Around the Word smallJesus said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” You cannot follow Jesus by touching a remote control and you cannot make disciples (“fishing men”) by simply keeping a chair warm in a building on Sunday morning. You gotta have skin in the game.

Many parents lament the exodus of their children from church after they finish High School (supposedly an average of 75% leave, if you believe the polls). They ask themselves, “What did I do wrong?” Some have to live with “parental regret” for the rest of their lives. “Friends” will rehearse unfortunate mistakes and spiritual leaders will quote verses like Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go and even when he is old he will not depart from it.”

There are different opinions about the interpretation of the above verse, which I will not go into here. But I will warn legalistic leaning well intentioned zealots: This is a proverb; it’s not a promise. It’s an aphorism — a quick summary of the way things are perceived to be or should be, a precious piece of wisdom which we should do well to follow. But it is not a blank check, a manual that gives you the key to success. It’s easy to demonstrate this even in the English language. For example, “The shoemaker’s children always go barefoot.” Not really.

The King of Israel whose life we will study this Sunday (2 Kings 21:19-26; 2 Chronicles 33:1-20) had an inauspicious start for his short life. He was the grandson of the godly king Hezekiah. But that was it. Every single one of his other ancestors, including his father Manasseh, the longest reigning king in southern Israel, were enemies of God. Amon had no good role model, apparently not even a friend close enough to care. In two years, he was gone, killed by his own people. What a sad little existence.

But let’s not take Amon off the hook too quickly. He was still responsible for his own actions. If he wanted a good example, he could have relied on the memory of how his father, who humbled himself before God and as a result of that, God heard his prayer and he was restored to his city and power. Amon failed to get off the warm chair. He liked the remote control too much. He had no skin in the game. His failure to engage God cost him his life. “He’s dead, Jim.”

Parents who have children who rebelled need to be reminded that even when they messed up (and everybody does), if they own up to their mistake and start doing the right thing, that’s all God requires of them. They don’t need to be slaves of their past mistakes anymore. You are ultimately not responsible for your adult sons’ and daughters’ choices. They need to have their own skin in the game. They must embrace their faith, not live from a memory of yours. It is their individual journey, not a caravan. The caravan comes later, when they decide to join in of their own volition.

I trust that you too are living the life of a follower who takes Jesus’ words to heart. The inexact nature of our times calls for a clear and decisive action indicating where you stand. There is no more time for neutrality. A world in anguish awaits for answers and the true answers can only be found in Christ. When will you drop the remote and hit the pavement for Jesus? When will you leave the comfort of your church seat and go where Jesus’ other friends live. Forget the inactivity or blind ministry spots on the part of those who came before you. Jesus is looking at YOU. What will YOU say?

Pastor Ivanildo da Costa Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA