Summary: Every Christian is either a first-generation Christian or on who has a family history of some faith and dedication to the Lord. Both are valuable assets to the church when used properly.
I. FIRST GENERATION CHRISTIANS
A. How many of you are ‘first generation Christians’? By that term, I mean people who do not have parents or close family members who were members of the church of Christ who taught or influenced you to obey the gospel. You studied the Bible for yourself. Perhaps through the help of friends or acquaintances, you became familiar with the precepts of New Testament Christianity and made your own decision to be baptized into Christ. You were not “brought up in the church.”
Please hold up your hand if you fit into that category.
B. We are indebted to first generation Christians for a number of reasons.
1. The church grows only when we are active in evangelism. The product of an evangelistic church’s work is people who have not known anything about the Lord’s church being taught and being baptized into Christ. Then they are added to the church. Any congregation which has more first generation Christians than other members has a history of people going out and teaching their friends and neighbors.
2. The church also benefits from the experiences of first generation Christians.
a. These people have searched for truth. Jesus promised “seek, and you will find” [Matthew 7:7]. They have sought and they have found.
b. They have tested what they have heard from various sources of religious information. Many of them were brought up as Protestants or Catholics. They may have been Calvinists. They may have been pre-millennialists. They may have believed doctrines like “saved by faith only” and “once saved, always saved.” But they were honest enough to search. . . the Scriptures. . . to find out whether these things were so [Acts 17:11].
c. These first generation Christians have learned from personal experience the fact that there are many false teachers in the world [1 John 4:1 (NKJV) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.]
3. These church members have discovered God’s truth for themselves in a way that not all who were blessed with having parents and grandparents who brought them to church all their lives have experienced.
a. They are convinced of the truth because they have worked hard to acquire the skills to “rightly divide the word of truth” [2 Timothy 2:15]. They know what the Bible teaches because they have worked hard to learn it.
b. They are committed to reaching the lost because they know first hand what it’s like to live in the world of sin.
(1) Even in this worldly world, you can find adult men and women who were brought up by godly parents and who themselves acquired early in life a strong faith in Christ and a dedication to living disciplined Christian lives.
(a) People like this may never have tasted alcohol.
(b) They have not taken illegal drugs.
(c) They have not used bad language.
(d) They have not had sex outside of marriage.
(2) All those things are positives. It would be a wonderful world if everyone could make those claims.
(a) Those people have committed some sins along the way, but they may not have a true appreciation of how awful sin really is.
(b) For that reason, perhaps some of them don’t really appreciate the awesomeness of salvation.
(3) But some of these first generation Christians have been down in the dirt and filth of worldly living. Whatever you’re talking about, they’ve been there and done that. And now they have been forgiven.
(4) People like that are excited about salvation. They want others to experience the blessing of being cleansed of sins. They want others to feel the joy of having guilt lifted from their shoulders.
(5) These first-generation Christians are usually the best personal workers the church has . . . because they are motivated to do everything possible to change lives of people who are now where they once were . . . before the saving power of the gospel worked in their lives [Romans 1:16 (NKJV) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.]
II. MULTI-GENERATION CHRISTIANS
A. How many of you had parents, grandparents, or other close family members who were members of the Lord’s church? For most of your life you have ‘gone to church’ without ever making a conscious decision about whether this is the lifestyle you want to follow. It’s second-nature for you to be a part of the church. Please hold up your hands.
B. This illustrates the tremendous power of influence.
1. Parents have a tremendous ability to shape the direction of their children’s lives [Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV) Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.] Sometimes faithful parents don’t produce faithful children. There are other influences at work in the world, but it is a proverb – a statement of what usually happens – that godly parents are able to train and influence their sons and daughters in the right direction.