Growing up Christian is not as easy a task as one might think. There are dangers and temptations unique to growing up within a Christian family and within the church and sadly these difficulties are often downplayed or misunderstood by those who have been converted later in life. Growing Up Christian seeks examine these issues, which, as a person who grew up in a Christian home (ie a "church kid"), are near and dear to my heart. The book is targetted primarily at church kids, though their parents would do well to read the book with them. The author, Karl Graustein, is a church kid himself and is now a principal at a Christian school, so is intimately aware of the issues at stake.
The book is divided into three sections. The first lays out the blessings and the dangers of growing up in a Christian family. "Growing up in a Christian home is a wonderful privilege. We have been given so much: godly parents, training in the Word of God, friends from Christian homes, support from a Christian church community, and most importantly an opportunity to know God at a young age. Throughout our lives, we are repeatedly taught about the love of God, his plan of salvation, ways to recognize and resist sin, and living for the glory of God" (page 21). He goes on to recount other benefits of being raised in a Christian environment, pointing out that while we are given so much we are also protected from so many dangers.
"Church kids face some unique challenges...Though surrounded by the things of God, we can still be drawn to sin and live double lives. We can easily assume that we are saved even if we are not; or we may be driven by a desire to be popular more than a desire to live according to biblical values. While it is a great blessing to grow up in a Christian environment, if we are not careful we can make some dangerous assumptions about ourselves, which have serious consequences" (page 22).
I can testify from my life that I have seen both the privilege and the danger of growing up in a Christian home. I am ever thankful to God that He blessed me with discerning parents who, though they did not understand from their own experience what it is like to be a church kid, were unrelenting in sharing the gospel with us. Their efforts have been blessed as all five of their children know and serve the Lord. But as often as I have seen this type of blessing, I have seen the opposite, where the children of Christians fall away or live lukewarm at best, always assuming but never knowing that they are saved.
The second section teaches kids how to think biblically. Graustein speaks of the importance of cultivating humility, of growing in gratefulness, of loving Scripture and of trusting God. He also covers what I might consider the most important topic in the book: developing personal biblical convictions. On the front cover of the book are the words, "Have you taken ownership of your relationship with God?" Just this weekend I was discussing this topic with my friend Doug and I suggested that this is exactly what the children of Christians need to do. For many years we coast along under the umbrella of our parents' faith. We do what they do and say what they say simply because that is what we have been taught. But there comes a time of crisis and decision. This is a time I remember from my own life. I do not know whether this is the moment I became a Christian or whether that was much earlier, but I do clearly remember the day that God allowed me to make my parents' faith my own. It was a day of transformation in my life. It is a day that I suspect all church kids have at some point.
The final section deals with living biblically and the author discusses battling sin, the spiritual disciplines and stewardship of God-given talents. Much of this section draws upon and is consistent with the excellent teaching ministry of Don Whitney and his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Other clear influences on the author through this section and others are J.C. Ryle, John Piper, Jerry Bridges and C.J. Mahaney. Graustein is clearly a man who has spent much time in the Word and much time learning from sound teachers.
All-in-all this is a fantastic book and one which I wish I had been able to read while I was a teenager still wrestling with my faith. To echo the endorsement of Tedd Tripp, "Karl Graustein gets it! He understands the pitfalls and dangers that track with the privilege of growing up in a Christian home. He addresses all the standard temptations...This book has a look and feel that young people will appreciate." Growing Up Christian is a book I would unhesitatingly recommend to any and all Christian parents and teens.
This is a bit unusual, but I'd like to make special mention of the person who designed the cover for this book. It is very well done and I suspect this book will sell quite a few copies to those who judge a book by its cover. Well done! If there are awards for this type of thing I hope you receive consideration.