As a teenager, there was a deacon in my home church who influenced me greatly for the Kingdom of Christ. While I looked up to this man for a variety of reasons, his influence came through the repetition of one word—Think! During my college years, when I would return home on break, the first thing he would ask me was “Are you still thinking?” To which I would grin and answer in the affirmative. Having an adult tell you (as a teen) to “think” normally wasn’t a positive thing. Quite often, it came in the context of not making some decision that seemed obvious to the adult. However, in this instance, it was a positive comment. In calling me to “think” he was not rebuking me.
With one word, this man was fanning the flame of my young mind. He was encouraging me to wrestle with difficult things. He was challenging me not to take what people say as “gospel-truth,” but to search it out, to think it through, to evaluate it. With one little word of encouragement, this brother in the Lord became responsible for much of the man that I am today.
Unfortunately, young people in conservative circles are not often given such encouragement. More than once I have had parents complain that their young person is distracted by all kinds of questions about Christianity. Rather than encouraging investigation and wrestling through the difficult issues, parents sometimes discourage questions by replying that the young person simply needs to “believe.” Sometimes young people are even given the impression that asking difficult questions is a mark of rebellion.
However, this kind of response misses a huge opportunity to help our children make Christianity their faith. In other words, we miss the chance to help our kids “own” Christianity for themselves. We must remember that while becoming a Christian isn’t merely an intellectual thing, it certainly does involve the intellect. As one Christian apologist noted, “The heart will not long rejoice in what the mind knows is not true.” We do the next generation a disservice if we discourage tough questions. We must encourage them to think! In fact, we should be excited when they ask tough questions as a result of wrestling and thinking through the issues. At the end of the day, we want our kids to love God with all that they are—that includes their minds.
Matthew 22:36-37 says, “36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”