The “call” to Christian parenthood is a demanding and weighty responsibility. It’s a difficult task to raise our children in the world and yet ensure they don’t become of the world. The call of Christ demands we raise our children to participate in the battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. We must enlist our children into the spiritual service of seeing their world won for Christ. When God places His children into our hands, we must understand He has a destiny-an eternal purpose-for them to fulfill. Just as God the Father sent His Son into the world to save it, so we, as Christian parents, bear the responsibility of teaching our children they’re to be witnesses for Christ.
The challenge of raising our kids to be “good Christians” seems monumental. Raising them to be mighty spiritual warriors seems almost impossible. As the father of a strong-willed girl, I find my time and energy consumed with mundane rituals like getting her to bed on time, not letting her eat too many sweets, and making sure she picks up her toys. While trying to survive the rigors of child-rearing, my wife and I use every opportunity to instill biblical principles and a spiritual foundation in our children. We feel content knowing our kids are well-provided for and well-behaved with a good understanding of their relationship with the Lord.
The onslaught of rebellion and immorality in our present culture has placed Christian parents in a defensive posture where we constantly try to protect our children from the sins that pervade society. But we must also become proactive if we’re to be the parents God has called us to be. God chose that kind of mother for His Son. When Mary realized her Son was to become the supreme conduit of salvation for mankind, she could have been paralyzed by fear over the tremendous responsibility placed in her hands. Instead, in Luke 1:46-55, Mary glorifies God for the position He has placed her in and, by faith, declares that all generations would call her blessed because she knows God’s plan of salvation will be accomplished through her Son. We must adopt a similar attitude of spiritual optimism for our children’s destiny. The task of imparting a spiritually dynamic vision in the hearts of our kids cannot be seen as a building block added after the foundation has been laid; rather we, as Mary, must recognize it to be the foundation. It’s never been so important for Christian parents to understand this principle.
God has a season and time for all His purposes, yet His own people, Israel, didn’t recognize the “fullness of time” when their Messiah was born. Good parenting demands that we know the times in which we live so we can determine what is God’s perfect will for our children. The church must not be divorced from the human condition swirling around it but must merge the sociological with the spiritual to destroy the forces of wickedness and establish the message of Christ worldwide.
We’re raising our children in the greatest season of change the world has ever seen–a time when we not only talk about a global village, we live in one. Megatrends 2000 declares, “. . . a new era of globalization has begun . . . an increasingly inner connected world.” 1 Free trade is the universal economic buzzword propelling us toward a global economy. Communication is developing and expanding at such a phenomenal rate that we, as John Nesbit states, “. . . have laid the foundations of an international information highway system.”2 Political walls have come tumbling down. Mikail Gorbachev, at his 1988 speech to the United Nations, declared, “The ideal of democratizing the world order has become a powerful socio-political force. The Cold War era is over, and it has given way to the age of globalization. Entertainment, arts, and sports have gone global. People everywhere now listen to the same music and watch the same television shows (“Sesame Street” is now seen in eighty-five countries of the world.)”3 The Tuareg, the largest tribe of nomads in the Sahara, delayed their annual migration for ten days in 1983 in order to catch the last episode of “Dallas.”4 MTV is seen in almost every corner of the earth via satellite. The same music is listened to; the same books are read. We root for the same teams and cheer for universal stars. World consumerism guarantees that people eat, drink, and use the same products, creating “the world’s first true world brands.”5
Universal language. There has been a reversal of Tower of Babel, where more and more people are speaking fewer and fewer languages. As the Director of Distribution for a worldwide ministry placing Scripture in public school systems, I’m amazed by our ever-shrinking world. Through education, the children of the world are brought together. Through research, we found that we could reach more than sixty percent of the world’s children with ten languages; with twenty languages we can reach more than ninety percent. For example, Africa, which just a few decades ago was segregated by hundreds of dialects, can now be covered with only four languages.
Travel. Travel has put the world in our backyard. More than one billion passengers fly the world’s airways annually. That will increase to two billion by the year 2000. For about the same amount of time and money, people can now vacation on the other side of the world. I was recently in Sacramento, California, preaching a Sunday-to-Sunday missions convention. An emergency required me to be in Bratsk, Siberia, for a meeting in the middle of the week. 1 left on a red-eye flight Sunday night after church and arrived in time for my mid-week meeting. Then I flew to Moscow for another meeting and arrived back in Sacramento in time for Sunday services. How small the world has become.
Food. Even food has gone global. American fast food restaurants are found in every major capital of the world, while in the United States we’re eating more and more ethnic food. In the last decade, Asian restaurants grew by fifty-four percent, Mexican restaurants by forty-three percent, and Italian restaurants by twenty-six percent. 7
LEADING THE WAY
Globalization means America is moving into the world and, like it or not, the world is coming to America. R. B. Reich states, “. . . as almost every factor of production–money, technology, factories and equipment–moves effortlessly across borders, the very idea of an American economy is becoming meaningless, as are the notions of an American corporation, American capital, American products and American technology. Youth, always the first to change, have adapted to these global realities and are creating a global youth culture, emulating the youth culture of America. Ours is the standard for the world. How sobering to think they may be following our young people down a road of materialism, secularism, and hedonism–even though that path has left our own youth emotionally tormented, intellectually scarred, and spiritually bankrupt. Humanism combined with hedonism has taught our kids to experiment and experience more than any generation before them, yet they are the most dissatisfied generation in history. In a society where everything is right and nothing is wrong, self has become the guiding force. Robert Hughes, in his book, Culture of Complaint, writes, “The self is now the sacred cow of American culture. Self-esteem is sacrosanct, and so we labor to turn arts education into a system in which no one can fail. In the same spirit, tennis could be shorn of its elitist overtones–all you have to do is get rid of the net.”
