What the Pilgrims can Teach Christian Parents Today
We were taught about the pilgrims coming to America in grade school but were often are not giving the full picture. To better understand why the Pilgrims left England to come to America, it may be helpful to briefly review the religious landscape of the time.
In the early 1500’s a group of Protestant Reformers in England sought to bring reform to the church in England. These reformers came to be called Puritans mainly because they wanted to “purify” the Church of England of Catholic traditions that they did not believe to be biblical.
However, after many years of struggling for change, some Puritans felt that little progress had been made toward true reform. So they decided it was time to separate from the Church of England and start anew. Thus began the distinction between the Puritans and the Separatists. Though the groups shared theological beliefs and values, the former chose to remain part of the Church of England, while the latter chose to separate. The Pilgrims were part of the Separatist group.
Unfortunately, at this time in England, the Church and State were intimately tied, and Separatists were considered treasonous; they lived in danger of both persecution and imprisonment. For this reason, a small group of Separatists from the village of Scrooby (in north Nottinghamshire) determined that it was time to leave England. So, in 1609, these Separatists sailed to Holland (not America).
For more than a decade they enjoyed religious freedom in Holland and gathered openly for church under the leadership of Pastor John Robinson. So why not stay in Holland? They had found the religious freedom for which they came. The answers may surprise you.
First and foremost, these Pilgrims, as they would come to be called, had a deep concern for the well-being of their children. Life in Holland had proved to be difficult. Aside from struggling to make ends meet with poorly paid work, some of their children were assimilating into Dutch culture and abandoning their parents’ values. William Bradford (a passenger on the Mayflower and governor of the Plymouth Plantation) explained in his writing, Bradford’s History of the Plymouth Settlement:
“Of all the sorrows most heavy to be borne [in Holland], was that many of the children, influenced by these conditions, and the great licentiousness of the young people of the country, and the many temptations of the city, were led by evil example into dangerous courses, getting the reins off their necks and leaving their parents. Some became soldiers, others embarked upon voyages by sea and others upon worse courses tending to dissoluteness and the danger of their souls, to the great grief of the parents and the dishonour of God. So they saw their posterity would be in danger to degenerate and become corrupt.”
Second, the Pilgrims longed to bring the gospel to people who had not yet heard the message of Jesus Christ. Bradford also wrote:
“They cherished a great hope and inward zeal of laying good foundations, or at least of making some way towards it, for the propagation and advance of the gospel of the kingdom of Christ in the remote parts of the world, even though they should be but stepping stones to others in the performance of so great a work.”
So for the sake of their children and for the gospel, the Pilgrims made the historic decision to immigrate again – this time to America.
These Pilgrims were prepared to make tremendous sacrifices for future generations – and the sacrifices proved to be costly. By the end of their first winter in America, half of the passengers who had sailed to America on the Mayflower were dead. Yet, the Pilgrims persevered and remained faithful to their God. Perhaps for the sake of these committed Pilgrims, God chose to pour out his blessing on their descendants and their new country. To use the words of Bradford, these Pilgrims indeed became the “stepping stones” in the formation of what has arguably become the greatest nation on earth.
For the purpose of this post, let’s focus on the parenting aspect of the Pilgrims’ sacrifices.
The Pilgrims were willing to risk everything — even their lives — for the hope of raising their children in a society free from the control of the government and the influences of a pagan culture. They were literally willing to give their lives in order to protect and preserve the purity of their Christian heritage and to pass that on to the next generation.
The Pilgrims serve as an example to Christian parents today, and they stand in stark contrast to the lack of sacrifice that many Christian parents are willing to endure.
