Raising kids in a wicked world—and watching them abandon their faith—can be discouraging. What advice does God give to believers who live in pagan lands?

This magazine issue explores one of the most troubling, disheartening realities of our times: the mass exodus of kids from our churches. These are our kids—my kids and your kids. They include the kids we helped train in church; our friends’ kids, whom we’ve known and loved since they were in diapers.

I can’t imagine a challenge that would tear more deeply at a believer’s heart. Scriptures are replete with descriptions of heartaches over lost children: “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him” (Proverbs 7:25).

Perhaps nothing more severely tests our faith and challenges our understanding of God’s ways and purposes. The difficulty is not just the question, “What could I have done better?” but “What do I do now?” and “How can I help others avoid the same outcome?”

If our best efforts in childrearing have ended so tragically, can we even be sure we’re doing the right things? And if we’re in a position of leadership to train others, can we be confident that we’re teaching the right things?

I don’t know about you, but everything is on the table for me. I’m passing all the child-rearing advice that I’ve ever heard through the fire of Scripture to remove the dross and save only the gold.

Is It Hopeless?

Because the magazine is quarterly, we can only touch on broad principles about effective child training in this dark age. I know the details are complex and the challenges overwhelming. So I’d like to end with some words of encouragement—from our only unshakeable source of hope, God’s Word.

Nothing New

One of the most amazing things about Scripture is its frankness about the challenges of life and our proneness to failure. Our challenges don’t surprise God and should not cause us to despair.

It’s always helpful to remember how the prophets and apostles handled challenges. When God’s judgment came against Judah, Jeremiah passed along God’s directions for how to live in the pagan, hostile, enemy territory of Babylon:

“Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished” (Jeremiah 29:4–7).

When Christ ascended, the apostles faced a similarly impossible challenge. The darkness and depravity that enveloped the Greco-Roman world is hard for us to imagine today. The Caesars lived in debauchery and demanded to be worshipped as gods, while slaves were slaughtered like dogs, and state-sponsored religion included prostitution.

Yet at Christ’s command, the apostles went boldly into this world and proclaimed the gospel. They also encouraged believers to marry (Hebrews 13:4) and bring up their children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Never Easy

It was never easy. After a lifetime of founding churches and shepherding families, Peter, Paul, and John were dismayed to see heresy, division, and carnality encroaching on every side.

Rather than wringing their hands in despair, they kept proclaiming God’s Word with simplicity and directness. And their faithfulness turned the world upside down.

The problem clearly is not God’s ignorance of our difficulties or His inability to intervene. The problem lies with us, our unwillingness to access His abounding grace (Romans 5:20) and copious wisdom (James 1:5).

If we will apply ourselves to know and obey the Word, Jesus Christ, we can proceed with confidence and boldness in His strength!

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