With no nets, no barriers, and no rules, children grow up with no direction, no values, and no sense of morality. The results are devastating:
Violence: 135,000 children take a gun to school; every fourteen hours a child under the age of five is murdered; homicide has replaced motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death below the age of one. Our murder rate is four times higher than Europe’s, and our rape rate is seven times higher. 10
Immorality: Each year there are 30,000 pregnancies among girls under the age of fifteen. The proportion of unwed teenage mothers has risen from fifteen percent to sixty-one percent since 1960. The birth and abortion rates of U. S. teens are twice those of other countries in the developed world. 11
Despair: The teen suicide rate has quadrupled since 1950: a teenager attempts suicide every sixteen seconds. 12
Apathy: U. S. children rank behind America’s industrial competitors in school achievement tests; SAT scores have dropped for the last twenty-five consecutive years. The high school dropout rate in America is twenty-seven percent. 13
I’ve seen firsthand the devastation in the world, influenced greatly by the American youth culture. The media has glamorized drugs and encouraged immorality and rebellion on a global scale. When I began ministering in the schools of what was the Soviet Union in 1989, I found a refreshing innocence in their young people. Separated from the “freedoms” of the Western world, they exhibited a guileless spirit, free of the immorality rampant among the youth of America. That can no longer be said. In only a few years, I’ve seen these same kids begin to go the way of the West: gratified walls filled with profanity are found in their high schools; prostitution and pornography are commonplace; the spirit of greed is promoted through song, television, and video.
Through cultural imperialism, immorality has become America’s greatest export. One of our teams was recently ministering in a rural community in central Russia. After the evening crusade, a seventeen-year-old girl exhibited signs of being demon possessed. Through intercessory prayer she was delivered and filled with the Holy Spirit. A teen accompanied her home to pray over her house. They were shocked to find posters of American heavy metal groups hanging in her room. The demonic spirit that had possessed the girl wasn’t birthed in Russia but in the United States. Columnist Georgianne Guyers writes, “Cultural imperialism infiltrates a country through radio and TV, through tourists and peace corp-men. It walks into an ancient and tormented country such as Iran, on the cat’s feet of supposedly good willed men from Sioux City, who are in reality Satan, bringing with them Big Mace, women’s rights, and relativistic, intolerant values. Unlike cheeseburgers and jeans, the globalization of television is explosive and controversial because it conveys deeper values the same way that literature does. Entertainment, through the medium of languages and images, crosses over the line of superficial exchange and enters the domain of values. It goes right to the ethos of a culture, addressing the fundamental spirit that forms its beliefs and practices.” 14
1 was on an airplane headed to Moscow that stopped in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. As I sat on the plane waiting for the transit passengers to board, 1 wondered what the Mongolians might look like. A group of Mongolian university students on their way to study in Moscow boarded, dressed in Levi 501 jeans, heavy metal t-shirts, and listening to Walkman cassette players. Four of them sat near me and, between them, spoke seven languages. As we conversed, 1 discovered they admired Michael Jackson, Madonna, Arnold Swarzennegger, and Michael Jordan, but had no idea who Jesus Christ is and had no concept of a heavenly Father or a Savior who loved them.
The powerful force of American culture has reached the shores of every nation while the message of God’s Word E has not spent the first twelve years of my life in the Middle East, my teenage years in Western Europe, and now serve as a foreign missionary. I’m convinced the battle for the youth of our world is being fought on two fronts. If the church in America can’t capture the hearts, minds, and souls of America’s youth, we won’t capture it in other nations of the world. But if we read the times and understand that American youth are hungry for change, we will raise up and equip the greatest army of change-agents the world has ever seen.
WHERE DO THEY GO FROM HERE?
Where does the American youth culture go from here? What do they do after trying everything their world has offered? They either rebel or give up. How do they rebel against a hedonistic, materialistic society? By becoming selfless instead of selfish. A desire to give is being birthed in a nation that was taught to keep. The “me generation” is tired of pursuing a materialistic mirage. The American family lies in ruin because pleasing self was paramount. The new selflessness–environmentalism, one world order, global peace–reflects a desire for harmony and love that has eluded our youth. Our worldly intentions of raising our kids to be the wealthiest, wisest, and most powerful generation in the world is self-destructive. Jeremiah 9:23,24 declares:
Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight . . .
True Christianity produces the kind of fruit teens of America are hungering for. In a world of inequity, hedonism, and hate, we can offer a message of justice, righteousness, and kindness. We need to raise our children to be able to convince their peers that the only true hope is found in God’s redemptive plan for this world.
The hope of a new world order, free of racism, bigotry, and prejudice is a myth. Robert Hughes, a self-professed secularist, states, “There is no new world order. Instead, we have an intractable new world disorder as all nationalist passions and religious hatreds that have been frozen emerge refreshed by their siesta.” 15 The role models American youth choose to lead them out of their culture will fail them. Madonna contends she is a revolutionary against the present order of power. She says her message undermines “capitalist constructions and rejects core bourgeois thinking.” This will be real news to Time Warner, which pays $60 million for the rights to her work. Some rejection! 16
The youth of America are lost children looking for true integrity and righteous role models filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Most believe American youth are too soft and too lethargic to rebel against the culture that has failed them. Retreating from society in suicide seems to be the easiest form of escape for many. The recent craze for “grunge” music, popularized by groups like Nirvana and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, typifies the new discontentment. Called a backlash of the materialism of the 1980s, grunge encourages dressing like hobos, retreating from the mainstream, and rejecting the materialistic values of parents. But in an age of superficial rebellion, the grunge fashion became so popular it became a fashion craze from Seattle to Paris. The movement is dying because it’s become part of the twisted mainstream, always looking for something new and different. But the message of grunge is clear. Alice in Chains, a popular grunge group, expresses its feelings in a song called “Dirt”:
I’ve never felt such frustration or lack of self-control,
I want you to kill me and dig me under;
I want to live no more.
I want to taste dirty, a stinging pistol in my mouth, on my
I want you to scrape me from the walls and go crazy like
you’ve made me.
You, you are so special, you have the talent to make me
feel like dirt;
You, you use your talent to dig me under and cover me with
One who doesn’t care, yeah, is one who shouldn’t be;
I’ve tried to hide myself from what is wrong for me.
One who doesn’t care, yeh, is one who shouldn’t be; I’ve tried to hide myself from what is wrong for me. 17
While this doesn’t represent the mainstream of America’s youth culture, it’s an example of the growing sense of despair among teens in the United States. This despair is well-founded as the youth of America face a foreboding future. This will be the first generation of Americans who will not better their parents. Globally, noted historian Paul Kennedy, in his book, Preparing for the 21st Century, prophesies a bleak future for the world system. 18 Demographics do not bode well for planet Earth. By the year 2025, when our children are in their prime, the total world population will be over ten billion. 19 The brutal significance of this figure is that ninety-five percent of this growth will occur in the underdeveloped, already overpopulated southern hemisphere. The present equilibrium between the “haves” and “have-nots” will collapse. Kennedy adds, “If the developing world remains caught in its poverty trap, the more developed countries will come under siege from tens of millions of migrants and refugees eager to reside among the prosperous but aging population of the democracies. Either way, the results are likely to be painful for the richest one-sixth of the earth’s population that now enjoys a disproportionate five-sixths of its wealth.” 20 Kennedy ends his book, stating:
As the cold war fades away, we face not a new world order, but a troubled and fractured planet. . . . The pace and complexity of the forces for change are enormous and daunting. If these challenges are not met, humankind will have only itself to blame for the troubles and disasters that could be lying ahead. Many earlier attempts to peer into the future concluded either in a tone of unrestrained optimism or in gloomy forebodings or in appeals for spiritual renewal. 21
REACHING THEIR WORLD
As believers, we know what the Bible prophesies concerning this world system. It’s not our place to name a day or hour for Christ’s return, but it’s obviously imminent. Our children, if not us, may well see firsthand the culmination of human history.
Approaching these realities from a Christian parent’s perspective could cause us to react in two ways: fear could cause us to become Christian isolationists, where we try to protect ourselves and our children from the impending realities. Or we can look to God’s Word and implement His kingdom principles.
Christian youth have the brightest future of any generation to come before them. They will see God’s Spirit poured out on all flesh, causing the greatest revival the world has ever known. We must instill a sense of destiny in them so they won’t just try to survive the future but will conquer it with a zeal for justice, righteousness, and loving kindness. It’s vital that we prepare them for what lies ahead, for Satan, our adversary, would like nothing better than to cut off the next generation from the eternal destiny and plan that God has for their lives. Herod, as a tool of Satan, hearing the Messiah was coming to change the world, attempted to slaughter every potential candidate by killing the children of Christ’s generation. So it is today that Satan uses every tool, every demonic force, to try to destroy an army of young people who have a greater potential to see their world won to Christ than any generation before them. As parents, let us understand the awesome responsibility we have to make them aware of their calling, to provide an environment in which their gifts can be developed, and equip them with the tools they need to take the message of Christ’s love around the world.
The Reverend Rob Hoskins, an Assemblies of God missionary, directs the Book of Life program for Life Publishers International, a ministry that distributes the Word of God in public schools around the world. He is also the founder of Affect Destiny Teams, mobilizing people in the church of America to reach their world.
Rev. Hoskins received his degree in Sociology/Anthropology from Southern California College.
He and his wife Kim have two daughters: Diandra and Natasha. They live in Pompano Beach, Florida.