We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, so that they should set their hope in God. (Psalm 78:4–7 ESV)
As a child, I can remember having a fascination with echoes. I have never particularly liked the sound of my own voice, but I can remember the wonder—some might say magic—of yelling out a word, phrase, or sound, and hearing it repeat itself back to me.
There is a Guinness record of the longest-ever recorded echo. It occurred on June 3, 2012, and was produced and measured by Trevor Cox and Allan Kilpatrick at an abandoned oil tank at Inchindown, United Kingdom. The echo measured an incredible 75 seconds.
Seventy-five seconds. Pretty remarkable, isn’t it? However, there is an echo that has spanned far longer and further than the one recorded in 2012. You and I are a part of an echo that spans generations. Every believing generation has something of value to pass along to future generations. Our experiences, stories, and values are intended to be passed along to the next generation in a divine echo that reverberates beyond our limited time on earth.
One of the most memorable days of my childhood occurred on June 5, 1991. That was the day my grandmother, Geneva McKinley, passed away at the age of 63. Although more than 30 years have now passed since that day, I retain a handful of precious memories of my grandmother. I remember the sound of her voice when she spoke, the melting warmth of her hugs, the wrinkles that would show in her face when she smiled widely, and how she could yodel better than any Hollywood cowgirl! But I have some memories more precious than those.
I can remember how worn her Bible was. I remember the intensity of her voice as she prayed. And I can still hear her voice singing. At some of the most desperate, crisis moments on my spiritual journey, the sound of her singing has often faintly returned to my ear:
O victory in Jesus, my Savior, forever!
He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood;
He loved me ere I knew Him, and all my love is due Him.
He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.1
My grandmother was a Pentecostal preacher. She loved people and gave all she could to pursue the high calling of ministry, until she ultimately had nothing left to give and died at a relatively early age. My grandmother is just one reverberation in my echo.
When it comes to the echo of faith for our children, you and I are reverberations of his glorious gospel message. We are responsible to tell the next generation “the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done” (Psalm 78:4 NIV).
Sadly, current research suggests that we are in danger of this echo fading to silence. An overexposure to worldly philosophies, an increasingly hostile and secular culture, and failing church programming has resulted in the muffling of this echo of faith. Consider these statistics2
of the students we presently or recently have served:
- Eighty-five percent of students from Christian homes attending public schools do not hold a biblical worldview.3
- About eight million twenty-somethings who were active churchgoers as teenagers will no longer be active in church by their thirtieth birthdays.4
- The majority of teenagers are incredibly inarticulate about their faith and its meaning in their lives. They find it almost impossible to put basic beliefs into words.5
- Teens are “functional deists”—they believe God exists, created the world, and set life in motion, but that he only becomes involved with them personally to make their lives happier or to solve problems.
- Many teens (including conservative Protestants) reject the essential doctrine of salvation by grace; three out of five believe people can earn a place in heaven if they are generally good or do enough good things for others.
- When deciding right from wrong in difficult situations, only thirty-one percent of believing teens said they turned to God or the Scriptures. Almost an identical percent said they decided based on whether it made them feel happy or helped them get ahead in life.
Looking on the spiritual horizon, Josh McDowell’s concern for young people was so great that in 2006, he authored a book entitled, The Last Christian Generation. He explained,
I realize the title of this book may be shocking. But the decision to call this The Last Christian Generation was not made lightly nor was it done for sensationalism. I sincerely believe unless something is done now to change the spiritual state of our young people—you will become the last Christian generation!6
I believe we find ourselves at a critical hour much like the people of Israel at the beginning of Judges. Joshua, Moses’ assistant, understood who God is and understood what God had done for him. He learned to stand on these truths and on his convictions as a minority among the spies in Exodus 13. Joshua would prove to be an obedient servant as he led the people of Israel to take possession of the Promised Land. He also boldly declared that he and his household would serve the Lord. The witness of Joshua’s leadership extended beyond his own death: “Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).
However, the echo of faith broke down after that generation died. Somewhere along the way, parents, grandparents, and the larger spiritual community failed to instruct their children to honor God. Judges 2:10 records, “After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.”
Will this, too, be a generation where the echo of faith fades to silence? Or will we rise up, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to proclaim loudly and clearly God’s purposes for this generation? Will we reverberate the divine echo of God’s truth so that it is renewed, roaring louder than ever before in a new generation of disciples?
