After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel…
They forsook the Lord, the God of their ancestors…and they were in great distress.
The run of toppling dominoes. There’s no better metaphor for the power of momentum.
In recent years, domino-toppling has become something of a boutique craze. There are special dominoes that you can buy just for lining up in series, there are actually small domino toppling conventions out there, and if you head over to youtube, you can see professionally-produced videos like the clip below. It’s pretty cool stuff:
There are other neat videos like this, in which each tile topples a domino one-and-a-half times its own size:
But for me, the most entertaining of all are the domino blooper reels. This video was made by the same folks who recorded the first one in this blog post:
Just one domino not doing what it was supposed to do is enough to break the chain and destroy the momentum. It does not matter how intricate the pattern, how meticulous the setup, how long the train. If domino number 50 doesn’t feel the impact, dominoes numbered 51, 100, or 10,000 won’t be moved either. There’s an important principle at play here, isn’t there. One that applies not only to the movements of dominoes, but also to movements of people as well. The Bible’s got lots to say about this, but no slice of scripture makes the point more clearly than Judges 2.
What it describes is a seismic change among the people of God, and what it foreshadows, what it portends, is an epic meltdown among God’s people.
The word “generation” is an important clue to what happened. Evidently, parents and grandparents grew lax in their communication of God’s mighty works among them. Despite all of the warnings of Moses to remember what God had done (Deuteronomy 6:7), despite all the reminders on the doorframes (Deuteronomy 6:9), despite all the standing stones that Joshua had set up (Joshua 4:6-7), the elder generations didn’t pass on the story to the younger. They failed to instruct and encourage the next generation in the ways of the Lord.
The single easiest way to curtail missional momentum is for parents to withhold the story from their children. The distance between success and failure is a distance between a mom and her daughter, between a grandpa and the kids on his lap. If the believing adults cannot share the energy, the joy, the passion of their movement to their children, the whole thing will go down to defeat. It happens when they believe one of a handful of subtle little lies that are going around and voluntarily sideline themselves from the whole process. And, just so there’s no ambiguity about what I’m saying, moms and dads and other Christian adults, let’s name those lies:
1) It will come across as sappy. Telling our kids about our relationship with Jesus feels approximately as comfortable as talking to our kids about our love life!
2) There’s no reason to rush things: We’re can kickers, right? Well, my kids are only 3 years old; I can wait until they’re five. Well, our daughter is only ten – let’s wait until she has the vocabulary to really understand these things. Well, our son’s only in high school…he’s supposed to be immature. Well, sure, our kids are married, but when they have children of their own, we’ll teach them about our faith. We think that they’ll always be around.
3) Someone else will tell them. We think that the environment is so saturated with Jesus, with other Christians, that they will pick it up in some other way. Maybe just dragging them to church will be enough. Maybe placing some tracts in their backpacks or putting on TBN full-blast in the living room…that’s all that needs to happen. It’s osmosis, right?
4) It would be “controlling them” spiritually. This is a favorite of parents of grown children. They have to learn it on their own, I can’t interfere with their journey. Right, sure, that’s your primary job as a parent. Gold star for that, definitely.
5) My actions do all the talking. Somehow we can just mime out the good news of Jesus Christ.
We believe these lies and we give ourselves permission to say nothing. And if that’s where you’re at, I would challenge you directly with the words of the great church reformer Martin Luther: “You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.”
In other words – you are communicating the values of your faith if you are sharing the gospel with them, and you are communicating the values of your faith if you don’t share it. You’re always communicating.
One kind of communication keeps the momentum going, the other sees the domino run of faith stop silent. Don’t be the tile that never touches the next.