Evangelize, not Indoctrinate

by Barnabas Piper

authoritarian-parentIt’s a parent’s job to teach children. Children are malleable and impressionable. If we don’t teach them and shape them someone else will. They need to be protected, guided, and trained. We need to put the right raw materials in so that as they mature the right refined, processed results can begin to appear and we need to help them in the actual processing and refining.

Too often, though, this effort by parents becomes skewed; it takes a weird turn. We get this idea we have authority over our children’s hearts. We demand right responses to theological questions. We put in biblical material and expect biblical results. We catechize them to perfection under the assumption if their answers are right so too are their hearts. In short we indoctrinate them.

The reality is that we have no more authority over our children’s hearts than we do our next door neighbor’s or our office mate’s. Now, if given the opportunity and liberty, we might indoctrinate them too. But I tend to think we find more pleasure and genuineness in seeing people come to belief rather than imposing belief on them. Oh, and no free-thinking adult would allow this sort of imposition, whereas our children have very little choice in the matter.

Why is it we do not often evangelize our children with the same grace, patience, interaction, and mutual respect we do our neighbors? We correct our children’s ideas about God or morality with a “no, that’s not right” method rather than an “I believe _____ because _____.” method. But what if our children don’t agree?

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