Failures, Fraud, and Shame

I LOVE my job as the Director of Children’s Ministries at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia! But let me tell you this: day after day I struggle with feeling like a fraud. Shame tries to dig in his ugly claws, hoping to cause me to doubt, nagging me, setting out to discourage me, and seeking to make me too weary for the race. Shame whispers in my ear, “You are a failure. You have nothing to offer these children, and certainly nothing to offer their parents!”

Why do I feel this way? You see, I have four adult children, raised faithfully in the church, catechized, taught Scripture, homeschooled, loved…and sadly those same children have, to varying degrees, rejected the beautiful teachings of the church.

How then can I, one whose own children are not walking with the Lord have anything to offer? The truth is this. I have nothing. I come to serve with empty hands. And honestly, even if your own children have grown into pillars of the community, you have nothing to offer either. Please take no offense, friend. It’s just that I know you also most likely have your own hall of shame. Things that you think keep you from serving the church well. Shame wants to shape us, to limit us, to cause us to hide. Shame wants us to quit, or worse yet, deny our weaknesses and struggle on.

But let me tell you this, I’ll have none of it! For shame has no place here. I’ve long repented of sin and short comings in parenting. I’m willing to guess that you have repented, too! We must remember that all of our sin, along with the shame, has been nailed to the cross. It’s done! The work we do is not our own. It is the Lord’s.

And this I know to be true concerning my children, and yours, and those in our churches and communities: NOT ONE OF GOD’S ELECT CAN BE LOST! Does this insure that all of those I love and hope to see walk in the freedom of the gospel will come to know the Lord? No. But this I also know: Whatever my God does is right and good and perfect.

Not only that, but I have good cause to hope, because the same God who visits the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate him also shows his steadfast love to thousands of those who keep his commandments and to their children and their children’s children. (Exodus 20, Deut.7:9, Psalm 103:17-18).

When Peter looked out across those gathered in Jerusalem at Pentecost and proclaimed, “This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself,” he meant it! And God will not…CANNOT…break his promise.

As leaders in children’s ministries we plan, we write curriculum, we teach, we talk to parents, we suggest resources, all in an effort to create children who will not abandon the faith, who will then rise up and teach the next generation. But friend, I tell you we cannot. We cannot do one thing to guarantee that the children sitting in our pews now will remain faithful into their old age.

What? Why not? Because this work has already been done. When Jesus cried out from the cross, “It is finished!” it was finished. All those who belong to him were purchased then, and not one can possibly be lost.

That doesn’t leave us empty handed when it comes to caring for the next generation, pressing in to make sure they hear, and know, and understand deep in their core this Gospel of grace. Rather is should give us confidence and inspire us all the more because he has promised! NOT ONE OF HIS OWN WILL BE LOST! In his sovereignty, he has chosen to use ordinary means to win his children, ours included, to himself. Means such as the teaching of the word, diligent prayer, relationships, even a “Grow” website.

I see the culture reaching out to woo and confuse our children. I see the numbers of our children rejecting the faith. But I will not be discouraged! When Jesus told Peter that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18), do you know what he meant? We win!

So, gird your loins, brothers and sisters! Pick up your ordinary, but powerful weapons! Prepare for battle. You may be a failure, but you are not a fraud. Instead, have confidence that you have been chosen for this work. So, remember, if God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Rom. 8 parts of 31-37)

This next generation is HIS.

Lisa Updike, Director of Children’s Ministries at Covenant Presbyterian in Harrisonburg, VA, has been in love with Jesus since she was a little girl and has always been passionate about sharing the gospel with others. She has extensive ministry experience which includes homeschooling, teaching in Christian Schools, working as a learning disabilities therapist, leading children’s choirs, and spearheading children’s programs in several churches over the last 30 years. Lisa and Kevin have 4 children (3 through adoption).