As the president of the United States enters into his second term, there is much discussion among the “talking heads” about legacy. What will President Obama seek to do that will assure that he is remembered in the years to come? What will be his legacy?
In recent days a member of our extended family has passed away and the blessings of her life have been remembered. Now immediate members of the family are dealing with legal matters relating to that death. Both are parts of one’s legacy. What will be remembered about the loved one and what will be the disposition of that person’s assets after death? What will be her legacy?
In broader terms, however, this might be a good time to consider what kind of legacy we are building that will live on after us not only as individuals but as churches. This is certainly appropriate for Christians. Although early believers expected the imminent return of Christ, subsequent generations found it necessary to do succession planning and prepare those who would follow. How will the continuation of the faith be assured?
This whole legacy thing begins in the home. Whether we are talking traditional or non-traditional families, forming children in the faith begins where they live. Churches can be most helpful here by providing resources, encouragement, and mentoring to help those who are raising children nurture them in the faith.
Christian nurture continues within the walls of the church. With younger children, caring and gifted leaders model Christian relationships and affirm youngsters as children of God. As they grow older, content becomes more important. Children begin their formation as disciples even before they come to the point of a “public profession of faith.” They belong and behave before they believe.
As youngsters enter their teen years, they face many challenges, but parents and church leaders must continue to affirm them as “the beloved of God” even when they resist this blessing. When the tough times come, and they will come, every adolescent must know that God loves them and that their church family does, too.
Legacy building continues as we help older teens and young adults understand that whatever their vocation may be, they have a calling from God to live as followers of Christ. We must also help them develop the ability to be discerning about what that means so they can make informed choices that keep them close to God.
We can also help young adults to understand that there is a need for some believers to respond to a calling to Christian ministry. The options are no longer limited just to being a pastor or a missionary. The church needs leaders with many types of gifts who will encourage, equip, and care for each member of the body of Christ.
Of course, the journey to Christian wholeness does not end when one becomes an adult but continues as one enters into a career, becomes a spouse, has children, and faces the challenges of life. Other believers are companions on that journey.
Developing a legacy of faith is a never-ending cycle. There are unique needs at each station on the journey and this provides opportunities for the community of faith to help, support and learn. This is all part of God’s plan for the church. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote: “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) The legacy we are building is not only ours; it is God’s.