My wife and I were discussing the striking resemblance between a mother and daughter in a Christmas photo recently, when suddenly Susan remembered that this particular child was adopted.

What we had thought to be the obvious evidence of strong genes had, in fact, nothing to do with bloodline, as the adoption had not even been within the same family.

All at once, we realized that the transmitted genes were spiritual. The mom’s influence on her daughter had been so strong that the child’s imitation process had actually affected her appearance.

This intensity of influence does not come by casual association, but from near and constant interaction. 

Contrary to the popular myth, “quality time” is not the magic formula for transmitting values. The key to transmission is the quantity of time.

Once a parent has made herself worthy of copy, she must spend the time to allow for the transfer to occur. She should explore common interests with her children, and seek out ways to connect with them.

It is time, not just words, that transfers values. Children want to become like their parents, and they can only learn what that means by frequent exposure.

The good news is that parents don’t need to plan what to do… just make sure the children are with you as you go about your normal daily activities.

I learned how to put in a full day’s work and how to interact with a hard, unfair taskmaster by accompanying my father to work. My whole family learned respect for pastors by going to church with our parents. We learned charity by watching our parents show it to others.

A son will naturally want to imitate his dad, but sometimes a son is not interested in the activities that a dad may enjoy. I suggest that, in that case, Dad might change his interests to match his son’s.

My father had no interest in sports. He worked 2-3 jobs most of the time I was growing up. He was always busy in his moments between involvement at work, home and church.

But when I made the varsity football team in my junior year of high school, he committed himself to attending the games. Over the space of the next two years, he didn’t miss one; he even attended out of town games. That sacrifice means a lot to me, even to this day.

One of my strongest memories from high school is that of me walking out of the locker room, exhausted, bruised, and disappointed after one of our many losses, to be welcomed by the comforting sight of Dad, sitting on the steps of the gym, waiting for me. He used the opportunity of driving me back to encourage me all the way home.

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
— Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman

Our children have many features, and we need to take the time to get to know each of them, just as we learn about our gadgets. When I got my new phone, I spent time exploring its new features, and every time it receives an upgrade, I check out the new bells and whistles. If the new features are counterproductive, I tweak or delete them as part of my regular “tidy time.”

Each child is unique in his or her gifts and talents. They, too, are constantly being “upgraded” and modified. School, peers, media, and other adults are constantly making new features available to them. Some of these features are fine – in fact, a child who has learned to be discriminating in his learning, listening, and choice of friends is well on his way to becoming a Christian adult.

But when our children don’t make good decisions, it is our job to help them check these choices against the standards and mission of our family, and to help them tweak or delete those that are not suitable. 

Even though mothers and fathers are the main influence for our children, it is also true that kids will look to other people in the congregation as role models.

Susan and I raised three children, and every one of them had other godly adults to imitate. Each of those children turned to those adults when they felt they could not turn to us. We are grateful for the guidance they offered. It contributed to the development of three Christian adults. 

During his Valentine’s Day sermon last year, Pastor Fred Rubi made the statement that single people who live a godly life can be pillars of morality in the church. This is not to say “it takes a village,” but it does say rather that the church is the family of God, and each member plays a valuable role in shaping the next generation as tomorrow’s church.

When families are supported by headship, parents, workers, and the congregation, it creates a synergistic relationship. And when children in those families are raised in close proximity to their parents, that generation will eventually take its rightful place as the Prevailing Church.