When we gather together with family and friends over the holidays, I often think about the legacy we’ll leave as a family. Whether we’re an “artsy” family, a “nerdy” family, one that’s more business-minded, or one known for having the house where all the kids gather for fun, what will last in people’s minds when they think about us years and generations from now?
I think about my own ancestors and the families I knew growing up, and the thing that impacted me most was the legacy of faith I saw passed down through the generations before me. From an early age, I saw what it meant to give God first place in my life and how to live out a biblical worldview, even though I couldn’t articulate it at the time.
When we ground our kids with this kind of perspective, it helps them choose more wisely when it comes to worldly influences. They’ll be more discerning when it comes to the character of the athletes or entertainers they admire. They won’t be so prone to follow the crowd when their friends invite them to activities that would harm their reputation or impact.
Everyone is looking for someone to follow. Everyone wants a way of life that satisfies and completes them. But the only One worthy of our true devotion is the One who emanates from the center of that throne room in heaven. That’s where whatever influence we’ve been given should be most keenly directed as we live out the balance of each day, days that will go on to become the balance of our lives.
We can spend our days and years on earth pursuing other goals, chasing other visions. But what could be more important than this one mission? Saving people for eternity is not our responsibility, but sharing the Gospel, living the Gospel, being shaped by the Gospel, being transformed heart and soul by the Gospel — this is our responsibility. Our privilege. Our legacy.
What God has shown me in the many years since I first received this message about my family’s spiritual growth is that by far my most direct route to fulfilling this enormous calling is to live it and share it and instill it within those who are closest to me: my family. They are the essential starting point where any hope of my being effective for the kingdom must begin. By myself, I may be able to touch only a small number of people’s lives for Christ, a small circle within a confined number of years. But through my children this number multiplies significantly. And through the generations that number simply explodes.
That is how legacy is built.
As my wife and children and I began to implement our family spiritual-growth plan, we knew that we also wanted part of it to be outward-focused. We decided to begin with a focus on prayer for one extended family member at a time, praying for God’s leading in that person’s life, and then for an opportunity for our family to share the Gospel with him or her.
Praying with that specificity and intentionality was effective — not only in our dedication to and love for that family member, but in bringing about the opportunities we prayed for. It seemed like every time I traveled near one of these extended family members, I would have the chance to meet with the individual we had been praying for, and see them come to Christ! It was so inspiring and encouraging — and especially exciting for the kids — to see the hand of God moving in response to their prayers.
By making Christ known to our kids, creating an environment where they can explore and experience Him in everyday ways, and trusting Him to work in their lives as only this big God who made them and loves them can, we get to pursue the prize to which we as parents were created and called — legacy.
I think about my parents’ early influence, and I am thankful that I have been able to carry on the legacy of faith. But what really excites me is thinking about my father’s legacy living through me. Because of the faith he nurtured in me, his legacy includes all of those individuals for whom I may have had some small influence. And it lives on in my children — his grandchildren. Because of this emphasis on continuing our family legacy of faith, I know that my children will also raise their kids on the Word of God, extending my father’s impact through four generations and counting.
Each soul that my children reach, and every person they impact, will expand his legacy through the generations. I hope that when our descendants review the history of our family, they will see a constant stream of faith extending as far back as they can trace.
How can every family have this generational influence? By implementing a spiritual growth plan for its household. Not even 1 percent of Christian families can show a written plan that describes the spiritual direction they are praying for and working toward. That trend needs to stop now to see a legacy of faith passed from this generation to the next, which could truly transform our nation.
Terence Chatmon is president of the Fellowship of Companies for Christ International (FCCI.org). He is also the author of “Do Your Children Believe? Becoming Intentional about Your Family’s Faith and Spiritual Legacy.”