Christian parents raised me. They made sure my siblings and I learned our values from them. They also sought help by giving us Godly counsel and ensuring other Christians influenced us. As far back as I can remember, I have regularly attended a local church. As a young child, my parents always ensured that my siblings and I were at the church's appointed times. We were there for Sunday School, morning worship services, etc. We were involved in our church youth group. I remember being involved with activities such as going around the neighborhood at Christmas time and singing carols to the elderly. I participated in church summer camps and enjoyed being around my other friends as we enjoyed participating in the group's various activities.
I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was eight during one of our annual revivals. A church revival is when the local church has an outside preacher/evangelist come into the church and preach a series of sermons over a few days. The idea is to build up anticipation and excitement to motivate church people to attend. During the services, the hope is that by the urging of the Holy Spirit, they will rededicate their lives to Christ and go out and live out the great commission, which is sharing the Christian message with others and leading them to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. I got saved, which is to accept that Christ died for my sins. And if I believe that he did this, I can spiritually ask him into my heart, and I can have eternal life and live with him in Heaven and other believers after I die here on earth. What a great proposition! I accepted and became a believer.
One sign or ritual that our church practiced was water baptism. At the appointed time, a few days later, other new Christians who received Christ as their Savior during the revival and I got baptized. Getting baptized is when the preacher dips you in water which symbolizes that the cleansing sacrifice of Christ has washed your sins through the shedding of his blood on the cross. I was now saved, and my spiritual journey began.
As I got older and became a teenager, I continued in church but never developed a close relationship with Christ. I mainly prayed when I needed something. I called on God when it was convenient. I kept attending the youth group and church camps. I was primarily involved in the youth group because of the pretty girls who attended. I never dived into his word to get to know him and his will for my life. I read the Bible occasionally. There was no consistency in developing a relationship with Christ. After accepting Christ as my Savior, I never received the proper training on what to do next. It was no one’s fault but my own. Making bad choices in life, especially during the teenage years, happens when you don’t have a mentor or accountability partner. One will go astray and get into predicaments that are not beneficial.
I can say that I “played church,” so to speak. I would consider myself a hypocrite during that time. This practice carried over in my adult life for years. I strayed as a teenager and moved further away from God. At the time, after hearing the advice from Joe Lassiter, “…. you have the freedom of choice, but you don’t have the freedom of the consequences,” I did make the wiser choice of not running away from home with my best friend the beginning of my senior year in high school. However, some of the options I made afterward sent me on a downward slope that caused me to regret.
I am so glad we have a God who forgives us for our mistakes, unwise choices, and downright willful sinning. 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” -NKJV.
How to become successful spiritually? Lessons learned. Find a Christian mentor who will hold you accountable.
When they first get saved, people need to reach out and find a mentor who will guide them as they progress in their Christian journey. No doubt in my life and countless numbers of young Christians, especially teenagers and young adults, is the absence of older Christian mentors. I remember, as a 13-year-old teenager asking my dad, “Why is it in our church that the younger people are doing all the work? Why don’t the retired elders who have all this time volunteer to help work around the church?” My dad replied, “I guess they feel like they paid their dues. It’s time for the young people to step up.” Dad disagreed with their philosophy. So do I.
Even if the elders cannot do the physical work, such as keeping up with the grounds and maintenance of the church, they can, more importantly, get involved in mentoring our young Christians. Just think what would happen in our churches across America if the elderly volunteered to be an accountability partner and mentor for just one teenager or young adult Christian. Each elder taking just one to teach and guide could make all the difference in the world. Our older Christian men and women need to get involved in the lives of our young Christians, whether they ask for it or not. Young Christians don’t know what to do or how to grow in their Christian faith. Life is hard. You’ve heard the saying that “it takes a village to raise a child.” It also takes a village to raise and guide young Christians. The ways of this world naturally pull people into sin if they don’t know how to stand up against temptations.
As a mature Christian, don’t wait for younger Christians to ask you for advice. Older Christians must look for opportunities to step in and help when they see a need. Just open your eyes, and you will see the need all around. There is no reason to waste all those years of life experiences. Ask God to show you opportunities where you can mentor a younger person.
I constantly remind my senior adults in our Sunday School class that retirement is not in the Bible. As long we have breath, God has a purpose for us no matter how old we are. There is no doubt in my mind that if a more senior church member had taken the time to build a relationship with me during my young formable years as a Christian, I would have made fewer wrong decisions.
I am not trying to play the blame game. We need the support of the Christian community to succeed in this life as we travel our spiritual journey.