Monday, March 28, 2011

Bringing Adult Children (back) to Faith 3

After you have rebuilt your relationship with your adult child by hanging with them (don't ever leave this activity and don't push too fast), it is time to begin the work of introducing them to Jesus.  This is the stage of accommodation.  This is the stage of spiritual growth when people are learning what Jesus teaches and they begin to recognize Him as a good teacher.  "Who do people say that I am?"  remember Jesus asking that?  "A teacher, the prophet...the Messiah."  People rarely jump to a complete understanding of who Jesus is.  For the disciples, 3 years of following the real, present person of Jesus around, eating and listening to Him, experiencing his crucifixion and seeing Him alive again were not enough for conversion but it is critical plowing.  They accommodated His teachings ...some.  Finally, the Holy Spirit poured out on them at Pentecost converted them.  Your task up to now has been to be simply, fully, present with your child.  Now you may start, not preaching, but talking matter-of-factly, not about how your child needs Jesus, but talking matter-of-factly about how Jesus influences your decisions.  This is called faith talk.  In normal conversation about life, you stop not talking about Jesus and talk about Him casually like He is a part of everything you do- as He is in everything you do.  Remember that evangelism is not about convincing people to come to Jesus - which you can't do, it is about your testimony, giving voice to the reason for the hope you have in Christ.  "I hear you that you are really struggling in your marriage.  You may not know this but I struggle with that, too.  Marriage is hard for me.  Getting to know what Jesus says about love has really helped me make it through the rough times."  After 3 years of this kind of conversation, and your child seeing you crucify your life for them, they will begin to pay attention.  If it was a long process for Jesus, it will probably be a long process for you so take your time and do it well.  Pray for the Holy Spirit to infiltrate their thinking, to surround them, to open opportunities for faith talk.  They will happen.  Then your child will start the process of bringing Jesus as teacher, accommodating Him, into their lives.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bringing Adult Children (back) to Faith 2

The first step in bringing adult children home is Affiliation (the previous blog).
The second step is Association.  When you associate with someone, you work side by side with them. 
This is not a long term commitment nor a blood brothers activity.  You're helping a neighbor put a roof on.  You help put up chairs after an event because a friend asked you to help them.
For alienated children (of all ages), one of the most important steps (remember this is a progression) you can take is to simply do something with them that does not have them as the focus.  If your child gets a hint of, "This will be another opportunity to give them the talk," then they are out of there - if they show up at all.
You really need to spend time with your child just doing "stuff".  Quality time is important but only in small doses.  Quantity time is critical at this stage of wooing someone to Christ.  People need to feel safe that you are not going to badger them.  This is especially true (and requires longer effort) if you have been at odds with your child for a while.  They need to know first that you love them and like them and also, paradoxically, that they are not the center of your life.  Partnering primes the conversation pump with trivial matters so that the conversation you long for can happen...later.  Trying to pry that rose bud open only makes a mess so relax.  Take your time. Shut up and just do something with them.  Associate with them.   Oh... and pray like crazy. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bringing Adult Children (back) to Faith

We all want, desperately, for our children to follow Christ.  When those children as adults are far away from Christ, we often despair.  Be sure of this, it is never too late.
It is much harder to bring someone into the faith or back into the faith when they are adults but
our God is a worker of miracles.
Often a flaw in our efforts to evangelize adults that are close to us is to think that we can reason them into faith.  "If I can just find the right argument they will get it."
Other broken methods are trying to guilt them or cajole them or scare them into it.
Many others think that if we just tell them to come to church enough times they will wear down and one day come.  Give that up.
Though Paul had a sudden experience of transformation, this is not typical.  Usually coming to faith is a process.
The first step in that process is Affiliation.
Affiliation is the stage in formation when people are warming up to the church and Christ.  It is just like meeting someone - it is meeting someone, actually.  If you are introducing two people that you want to become friends, you make the first meeting light and pleasant in a nice atmosphere.  You want them to warm up to each other.  This is the first step in bringing adults to faith.  If you have been pursuing your child, it will take a while for them to get over that history so be patient.  They need time to unlearn what you have been giving them.  Drop every other strategy.  Quit talking about Christ.  Quit trying to win them.  Quit telling them that they are not a Christian.  Just start walking beside them in a way that is comfortable for them.  The disciples wanted to follow Jesus and He didn't demand much from His disciples at first.  "Come and see."
One tidbit of psychology:  If you try to push someone somewhere, their initial response will be defense, to push back.  If you have been pushing your child towards Christ then they have been practicing pushing Christ away.  How long have they been practicing that!  Time to end that dynamic.  Just be there for them.  Be someone they want to follow.
That's the first step - feeling the love.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lent - CounterFormation

Next week we begin our long 40 day trek through the desert with Jesus.  Formation happens all the time.  Every billboard and magazine cover we see forms us.  Every rose we smell and thorn that pricks our fingertip forms us.  Every kind word and every slight forms us.  James calls us adulterers for loving the world and loving God.  The Bible is full of references to our relationship with God as a marriage.  Lent is an opportunity for us to step back from our lives and focus on what our adulteries are.  This is our season of counter formation.  We must cut away the world and, as purely as we can, be formed only by our Father. 
Oh, what a lot of work!  Sounds like works righteousness.  It is a lot of work but it is the work of vacuuming and cleaning and setting a nice table and fixing a special meal for your wife - preparation so that love can happen.  Lent is a time of setting aside busy-ness.  A time of creating space, a sabbath so that love between you and your God can happen.  You can't control God and make Him love you.  You can't make you love Him.  BUT.... you can make a place where love can happen.  In fact, you MUST make a place where love can happen.  You should do that every day.  But since we don't, the church in its wisdom has set aside a time for us to focus on only that.  The negatives: set aside TV; set aside reading; set aside a meal; set aside deserts.  Positives to go in their place: kneeling for one minute beside your bed at night; talking with your wife; going for a walk with God every day; eating plainly in solidarity with the poor.  Practice finding your comfort and satisfaction in Christ for 40 days and you will find yourself in a place where love has happened.  Promise.  Be not conformed to the world but be ye counter formed.