As most who read these posts know, Donna and I are homeschoolers and are strong advocates of homeschooling for the same reasons described in my recent post on the church website and for the same reasons that the Pilgrims decided to risk everything for the sake of their children and their Christian heritage. And Donna and I hear many objections about homeschooling, including concerns about money. So in future posts I will address these concerns as it relates to what the Pilgrims teach us about parenting. But first…
FOLLOWING JESUS MEANS LOSING EVERYTHING TO GAIN A GREATER REWARD
Pastor David Platt points out in his excellent DVD series, Follow Me, that during Jesus’ earthly ministry many people were very content to go to hear Jesus speak and enjoy listening to Him. A smaller number of people were content to even agree with Jesus. But a smaller number still were willing to lay down their lives and actually follow the Savior. When push came to shove, Jesus’ teachings actually drove people away in masses. When He began teaching about what it really costs to be a true follower of Jesus Christ and not just a casual attendee of meetings, many people stopped following Him and stopped coming to hear Him speak and minister, saying, “This is a hard teaching; who can accept it?” (See John 6:25-70.)
I am convinced that masses of people in American churches today fall into the category of the people who walked away from Jesus when they discovered it was really going to cost them something. Part of the problem we face as a culture in America is the Church’s fault, because so many pastors validate themselves with the number of people attending their churches, and in doing so they water down the message and try to make a short little 1-hour church experience as comfortable and entertaining as possible. Therefore, many in the seats are no more saved than the people Jesus said He would tell on the day of Judgment that He never knew them even though they did many religious things. But ultimately, many of these “religious” people were not willing to lay down their lives to do the will of the Father. (See Matthew 7:21-23). And because our churches are filled today with people who do not really know God because pastors never told them that they would need to forsake everything to follow Christ (see Matthew 16:24-25), we have a culture of churchgoers who are not willing to make many – if any – hard sacrifices to follow the Master and to train their children and to make disciples.
Proverbs 22:9 says, Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old he will not depart from it.
Many Christian parents, unfortunately, feel that training a child spiritually means to take them to a one or two-hour church service once or twice per week, and do little else otherwise. They let a godless State institution educate their children and indoctrinate their worldview for 35-40 hours per week, and hope that somehow 2-4 hours per week of church is going to override that humanistic indoctrination and constant peer pressure. Sometimes it works out that way, but most of the time it doesn’t.
If parents insist on sending their kids to the State to be educated, then a mammoth effort of deprogramming their children daily is necessary, and even that may not be enough. But many parents are not willing to even do that much. It has been suggested that it would take two hours per day to de-program a child of the humanistic, anti-Biblical philosophies that kids learn at public schools. Two hours per day! Folks, it doesn’t take much longer than that to homeschool!
Let’s just get one thing out in the open:
There is nothing easy about raising godly children. It’s going to consume your entire life for 18 to 20 years and maybe longer. It’s going to require you overseeing everything that is pumped into their hungry little impressionable minds by screening their TV watching, their internet use, their musical choices, and the people they keep company with. And certainly, it’s going to require that you oversee how they are being educated. It’s also going to require you sitting down with them in times of non-conflict when they haven’t done anything wrong and speaking into their lives and training them in the wisdom of the Word of God regularly, which means you have to know the Word of God yourself.
Yes, training a child is a lifestyle that you must be fully committed to in order to have the best chance in this pagan society of reproducing fully devoted followers of Christ in your home. So when Proverbs 22:9 says to “train up a child,” this is the kind of life-consuming training it is talking about. In fact, look at the commands of God to the people of Israel:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:5-8
In other words, talk about the ways of God ALL THE TIME! Let it be a constant source of conversation, because the only way to truly train a child is in times of non-conflict when you are not punishing them for something. Punishment should be reserved for when a child violates a standard that he/she already knew about. But true training happens when the child is not in trouble. And that means you will have to teach, and re-teach, and teach some more.
And one of the biggest parts of training children is what adults you allow to speak into the lives of your children other than you. And this includes those who teach your children at school. So because public schools are now unfortunately filled with godless humanists determined to reproduce godless humanists in their students, it falls to parents to decide what to do about this. Because most parents are powerless to have any immediate influence on our school systems, almost 2 million families in America have decided to take the Pilgrim’s journey to a “new land” of home education.
So in the posts that follow I will offer some insights pertaining to the perceived challenges to homeschooling. Stay tuned.