It wasn’t but a few months ago that my wife came home from a meeting with a group of Christian women. The group had gotten together to study the Bible and the class just so happened to be on Christian parenting. Once she returned home, I could tell by the look on her face that something was bothering her.
After I asked her what was wrong she explained to me that a discussion had begun about what makes a successful parent. She was disappointed because she realized that many people in the class had a measurement of successful parenting that was defined by the world, not by the word of God. It seemed that many she was around defined their children as successful based upon their education, their job, their status in society, the amount of money they make, or other factors. All this was being said while it was not discussed about if their children were faithful to the Lord.
What makes a successful Christian parent? If one were to stack the amount of books written on this subject on top of one another, it would probably make the Tower of Babel blush. There are lists, seminars, checklists, and blogs dedicated just to this subject. Yet, even today and with all these resources, Christian continue to define successful Christian based on at best a mixture of worldly and Godly definitions. As I write that sentence I ask myself if that is even possible.
Let me give my definition of successful Christian parenting. I know a couple. I have known them all my life. In that time and during the times that I have attended church with this couple I never remember them not being in church except for when they were away visiting family. They are not wealthy by the world’s standards but they share what they do have. If someone were to ask me to define these people in one word, the word I would use would be “happy.” They are happy people.
This couple has four children. Just as I remember them being in church, I always remember their children being in church. Not only in church, but the children took on roles of leadership and service within the church and always used the talents their Lord had given them to edify His body of believers. Granted, I do not know all of the children as well as I once did today but I do know this. All four of the children of this couple are faithful to the Lord and His church today. I don’t think any of them are doctors or lawyers. I don’t believe any of them would be considered powerful movers and shakers in society. Yet, in my eyes, they are a wonderful product of Christian parents and these parents should stand as a measure for the rest of us if we have been or are being successful as parents. In a society where statistically maybe only one of the four of their children should still be faithful, this family has watched the Lord work in a way in their lives that trumped the odds and threw the current statistics straight out the window. This to me is the definition of successful parenting. If the meeting of objectives must be measurable, than what other ruler should we use than if our faith has been passed on to our children and that they have developed their own faith in the Lord Jesus Christ?
Perhaps the problem is that we define success as the world does. To paraphrase Webster’s definition, success is the meeting of a desired outcome of the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence. Who doesn’t want those things for their children? However, in a time where it is guaranteed that the next generation will be the first to not prosper as much as the one previous, isn’t it time that we go back and begin defining “success” by the word of God?
In the New Testament, the only wishes of success as we would define it in the world are secondary to Biblical success. For instance, John in his letter to Gaius in 3 John wished Gaius prosperity and health only as Gaius’ soul prospered. John did not hope for Gaius to forfeit his soul’s well being for worldly success. In Romans 1, Paul asked for prayers of success but only in the hope that worldly success and gain would make his ability to spread the gospel easier and better insured. Not once in the New Testament do we find a prayer for worldly success simply for the sake of wealth, prosperity, or eminence.
So then what is successful parenting according to the New Testament? In order to better understand it, we have to forget what the world calls success. To the world, success is measured in the here and now. It is a big check, a huge home, a large following, a shiny boat. But to the New Testament Christian, success is something that comes afterward and as parents, this is even more the case.
If I have raised my children successively, I must realize that successively means after or in order. It means that once my time granted to me by the grace of God is over, that my children then succeed me in their own faith. They come after me. They follow the path that I have followed and they carry on the faith that has been granted to me as well. Not that I can make my children have faith in the Lord, but that if my children see the happiness and peace that surpasses all understanding in my life, they will want to succeed me in carrying that on.
What is success? Success means to come after. If you children are not coming after you in their own Christian faith, and yet you somehow are able to look upon your children and consider them a success, then you have allowed something other than the word of God to form your opinion on this matter. The only measurement of a successful Christian parent is found in what comes afterward, what succeeds the parent. I have faith based on the word of God and subjective examples that if one will ground their children in the gospel of Christ and will follow the example of the couple I mentioned above by having their children in worship, then the chance of this success skyrockets. I also believe that the Bible teaches that one without the other is a disastrous result.
Let us look around us at the current results of other supposed Christian parenting and see if what we are doing now is working or not. The answer is a tragic one.