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When They Turn Away
When They Turn Away: Drawing Your Adult Child Back To Christ by Rob Rienow
The possibility that one or more of our children may walk away from the faith is one of the most heartbreaking things a Christian parent can imagine. In fact, it’s something that many of us don’t even consider to be a possibility—not really. And yet it happens—often. Because my eldest would no longer consider himself a believer, I have had to face this issue head-on.
While online, I came across Rob Rienow’s teaching Never Too Late: Encouraging Faith in Your Adult Child. I drank it in and intend to do so again in the near future. His suggestions were practical and doable.
If I ever have the opportunity to hear him speak in person, I fully intend to do so. He has touched on a vital topic that affects more Christian parents than most of us likely realize.
Although Rienow’s children are still young and some may feel this disqualifies him from writing on this subject, he has worked with youth for many years. And sadly, he has seen a number of them who once seemed to have a strong Christian faith turn from the Lord.
George Barna’s Study
The author turned to well-known statistician George Barna’s 2006 study and discovered some heartbreaking statistics. Eighty percent of young people in their 20s were not connected with church and of those, three out of four had been when they were teens. Incredible!
Further, Barna discovered that a mere 6 percent of those in their 20s and 30s believed what many of us would consider nine basics of the Christian faith. Only 6 percent!
Based on these statistics, those of researcher Thom Rainer, and his own observations, Rienow makes this statement: “Evangelism and discipleship are in dire crisis, and it is a generational crisis. We’re losing more of our own children to the world than we are winning adult converts to faith in Christ.”
Acting Like Christians
A former pastor of mine said that our generation has done a good job of teaching our children how to act like Christians but not actually have a growing relationship with Christ. Sadly, it looks like it has been increasingly the case over the last seven decades.
While these statistics are very sobering, When They Turn Away is about so much more. The author’s purpose for writing the book is clear from the last paragraph of the preface, which says, “My prayer is that God will use the words of this book to point you to the words of His Book. He has not left us alone to figure out for ourselves how to help our wayward children. God has given parents specific guidance and direction so that we might encourage faith in the hearts of our children—no matter how old they are.”
When They Turn Away includes the following chapters: “How Could This Happen?,” “The Perfect Storm,” “Hope,” “Offer Your Heart to the Lord,” “Turn Your Heart to Your Child,” “The Freedom of Forgiveness,” “Draw Your Child’s Heart to Yours,” “Rebuilding the Bridge,” “Point Your Child’s Heart to Christ,” and “For Generations to Come.”
As well as the statistical information, Rienow includes warnings against pluralism and relativism in the first chapter. Twenty-first century Western society not only believes differently; they think and reason differently. It’s important for us to understand this, not only as we ponder the question “How Could This Happen?” but also as we seek to discover a right response when our young people turn from faith in Christ.
Before moving onto what we can do to rectify the situation, Rienow points out in chapter 2 what many of us realize. For many reasons, families, both immediate and extended, have become fragmented. And part of that fragmentation is evidenced by the fact that few of us worship together as we once did, with several generations of the same family attending church together.
After the bad news of chapters 1 and 2, Rienow quickly turns to the good news of what we can do even when we, as parents, feel it’s too late. The last paragraph of chapter 2 reads like this: “It is now time to turn our attention . . . to the hope we have in Christ, and to the principles in Scripture that can give us encouragement and guidance for the journey ahead.”
We Are Not Alone
In chapter 3, the author tells readers of three messages that he will repeat often throughout the remainder of the book: 1) if our child is wayward, we are not alone (of course we know this, but it’s important to be reminded of it from time to time), 2) “It’s never too late. As long as you and your son or daughter still has breath, God can use your relationship with your child to point him or her toward a saving faith and life-transforming relationship with Christ,” and 3) the encouragement to “hold fast to the goal.”
Rienow also encourages us to pray this prayer for our children: “Lord, it is my dream and prayer that my child (insert their name) would love you wholeheartedly, trust Jesus for his/her present and future, and that we would arrive together, safely home in heaven.”
In the same vein, I have often prayed that my eldest would hunger and thirst after righteousness, one of the beatitudes found in Matthew 5.
And speaking of our heart condition, in chapter 4, the author encourages us to first look to the state of our own heart. While it is right to be concerned for our children’s spiritual well-being, the best thing we can do for them is ensure that our walk with the Lord is as it should be.
In the opening of chapter 5, Rienow mentions parents who would ask their son from time to time how he was doing spiritually. However, they never dug deeper and his vague answers seemed to pacify them. Sadly, I can relate all too well. Though I do my best to avoid confrontation, it is often necessary to engage in more than passing conversations with our children about spiritual matters—even if they may become defensive and confrontational.
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Images courtesy of:
Worse For The Wear – Melodi2
Mother and Child – Dindo Jimenez