I have urgent advice for our Lutheran newlyweds and young parents: Raise your children in such a way that your grandchildren (and great-grandchildren!) may someday join you in the fellowship of your Lutheran church to receive the Lord’s Supper. I am a grandfather. There is nothing more important to me.
There is a generational chain-reaction that must be intact for this goal to succeed. Work it back from the end to the beginning: If your grandchildren are to be faithful Lutherans, they must be raised by deeply committed Lutheran parents. If your grandchildren are to have faithful parents, you must pass deep Lutheran convictions to your sons and daughters, and they must marry Lutherans with the same commitments of faith and life. This brings us to the payoff advice for Lutheran parents: You must bring up your children with a faithful and well-informed confession of faith, with piety and virtue in heart and life, with wisdom and understanding of God and man, and with the skills and aptitude of body and mind to embrace and fulfill their vocations in home and church and community. And to all of these things God must give the blessings of His grace.
We have described a Lutheran school or homeschool! And here is God’s mandate: “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children. . .” God gives this command for this purpose: “. . . that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all His statutes and His commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life” (Deuteronomy 6:7, 2). And where this generational chain of teaching and believing God’s Word is broken, there follow unbelief, sin, and broken lives. We have seen and experienced it too often in our own children and grandchildren. Here is a matter of utmost urgency.
God will always add believers to His Church. But His first source of new Christians is the marriage and household of Christians, to whom He has given the sacred duty to hand on the treasure and inheritance of God’s Word to the next generation. This next generation of Christians is the great care and duty of every Christian. It applies to young man and maiden, to husband and wife, father and mother, grandfather and grandmother, unmarried adults and elderly, widows and widowers, to Christians of every station and walk of life. What must we do to keep the generational chain complete? And if it is broken, what can be done to give a later generation a fresh start in the Christian faith? As our present world unravels, we must apply all we have to the answer to these questions.
The resources of our labor and money must be put in three places: the household, the church, and that unique partnership of household and church—the Lutheran school. The head of the household must read and teach God’s Word, lead in prayer and in Christian piety, discipline himself and his household in Christian virtue, and instruct his children, that they may take their place in their own household, church, and community and assume the duties of their callings in life. Nothing should distract us from this priority. For example, Christian grandparents must support and encourage their children’s households in the use of God’s Word, not in the exercise of materialistic comfort, entertainment, and financial prosperity. Remember the parable of the Sower and the Seed! (Luke 8:4–15)
For her part, the Church must carry out the ministry given to her with all zeal and godliness. Her pastors are to teach God’s pure Word faithfully and constantly, to administer the sacraments according to Christ’s command, and to carry out the duties of their office. Both pastors and people are to confess the truth, pray unceasingly, give of themselves generously, love and serve each other, forgive one another, and do good to all, especially those of the household of faith. The people must support their pastors and congregations with their gifts and service and prayers. All must reorder their lives toward these most important things.
And the Lutheran school—elementary, high school, college, seminary—must teach God’s pure Word, fulfilling God’s command to both household and church. The Lutheran school is to be a nursery of Christian virtue, a garden for the cultivation of faith and love and all good works, a gymnasium for the exercise of piety and discipline, a homestead for inheriting and passing on the wisdom and knowledge received by past generations under God’s Word.
Each of these three—household, church, and Lutheran school—must be supported with commitment and finances. The household is supported by the labors of the household and other members of the extended family, as God’s Word directs (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:8). The church and her ministry is supported by the generous giving of her members, as God’s Word also commands (e.g. 1 Timothy 5:17–18). The Lutheran school must be supported and funded by both, for it is both the goal and the duty of all Christians to do their part to enable the Christian education of the next generation.
This is why we ask you to be a patron of a faithful Lutheran school. What is a patron? A patron is a defender and protector of the next Lutheran generation. A patron is an advocate for the Lutheran school. A patron strives to be a pattern of Christian faith and good works for the school community. A patron prays for the school and encourages its leadership, teachers, and parents. A patron gives money generously and regularly to the school to support its financial needs. It is this vision for the future of confessional Lutheranism that moves us to serve as Lutheran school patrons.
And what kind of school should you support? Look for and demand an education that enables, informs, and inspires these goals: Lutheran doctrine and practice in our churches. Lutheran worship and hymns in household, church, and school. Marriage and children as the pinnacle of Christian vocation. Vigorously Christian households rooted in God’s Word. The wisdom and virtues of the classical education tradition grounded firmly in Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. And look for faithful pastors and teachers with sound governance and discipline.
It is the great importance of the generational chain of Christians that moves us to this patronage. “For one real Christian is better and can do more good than all the men on earth” (Martin Luther, 1524, AE 45:350). Passing the Christian faith and life to the next generation is of highest importance to us. It informs our priorities, our labors, our sacrifices, and our generosity. And we have the Apostle Paul’s command to Pastor Timothy for those of us who have incomes, estates, or money in the bank (1 Timothy 6:17–19):
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.”
May God move you to bear this good fruit for His glory and for the future of His Church.