Some of the finest people and best workers in the church are people whose parents were Christians. But some of the most indifferent, unconcerned, lukewarm, lackadaisical and undependable people I have ever met, to be called Christians, were people who say they were "raised in the church." Some of the toughest nuts among the backsliders I have trailed down in my years of preaching were people who boasted that "grand pappy took the Firm Foundation for fifty years," or some such remark. Now and then you will find one that says, "Thats the reason I don't go to church today, my parents dragged me to church every Sunday, rain or shine, and I said to myself, if I ever get grown I'll never go again." Of course, this is not the real reason. His parents likely made him go to school. But he doesn't refuse to send his children to school because his parents made him go. His Dad likely gave him medicine, and the doctor gave him shots, hut he doesn't refuse to let his children take shots and medicine. He not only is a hypocrite, but he lacks the courage to assume the blame for his own spiritual bankruptcy and tries to blame it on his old (in many cases dead) parents.
Sometimes these people who were "raised in the church" but who have gone back on their "raising" were children of parents who did not set the right kind of example. Their parents might have been members of the church "just barely." Some people are. They place little emphasis on spiritual things. They taught their children good morals, but to them Christianity meant be "good" men and "virtuous" women, and to go to church if things are favorable. Sometimes circumstances made church attendance difficult. They lived in the country; the roads were bad and the only transportation they had was a wagon. Then the church was small and had poor leadership. They met once a week for fifty weeks and had a ten nights meeting once a year in August. I grew up in a country community, but, whether or not it shows, I grew up in a church that had much better leadership than the average church of its kind. Some of the people who were "raised in the church" need to be "raised" over in this respect, and taught that Christianity is a way of life every day, from the water of baptism to the last fading flicker of this earthly life. Christianity is a life of service; not a family heirloom.
There is a tendency on the part of some who were "raised in the church" to look on their religion as a thing they inherited. And people don't usually appreciate too much a thing which they inherit. Most of these people were baptized when they were about twelve years old, before they really knew the meaning of sin. Therefore, before they could know the real joy of being delivered from sin and death. Their church membership was a thing taken for granted and in many instances taken very lightly. I saw little boys after they were baptized, get into a fight out in front of the church building on Sunday morning. I think their parents scolded them for fighting, and that was the end of it. It was "kid stuff" and nobody thought much about it. Neither did the little boys. If it had been two grown men it would have been a matter for discipline. I am not discouraging young people obeying the gospel, when they know they are lost and hence may know the meaning of salvation from sin, but I am convinced that many of them are baptized because they are expected to be, and never really experience any change, except that they now partake of the Lord's supper. If their parents are the kinds who are faithful and diligent, they will teach them, and as they grow older they will likely come to realize the real meaning of being Christians. But, if their parents are the lukewarm sort, their Christianity will mean about as much to them as the family name they inherit. In far too many cases they become confirmed backsliders.
Some of these backsliders are planning to go to heaven, I reckon, on their church membership "back home." They have lived in the city for years, but just haven't "got started" yet. They had their ticket punched when they were baptized, and have been riding every since. They talk in glowing terms about the church back home, and what "wuzzers they usta wuz." Now they have retired from the church, their clothes are not good enough, haven't found the church, or work shift work. Still their clothes are all right to wear to grocery stores, they found the school house, the movie house and little league ball park. They go "hack home" every other weekend and fishing quite often. Seems that the only place they just can't go is to worship God. Of course, when a fellow like this dies, his family will expect the preacher to give him a "robe" and "halo," because, after all, "he was raised in the church . . ."
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIV; 47, pp. 10-11
October 8, 1970