A few years ago, our magazine's graphic designer and his wife took their three children to a Life Chain.
Life Chains are formed in towns across the United States as people quietly stand along major streets, carrying signs that declare "Abortion Kills Children" and "Jesus Forgives and Heals." Most people who drive by just look out their car windows, either too timid to react or confused by the sight of men, women and children lining the streets holding anti-abortion signs.
Pro-life supporters honk their horns and wave in encouragement. Vocal pro-abortion supporters yell sound bites of argument from their cars. Some shout curses and make obscene gestures.
Their children were not old — 14, 11 and 10 — but our designer and his wife decided they should be there, not only to stand up for the lives of babies, but also to learn. He said they wanted to show their children that the abortion debate wasn't just academic. "They need to see that this is real, that this is about actual people."
The children were quick studies. "Why are people so angry?" their 11-year-old son asked after one car passed with a barrage of obscenities. That opened a family discussion about how people react when their basic beliefs are challenged. "It isn't just about abortion laws," he told his children. "It touches what people think about God and people."
Ultimately, this father and mother want their children to grow up not only aware of the moral debates swirling around them, but also prepared to stand for their Christian convictions. The Life Chain was just one experience to help accomplish that.
It's hard to keep up with the issues that Christians, especially Christian leaders, can address. Abortion, pornography, gambling, Sunday blue laws — on and on. One December, a Colorado minister encouraged Christians to boycott any local retailer who wished customers "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."
Several ministers I know have decided it is too much. "There's always some issue we can speak about," one said. "But I worry about getting distracted from my main task: to preach the Word."
Proclaiming the gospel is indeed a minister's first call — but the Bible has some words about moral issues too. People in the church need to hear what the Lord thinks about how we use our time, spend our money and make our decisions.
But even if we are reluctant to speak up about social concerns, there is another audience to consider — the one at home. As our designer and his wife know, parents have a responsibility to prepare our children for standing up for what is right, and ministers have a unique opportunity to do that.
Our children will hear (or hear about) what we say from the pulpit or print in the church newsletter. They will see how (and how often) we stand for the truth. When our public words match our personal deeds, we can help our children understand the issues at stake and encourage them to stand up for truth.
I think of Joshua. When faced with a stark choice between outspoken faithfulness and mixed allegiances to other gods, he boldly announced, "As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). Ministers say that every time they speak up for righteousness — and their children are watching.
A father’s greatest influence is not what he teaches his children, nor the pride he instills through great accomplishment or recognition. It is who he is, the presence he shares, the time spent with his kids, the love for his family he models, the values and priorities by which he lives, the commitment he makes to his God.
Ever feel like you wear a mask to cover up who you are as a pastor's kid? Do you feel like you have to hide the real you? Growing up in a minister's home, I felt like I was always smiling through the pain or putting on an attitude to please the people of my father's church — but not necessarily my God.
Ever feel like you need to wear a mask to cover up who you are? Are you concerned that, if people knew who you really are and how you really felt, they wouldn't understand?