Mao Zedong held more sway over more people than arguably any other person in history, yet, when the final accounting is made, his influence pales in comparison to the host of humble people who tirelessly work to share the Bible with children.
Consider this. A longstanding totalitarian policy enacted by the 20th century’s worst and reincarnated today by the likes of Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, and the theocrats in Tehran curtails the church in teaching the young. By this they strive to keep the “insidious” ideas of historic Christianity from contaminating their dark hopes for the future.
This diabolical censorship, ironically, reinforces the priority of teaching the young “in the way they should go” and elevates the role of young parents and Sunday School teachers from the supposed backwater of Christian ministry to the very front lines of the church’s work.
Granted, these two warring camps meet while moving in opposite directions, with the one encouraging an attitude of abject servility and the other insisting on the fallibility and dignity of all mankind. Yet, they both agree that the education of the youth is of vital importance in the preservation and continuation of any worldview, whether that view be the Faith of our Fathers or the latest postmodern fad. To preclude any threat from the Christian worldview, contrary ideologies take particular pleasure in downgrading or eliminating the role of biblical truth in their educational policies.
Perhaps, we should see this as a compliment. If, as our cultural hegemons unfailingly assert, the “myths” of Christianity are passing away like yesterday’s fashions, then why go to all the trouble of keeping the youth from hearing its cruciform Siren’s call? One doesn’t bother to ban what holds no appeal, nor what poses no danger to your view of the world. Yet, as the persistent Hong Kong protesters and renegade Western homeschoolers can attest, this “archaic” Faith maintains enduring appeal and fosters troublesome dispositions, and so to this trouble, the progressive elites inevitably go.
As Christians, we must recognize both the peril and the promise of this situation. The peril is obvious. Our brothers and sisters around the world are facing overt attempts to undermine the church’s ability to pass along the “old, old story” to the new generation. In the West, we face much the same, albeit accompanied more by lawsuits and the “Cancel Culture” than brute force.
To this, whether here at home or around the world, we must stand up and protest. Most of all we must persist. We must persist even when it isn’t popular, even when it is costly. In our day and age, to claim that the principles of the Scriptures continue to hold sway over our lives is a rank heresy, and for this heresy the world will have little patience. Yet, as those same Scriptures promise us, we must still continue in leading others along God’s path, whether we earn our neighbors’ praise or scorn.
Insisting on sharing the testimony of the Bible with the generations that follow is a fundamental duty for us all. For those of us who are parents, our children become our primary mission field, the greatest testimony we can ever give as witness to our faith. For those who are single or otherwise childless, it is no less a part of our Christian duty to train up our young ones than giving to the poor, working for justice, or even writing an article.
Think of the way you came to faith. Perhaps it was because a book you read or an event you attended, but I’d bet that there was a person involved. There are those who come to know God without the influence of a believer, but most come to see the love of Christ because of the love that a Christian poured into our lives: A grandmother, a Sunday School teacher, a friend, or, very often the steady presence of our parents, guiding us along the way.
What’s more, many of those who become children of the living God do so while literally children themselves. We love the tales of those like Paul of Tarsus who came to Christ after a life opposing Him. But, a plurality, if not outright majority, are like Timothy, Paul’s son in the faith who came to that faith while still quite young. The grace of Christ becomes a reality in people’s lives most often through their relationships while still in their youth.
The Billy Grahams and Augustines of Hippo of history get well-deserved attention for their labor expanding the kingdom. But, from the Early Church to now, the greatest missionaries spreading the gospel aren’t the famous who speak to the masses but the unknown who share with loved ones. The greatest warriors of God, the greatest threat to the world and its false ideologies are not the grand names with the grander resumes. It’s the Sunday School teacher who labors for years in quiet faithfulness. It’s the older mentor taking a younger soul under her wing.
Perhaps most of all, it’s the moms of young children, the ones working without sleep and running on cold coffee to make sure that her little charges know the love of the God who sacrificed His Son for them, who showed a love greater than any in this world, greater even than the love she shows to them.
The very most important arena of Christian ministry is not the theologian’s library or even the pastor’s pulpit but the often unnoticed and unpraised labor of those working beyond exhaustion in the caring and crucial labor of raising children in the love and admonition of the Lord.
Contrary to the expectations of male-chauvinists and radical feminists alike, the greatest glory for a human life isn’t found in front of the crowd or following your dreams; it’s in caring for the least of these. When the curtain on our grand drama falls at last, we will find that the unnamed teachers and stay-at-home moms did more to shape the course of human history than the greatest preacher or vilest dictator.
Timothy D. Padgett, PhD, is the Managing Editor of BreakPoint and the author of Swords and Plowshares: American Evangelicals on War, 1937-1973