My two-and-a-half year old daughter LOVES to receive a piggyback ride when we are in the middle of a long walk. Earlier this summer while walking the zoo, she stopped right in front of me with arms stretched high begging me to pick her up and set her on my shoulders. “Up, daddy, up, up daddy”, she would cry. So in love I’d lob her up on my shoulders so she could rest her weary legs and receive the best view of all the animals at the zoo.
In ten years of ministry I have noticed a dangerous widespread epidemic among Christian families. I’ve seen whole families attend church just to keep the grandfather happy. I’ve watched as husbands follow their wives to Church because she nagged him all morning. I’ve had conversations with teenage sons and daughters who said the only reason they wanted to be baptized was to please their parents. I know families where the wife is the spiritual leader for the family because the husband works so many hours that he’s too busy. I’ve even watched church leaders serve as pawns for his wife’s agenda in the Church.
Some of these examples serve as rare, extreme circumstances; however, the problem begins the same every time. Churches have been plagued with this “piggyback” faith and in my opinion it has caused several spiritual weaknesses in the family unit and in the Church.
1. Unbiblical family leadership
The Bible is clear in Ephesians 5 that the husband has the God-ordained role to serve as the leader in his family. With that comes an incredible sense of authority and responsibility to serve as a leader for the spiritual and physical well-being of the family. When a husband is spiritually ill-equipped or he is incapable to convey the principles set forth from the Bible, I’ve witnessed wives who were spiritually stronger step up and lead the family. And while she believes that she is doing good by picking up the slack left by her weaker husband, the truth remains this is unbiblical. I believe it would be both Biblical and beneficial for the weaker husband to have to lead even if it means he fails, makes mistakes, or if the family must temporarily suffer the consequences because of it.
2. Lack of Biblical presence
Christianity promotes both a personal and a corporate faith. My faith does benefit and build up the faith of those around me; and yet, it also is a very personal relationship that I must personally maintain for my own spiritual growth. It is an enormous amount of stress when only one person in the family is growing in their faith, and everyone else in the family depends upon their faith. Have you ever experienced a season when all of your Bible study was spent on finding the answers to someone else’s questions? Not to mention when one strong family member allows everyone else to piggyback on their knowledge of the Bible, it enables Biblical illiteracy to continue. Everyone must start somewhere. So rather than enabling Biblical illiteracy in your family, promote a healthy amount of independency and encourage personal spiritual growth. This does not mean that you allow your kids to wander alone seeking to believe what they want. Like the lane bumpers in a bowling alley, give freedom with guidance and give it with specific direction.
3. Inconsistent spiritual rhythm
Families who ride on the coattails of one member’s faith often cause an inconsistent pattern in their weekly rhythm. Church attendance is not regular and often sporadic because the weaker “majority” would rather do something else and the sole strong Christian does not want to be left out. Bible reading gets left out unless there is time so not to take away from family time. Christian service is often done only when everyone else is off doing their own thing. To change this pattern, if you’re the strong member of the family, stand firm with your convictions. Let everyone in the family witness your prayer time or keep your Bible close by so you can read it as a part of your daily routine. Pray with your kids and encourage your spouse to do the same. The more consistent you can be, the stronger your family can become.
What does momma’s faith look like in her grown son?
I’ve been trying to invite a friend of mine to Church for almost a year now. He grew up in the home of a strong Jehovah’s Witness mother who was very bold in her faith. Upon graduation and leaving home, my friend never went to Church again. My friend tells me that he would really like to come to Church with me on Sunday. But he is hesitant to commit. He is hesitant because he is afraid of what his mother would say.
Here is the result of my friend piggybacking on his mother’s faith his whole life: He has no real faith of his own. He quit going to Church when he left her home. He’s never read the Bible. He doesn’t lead his home because he works so much.
This is not God’s plan for you. If you’re needing to step up, let go of someone else’s faith, and own your own faith, then let me encourage you to just take one step at a time. We all start at the same place. If you’re the strong leader whom others are dependent on your faith, you know the frustration I’ve described. You should take one step at a time and start discipling those who depend on you! After all that is what we are called to do, isn’t it?
Have you personally experienced this piggyback faith in your life? Share your story in a comment and together let’s encourage others to personally own their faith!
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