October 19, 2019

Spiritual Inoculation

associate pastor

associate pastor

Ken Rathburn


“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
—Proverbs 22:6

Everyone knows something about George Washington—Patriot, General and President—but how about a modern medicine pioneer? In the difficult winter of 1777, Washington saw the devastating effects of the smallpox virus as it began to rip through city after city in the Colonies. Faced with this challenge and fearing for his soldiers, Washington approved the unproven and never-before-tried radical step of mass inoculation throughout each regiment. The risk worked. Smallpox spread throughout the Colonies during the Revolution, but the Continental Army suffered few losses.

Two quick things on inoculation: (1) it is appropriate only for people with healthy, strong immune systems, and (2) it involves intentionally exposing a person to a harmful agent in a controlled environment in order for the person to build future resistance to it. Why in the world am I talking about this? Please keep reading.

Regularly, I listen to the White Horse Inn podcast on theology and ministry. In a recent episode titled “Keeping our Kids,” Brett Kunkle, a radio host for Stand to Reason Ministries, recounted the faith challenges he experienced early in college. He described how his college professor “systematically dismantled the Christianity [he] grew up with” in a single Philosophy 101 class. Coupling that with the other pressures and temptations of college life, everything began to unravel. Then, Kunkle went on to explain that his church spent so much time making church lighter, cooler and softer so as to be palatable for and relevant to kids that the core teachings of the Christian faith were set aside. He said if he instead had been given training in the truth—knowing what he believed and why he believed it—as well as some training in dealing with these challenges to Christianity that “it would have been an inoculation.” As the world around us becomes more and more like a battlefield where we seem outnumbered by the Enemy, it becomes increasingly important that the next generation be spiritually inoculated.

In Deuteronomy 6 (emphasis mine below), the Israelites are given the Law once more by Moses as the prepare to enter the Promised Land:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” —Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Notice who receives this command. It’s not given to the government, nor even the church. It is given to parents. The church is here to support you in training your kids in the faith, but the responsibility is truly yours. Only parents can teach these things “when you sit in your house” at the dinner table, “when you walk” to and from activities and errands, and “when you lie down” at the end of the day. All that said, the church is a family—believers brought together as the body of Christ—and so we are here to give you all the support in this effort that we possibly can. I recently sent some resources for this out to our Wednesday men’s group. Here they are for you:

Jesus Storybook Bible — A great storybook Bible for 6 and under (but rest assured adults will learn something, too). We have extra copies at the church office.

Mighty Acts of God & Wondrous Works of God — Two great books that teach Bible stories for the whole family to use together, targeted to elementary age. Each Bible story includes a section called “As For Me and My House” where you learn to apply the teaching to the life of your family. My sons (ages 7 and 10) love these.

Give Them Truth — For children a bit older, maybe upper elementary to even high school. This sets out the core doctrines of the Christian faith in simple understandable terms. It forms a great opportunity for discussions with your kids.

Training Hearts, Teaching Minds — This is a family devotional guide based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism (part of the EPC Confessions). It is excellent and the whole family can read and discuss it together. This would be great to use at the dinner table as each reading is only a page.

Our kids must be spiritually inoculated against the falsehoods of this world by being armed with the truth of God.

Our kids must be spiritually inoculated against the falsehoods of this world by being armed with the truth of God. As Peter says, we must “… honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15. We must teach our kids who God is, what he has done for us in Christ, how and why we can trust his Word, and what it means to follow him in holy living. We have the precious gift of parenting our children for just a short while. We must share with them what they need more than anything else: the Gospel of our Savior and our Lord, Jesus Christ. You can do this. Take one step and God will honor your faithfulness.

By his grace,

Pastor Ken