We have seen it all. We have heard it all. We have grown up in church. We are second generation Christians. We are the preacher’s kids, deacon’s kids, and full-time Christian worker’s kids. We have been treated poorly and blessed abundantly. We grew up conflicted about the ministry — do we love it or hate it? We grew up in church, but we are the only ones that can decide if we will follow the faith of our forefathers.
The Bible uses the term generations repeatedly to talk about groups of people separated by time. “The generations of Adam” and “the generations of Noah” were terms used to describe their families, their children, and their grandchildren. Generational Christianity is spoken of over and over throughout the Old and New Testaments. Many believe this may be the ultimate goal in the journey we call the Christian life — to pass your faith, your beliefs, and your convictions to your children and their children.
Second generation Christians have a unique set of struggles to deal with daily, but we also have a unique view on church, family, and faith. We have tried to live up to the expectations of others, and we have tried desperately to maintain an individual personality. We have grown up serving others, and have hated “living” at the church. We have fought back the anger when people mistreated our families or us, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our time with the many friends God has brought into our lives. We are a case study in conflict. It is this view, this second-hand Christianity that makes us specially suited to passing along the faith of our fathers.
Second Generation Christians:
Have seen church from the background. We have been raised in church, and have had the opportunity to see the good and the bad of the ministry. There were people that we did not like or did not get along with, but we were able to see our parents love them anyway. We have all dealt with those that expected us to be “perfect preacher’s kids.” Not allowing us to just be children. We have lived with abnormally high pressures from those watching our every move. We have experienced the dregs of serving others: your parents volunteering you for work, your family time taken over by strangers, and your holidays spent helping others — these sometimes overwhelming the blessings. The blessings of the ministry: seeing lives changed, learning to love unlovable people, and being given opportunities not often afforded to young people — often seemed dimmed at times due to the invasion of your personal life. We have been trained from a young age how to properly run a church and its many ministries. We were required to serve in any and all aspects of the ministry, sometimes against our will. We were not enslaved or abused, but simply a part of a sold-out Christian family. We have been asked to preach, teach, and sing at the drop of a hat to any numbers of different people types: junior church, Sunday School, bus routes or nursing homes to name a few. This combination of background and first hand experience should give us an edge in being the best Christian possible. But oft times it leads to bitterness.
Have seen church from the bad side. People can drive us to hate what our parents have chosen for us. People watch our every little move, and run to our parents the moment we mess up. People have placed a larger than life ideal that we are to be nearly perfect at every moment of every day. People have overestimated what we were to do with our lives from a young age. People have constantly compared our Christianity, as a child or teen, to that of our parents. We did not ask to be raised in church, we did not ask to be surrounded by people, and we definitely did not ask to see our parents hurt time and time again by those they have loved unconditionally. When you dedicate your life to serving and helping others you are bound to see your share of hurt and heartache. But, as second generation Christians we did not sign up for service; we were volunteered by our parents’ choices. Mom and Dad chose to serve God with their lives, and ours. We just happened to be born into their family, and therefore are a part of their calling. Many a church member fails to understand this point; leading them to believe that the pastor’s family as a whole is supposed to live up to the standards they set for the preacher. This has lead many to be bitter towards their parents, the church people, the ministry, or God Himself. The fact that your parents chose Christianity, and a life of service should not lead to bitterness; it should prove to you why people need God. Bitterness towards past events does not change anyone’s future, but our own. We have to decide for ourselves if their calling is our calling. Not just a call to full-time service, but a call to being a Christian.
Have seen church from the beginning. We have been in church since birth — we do not know anything else. We spent most of our formative years surrounded by God’s people and His Word. We know all the facts, all the verses, and all the Bible stories. One of the beautiful parts of growing up in church is that we know exactly what it means to be a Christian. Many times, we do not understand any other way to live. Luke 12: 48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required,” rings so much truer for second generation Christians. We have been given godly parents, a Christian education, and access to some of the best preaching and teaching available. A pedigree like that means we should be better Christians, witnesses, and servants than those who came before us. We should be able to accomplish much more for the Lord than our parents ever thought possible for themselves. Elisha, a second generation Christian, asked Elijah for a double portion of his spirit. He had learned everything the previous generation knew, and was able to accomplish twice as much for the Lord. Every second generation Christian should strive to be an Elisha — not necessarily in the ministry full-time, but at the very least twice the Christian our parents were. Is our desire to help others, reach the lost, and grow in Christ greater because of our upbringing? Or is it lacking because we think we know it all? We have been given so much by those who have invested in us, that we should be motivated to do so much more with our lives for God. We have been blessed with this spiritual, Christ-centered upbringing.
Have to see church as a blessing. We have not seen sin ruin our family. We have not seen sin destroy our bodies. We have not seen sin wreck our future. We have been protected. We have been blessed beyond measure. God allowed us to be raised by God-fearing men and women who chose to keep us in a protective bubble — a bubble that kept sin out, but allowed God in. At times this bubble seems like more of a fish bowl. A barrier that kept us from fun or friends. We hated this bubble. We struggled with why we were not allowed to go places with certain people or why we had to go other places with people we did not enjoy. We all misconstrued what this bubble was for at some point in our teens. The bubble was meant to protect us from the suffering our parents knew from their pre-salvation days. The bubble was to keep us from knowing what it was like to have a drunken father, a deadbeat mother, a broken home, or drug addicted adolescence. This protection is the one aspect of second generation Christianity that separates us from first generation Christians. Those that came before us had to change everything in their lives: their music, their lifestyle, their language, and their choices in order to serve God. The mistakes they made before salvation have been the motivation to protect us from the world’s vices. An untainted, protected, second generation Christian testimony is quite possibly the most gorgeous picture of a life spared by God’s grace imaginable. We have been blessed that God saved our parents, and allowed us to grow up in the bubble called second generation Christianity.
Second generation Christians have struggles and troubles that sometimes a first generation Christian might not understand completely. A set of pressures and hurts that is hard to explain to those who did not grow up in the ministry. We wrangle with cynicism towards people at church. But, the blessings of a childhood protected from the grips of sin and a testimony unscarred by the world far outweigh the negative aspects. We have been given so much in the forms of a Christian education, first hand experience, and blessings that much is required of us in terms of service. Our Christian upbringing should not hinder our service, but fuel it to greater heights than we could believe possible.
I am a second generation Christian, and I serve God because He blessed me with a Christian family, a Christian foundation, and a Christian faith.