When I was a senior in high school, I remember taking a field trip to Lincoln Christian College. One of the things we did was listen in on some kind of class or campus sermon – I don't remember the details, but one thing sticks out in my memory. The speaker was talking about possible translations for Mark 19:23-24 [NIV]:
As he watched him go, Jesus told his disciples, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for the rich to enter God's kingdom? Let me tell you, it's easier to gallop a camel through a needle's eye than for the rich to enter God's kingdom."
I recall that at least one translation option the speaker presented would have changed the meaning of the verse. [biblicalhebrew.com has an interesting dissection of the translation for the interested.] I remember being surprised and angry. There was more than one way to translate the bible? Not just the "thees and thous", but important words that could even change the meaning? How many of these translation problems were there? Why did my church never talk about this?
On reflection, I think they probably did talk about it at the adult bible study level, at least a little. At the high school level, however, I remember more talks about saving yourself for marriage and the evils of alcohol. I don't remember any discussions even remotely connected to theology or history or intellectual reasons for faith in Christ. Most of the church I remember was a "how-to" discussion – how to live your life according to what the bible said (with a healthy dose of reminder of what would happen if you didn't!)
Perhaps the adults in the crowd knew why there were there and knew why they believed. What about the children and the teens and even the young adults who have been there all their lives? What are they thinking? Will children brought up in church naturally and easily continue to have faith if it is not explained to them how we got here and why? I certainly didn't. I know a lot of kids that didn't. One of the youth ministers at my new church lightly reminded us that kids in Sunday School often acted as if they were innoculated *against* Jesus; that the little bit of exposure could prevent them from getting the "disease" as an adult. When we condescend to children, we are the administrators of the vaccine.
It's natural to focus on the obvious unbelievers when it comes to sharing the good news. Speaking from experience, though, there is a group of very important people that need reaching that are not so readily apparent: children reaching the age of reason. Teaching bible stories and preaching virtues from the good book won't count for a thing when Heather and Justin question whether God even exists. Don't take the children's faith on faith.
This is not just about high school seniors about to go off to college and be challenged by those "athiest professors". It took me until high school to start asking difficult questions out loud, but I had them long before that.
If *I* didn't know there were over 500 eyewitness to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, I can tell you that your 7th grader doesn't know. Your 7th grader's friends are laughing in his face because he believes something so "ridiculous". And your 7th grader doesn't know what to say. The historical and logical and intellectual reasons to believe in Jesus and the validity of the bible and the existence of God just weren't presented to me as I grew up. Yes, our kids need to know how to live by God's Word, to not watch too much MTV or have sex in the back of Justin's van on the way home from the football game. But "how-to's" only come after "want-to's".
Living by the Word is a choice each of us make for ourselves. It's not an easy choice, but if we have determined with our own hearts AND minds that faith in Jesus is reasonable and true, then it is a more understandable choice to make. Show the children the evidence. Help them build their faith from the ground up. Show them the difficult problems and the possible answers. Show them the same careful respect and concern you would give to those who are not Christians, whom you would like to bring to Christ.