In Genesis, Scripture does not record that Abel taught or preached to anyone. However, Abel preached as a silent witness of one living a righteous life. What was it that caused Abel to receive the echo of faith and live as a righteous man? Could it have been the witness of his parents—parents who knew the reality of God—the touch of his hand, the sound of his voice, and the authority of his Word? Was it parents whose faith in God was unshakeable because they knew face-to-face who God was and what God had done for them?
Like Abel, the echo of faith was passed on to me by the example of my parents in the home and in the community of the local church where they ministered. The faith of my parents and our church community was so strong that I genuinely believed that anything was possible with God. As a child, I wanted to know God for myself, serve him in the church, and understand the depths of his Word. When I prayed, I believed God heard me. When I asked Christ into my life, I knew that God had forgiven my sins and that I was no longer separated from him.
Who was it that impressed faith upon you? Do you know someone who knows God is real and demonstrated that unshakeable faith for you? What a blessing to have parents, loved ones, or members of your church family who modeled a confident faith! Our children need to see this type of faith demonstrated before them.
Whether or not Adam and Eve were the example for him, we know Abel chose to live a life in contrast to the world in which he was living. This is evidenced in the acceptable sacrifice that he brought to God when others brought less. While others rebelled against God, Abel turned toward him.
A witness lived out in obedience is just as powerful a one that is spoken. Abel chose to live his life as a light and, although his life ended at the hands of his brother, his silent witness relayed the echo of faith to the next generation.
Scripture does not record Abel ever being married or having children, but he did have a younger brother Seth, born after his death, who signified that God had “granted another child in place of Abel” (Genesis 4:25). As Seth grew, surely, he learned of the choices made by his older brothers.
As a result, the witness of Abel’s life no doubt impacted Seth and others, even beyond Abel’s death. Abel’s silent witness would continue to testify even into the New Testament as the writer of Hebrews would say, “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead” (Hebrews 11:4).
Abel passed on an enduring faith to the next generation. Wouldn’t it be incredible for generations to recall our lives as marked by unshakeable faith in God? We too have this responsibility, whether it is to our own children, nieces, nephews, the children of our church, in our classroom, or our community. Opportunities abound around each of us!
But how do we practically live as a witness? I believe we do so by being an example to this generation of children and sharing our faith story with them! Seth heard the echo of faith, and he told it to his son Enosh, who lived a life of worship.
The idea of one generation passing along a legacy of faith to the next generation is not my idea; it is God’s, and it is proclaimed throughout Scripture. God designed it this way.
So, make an impact on the next generation by sharing your faith story. Tell it. Write it down. Record it as an audio or video message. And live it before them!
To get you started, consider sharing your testimony with your child or grandchild. As you craft your story, think of the key idea that you want them to remember. This is the main idea of your story. “Jesus satisfied my loneliness” or “Jesus gave joy to my life” are examples of this main idea.
Write it as if you were speaking it to them. Use short sentences with words that are simple and clear. Instead of saying this is your “testimony,” phrase it as “the story of your life.” Include specific examples that provide a snapshot of your life. As you consider your story, think of it in chapters. Chapter One is your early years and life before Christ. Chapter Two is why or how you came to know Christ. Chapter Three should tell about your life since Christ and the difference he has made. Whether written or spoken, end with the final chapter, inviting them to join you in this faith adventure.
1 Eugene M. Bartlett, “Victory in Jesus” (Albert E. Brumley & Sons, 1939).
2 Chris Sherrod, “Equipping the Next Generation,” Christian Research Institute, updated July 31, 2022, Equipping the Next Generation – Christian Research Institute.
3 Nehemiah Institute, Inc. PEERS Trend Chart and Explanation (Lexington, KY: Nehemiah Institute, 2004).
4 Barna Group, “Twentysomethings Struggle to Find Their Place in Christian Churches,” Barna Research Online, September 24, 2003, https://www.barna.com/research/twentysomethings-struggle-to-find-their-place-in-christian-churches/.
5 NSYR data cited in Richard Ross, gen. ed., Transforming Student Ministry: Research Calling for Change (Nashville: LifeWayPress,2005), 6–8, 46, 114.
6 Josh McDowell and David H. Bellis, The Last Christian Generation (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006)