Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6)
According to numerous polls, many children of believers in Europe and North America are leaving the church once they reach young adulthood. Older Christians do not need polls to tell them this. It is evident in the pews. When we think about the reasons why, we often start by pointing outward -- to the influences of the world on our children. It's Hollywood's fault. It's the schools' fault. It's his fault. It's her fault. Many external things certainly are contributing factors, but how often do we stop pointing at others and look at ourselves to ask whether we have said and done things that have caused these little ones to stumble? Is any of it our fault?
Our little ones watch us and listen to us. They are quick to notice inconsistencies in speech and behavior. Have they ever heard their parents, pastor, or other Christian adults say one thing to them about the kind of behavior and speech God requires, only to witness these same adults contradicting what they claim to believe in their own speech and behavior? Is our speech and behavior breeding in our own children disillusionment and doubt in the veracity of Christianity?
What about when our little ones go online? We know there is all manner of toxic and sinful material being produced by non-Christians online, and we warn about the danger of children being exposed to those things. But do we ever consider the danger of young Christians being exposed to the behavior of other Christians online? What happens when they witness hypocritical behavior there? How often do these little ones observe online the Christian adults they respect engaging in slander, gossip, backbiting, dishonesty, cursing, lying, grumbling, and mocking?
Additionally, what do our little ones think when they witness behavior that would indicate to any rational observer that we are passionate about everyything but Jesus? What are we communicating to our little ones when we are willing to go on and on about our favorite sports team, our favorite political candidate, our favorite singer, movie, television show, video game, etc. and yet say hardly a word to anyone about Jesus? What does that tell these little ones about what we truly love with all of our heart, soul, and mind? Does it suggest to them that deep down we do not really believe what we say we believe and what we say we want them to believe?
Perhaps one reason so many children of believers are no longer following Christ is that they are simply following in our footsteps.