Gary Inrig wrote the wonderful book Hearts of Iron, Feet of Clay (Moody Press, 1979), which was a detailed study of the book of Judges. One of the issues he quickly raised in the book was what he called “The Second Generation Syndrome.” In that early chapter of his book he discussed the difficulty of passing on our vision and convictions to our children and grandchildren.
Chapter two of Judges describes how the nation faithfully served the Lord during the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who outlived him. They had seen the miraculous things God had done. Then another generation was born who did not know the wonders God had given to Israel (2:7-13).
Inrig writes, “The second generation has a natural tendency to accept the status quo and to lose the vision of the first generation. Too often the second-generation experience is a second-hand experience. Church history is filled with examples of it, and sadly, so are many churches. The parent’s fervor for the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the children’s formalism and the grandchildren’s apathy.”
What caused the children and grandchildren to lose the vision of the parents? Inrig continues: “They knew about his deeds. But they did not know Him or acknowledge Him. They had lost touch with God. Here we come to the heart of the second-generation syndrome. It is a lukewarmness, a complacency, an apathy about amazing biblical truths that we have heard from our childhood, or from our teachers.”
This underscores to us the great difficulty in seeing succeeding generations follow in the spiritual footsteps of their first-generation Christian parents. To see godly children of godly parents is something that happens frequently, but to see generation after generation follow in that heritage of faith is difficult to discover.
“It is a lukewarmness, a complacency, an apathy about amazing biblical truths that we have heard from our childhood, or from our teachers.”
I am a man most blessed of God. My strong godly heritage goes back at least to my grandparents. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher for 54 years. He and my grandmother were married for more than 50 years. My father was a Baptist preacher for 36 years until his death at the age of 52. He and my mother were married 33 years. My parents had three sons. All three of us became Baptist preachers. Our marriages have been centered in the Lord, and our children all have followed in the pattern of faith first revealed in my grandparents.
Our children married committed believers. My oldest son, Randy, is a committed layman and lay preacher. My youngest son, Bailey, is a Sunday school teacher and faithful member of his church. Both are ordained deacons. My daughter, Terri, married a minister—they have served in local churches for 20 plus years, and he is now the dean of the College at Southwestern Seminary.
What an incredible blessing it is to have five successive generations walking in the grace and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Carol Ann and I have six grandchildren. All of them have a personal relationship with Jesus, and they love the Lord. Our 31-year-old grandson, Kyle, and our 25-year-old grandson, Wes, are both serving in youth ministry. All of our grandchildren love and serve the Lord. What an incredible blessing it is to have five successive generations walking in the grace and presence of our Lord Jesus Christ!
How did it happen? What has been the secret? I can only venture some observations about our family.
- The Bible was honored and revered in each generation as being the completely reliable and inerrant Word of God.
- Never have any of us ever heard our parents fighting, shouting at each other, or in any way mistreating one another. Love, kindness and grace were lived out before us and are present in each of these generations.
- Regular involvement at all church services (and usually all activities) was a given in our lives. We never knew we had a choice, yet we never felt we were made to attend!
- We were taught compassion, kindness and generosity. Each of our homes has been havens for friends and others to whom we ministered. Tithing and much more was a practice in our homes.
- Integrity, consistency and obedience to God have been the characteristic of each family. We all learned early on to stand for what was right and to oppose what was wrong. And we learned to do it in a strong and firm, yet kind, way. Convictions don’t have to brutalize others!
- Christian morality and biblical ethics were and are practiced and lived out in our homes. Consistency has always been a strong character trait in our families.
- Daily fellowship with the Lord and drawing strength from His Word continues to be a strong pattern in our lives.
- Forgiveness and grace has always been the pattern. All of us understand that we are frail and sinful and in need of forgiveness and grace so we learned to forgive others as we ourselves need forgiveness. We have avoided family squabbles, disputes and divisions. Our family really enjoys being together.
- All of these things are wrapped up in our unswerving conviction that the Lord Jesus Christ has a plan for our lives and that we have found our fulfillment in Him.
My dad once told me, “The debt we owe to the past is to leave the future indebted to us.” I am deeply indebted for the godly heritage I received, and I pray that it will be passed on not just to two succeeding generations but many more.
God’s greatest gift to us is our families. Let each of us make sure we have continued or begun a legacy of faithfulness for our children and grandchildren.