Throughout my Christian life I've oft heard two popular statistics:
#1 - Roughly 90% of us make the decision to come to Christ before the age of 18.
#2 - Roughly 90% of us leave the church when we move out of Ma's house.
With respect to #1, if I go to church every week for 18 years, chances are I'm going to repeat the "Sinner's Prayer" somewhere along the way; thus becoming part of the first 90% figure. I think as parents we absolutely should bring our children to gather in worship and fellowship on a regular basis. I might have some disagreements on how we do it and/or maybe where the "church" spends some of its money, but fellowship and worship are critical to The Call.
With respect to #2, my question is, why should a young adult continue to attend church? We've all been fed the line "once saved, always saved". I had a hard time swallowing this doctrine, but at some point I did because of the popularity of it. With so many Bible scholars in agreement, how could it be wrong? But I'm here to tell you, I just really can't stand on that any more.
Sure, it sounds awesome. I mean, who doesn't want to believe that you avoid Hell by repeating and believing, even if just for a moment, that Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected as we will be? Why in the world would we stick around a bunch of hypocritical old codgers if we've already got the insurance policy? Let's go live our lives however we see fit and possibly down the road we'll throw some money at a charity because we are, after all, "Christians".
Sorry, I've read the Gospels too many times to believe this any more. Yes, absolutely, we have to believe in Jesus if we want to be saved. If we try to work out our salvation without Christ, it is out of pride, which our Dad hates. Jesus is the prerequisite to eternal life. We can't come to Dad without His Son. I am so not discounting our need for Christ. Nowhere in the scripture, however, does it say that we get a free pass to live a life without Christ by praying one single time. I just can't make that conclusion. It doesn't add up.
Here is just one, single, passage that I believe refutes the "once saved, always saved" axiom:
(from Matthew 25:31-46, look it up and read the rest)
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
Where in the above does it say "Come, you who prayed the sinner's prayer when you were 12 years old, before living a worldly life doing whatever you pleased"? On the other extreme, for those of us trying to live by the law, where does it say "Come, you who observe the Sabbath, never shave your beards, don't work after sunset and never associate with sinners nor touch the sick"? OK, this latter example is pretty far removed from American Culture, but we are dealing with it down here.
Parable after parable states that when He returns, He had better find us in His business. Read Matthew, Mark, Luke or John and you'll see. It has little to do with a one time, emotional experience and everything to do with loving Him enough to care for his broken children.
I'm not making any friends here in the traditional protestant circles, but we'd all better get serious about working for Him, every day. We need to train and disciple our children and those around us to do the same. To tell someone that a quick prayer is your golden ticket is to deny most of what the Lord told us in His visit.