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REAL: Owning Your Christian Faith

Book Summary:
Is it the parenting, the church, the systems? Many second-generation believers struggle to develop authentic faith. Or could it be that a background in the church provides its own unique set of struggles? Daniel Darlingopens the curtains and offers a look at what the Bible says to those who’ve grown up in the faith, answering the questions we’ve long been afraid to voice. Why do I desire to sin? What’s the secret to lasting intimacy with God? REAL offers second-generation Christians a lifeline to personal intimacy with God, a biblical mandate to take ownership of their faith, and grace-based tips on continuing a legacy of  faith.

Discussion Questions:
1. There’s a lot of discussion today about Christian kids leaving the faith. What are some of the reasons researchers give for this decline? What are some of the reasons you have either a) been tempted to leave or b) have heard from your friends as to why they left?

2. REAL suggests that a “fear-based, assembly-line” mentality might partially be to blame for young people leaving the church. However, the book strongly asserts that the natural, deeper reason why kids leave the faith is original sin. What do you think about this?

3. Christian kids grow up with great expectations. In what way might this be good and in what way can it be unhealthy? List some of the expectations you had growing up.

4. In chapter 4, I talk about the tendency of every human heart to wander from the Lord. Why might this tendency seem stronger among kids who grew up in the faith?

5. Some kids, like me, didn’t rebel from the church outright. But how do we avoid becoming the “unprodigal?” (a sort of elder-brother syndrome, proud of our self-righteousness)

6. Second-generation kids have a tendency to push off of everything they learned growing up, becoming the “anti” of everything their parents were for. How does the doctrine of God’s sovereignty correct this?

7. We learned from the life of Joash the importance of fully owning your faith rather than living off the borrowed oxygen of another generation. Ask yourself, “When was my Jehoiada moment where I fully owned my Christian faith?”

8. In chapter 9, “Third Chair Christianity,” I challenged second-generation Christians to not simply be gatherers of knowledge, but to live radically on mission for Christ. How does living on mission help us overcome past church baggage and hurt?

9. Passing the baton of faith is a delicate transaction. What are some ways we can create healthy spiritual environments in our own families?

10. In 1 Timothy 1:4–5, Paul describes Timothy’s “not insincere” faith. Describe some ways preferences and nonessential distinctions in methodology pollute our excitement about the one true faith.

11. As we think about establishing our own rituals, practices, and spiritual traditions, we must remember that presence may be the most important gift we give our kids. List some ways “just showing up” impacted your childhood and is now impacting your own children.

Prayer Points:
As you gather for prayer, remember this generation’s Christian leaders and institutions (churches, Christian schools and universities, ministries). Pray that they might stay true to the core of the gospel message, create healthy environments, and adjust their methods to the needs of those they serve.

Then, pray for the children growing up in your church, your homeschooling co-ops, and Christian schools, and in your neighborhood. Pray that God would guard their hearts. Ask the Lord for strength and wisdom in answering their doubts and fears.

Finally, pray for friends who may have walked away from the faith that they may come back to the Heavenly Father who loves them. Pray for your own hearts, that the gospel of Christ may burn brighter in you each day. Ask for grace during your hearts’ wandering seasons.

Live It Out:
If you are experiencing a season of doubt, wandering, and hurt—perhaps you might need a change of “spiritual scenery”: a new book that freshly challenges you, a new Bible study. Find a prayer partner and Christian mentor. Consider a retreat, whether a few hours, a day, or a week.

Or perhaps your faith is strong during this season. If so, is there a struggling church member or friend who needs some encouragement? Engage this person in conversation and be willing to listen and encourage him or her with the truth of Scripture. Commit to praying for him or her every day.

Lastly, do a self-assessment of your own engagement in the mission of God. Is it time shake up your spiritual routines? Is there a service opportunity in your church or community that needs your help? Would you be willing to mentor a younger Christian? Is there an uncomfortable mission field God where is calling you to serve?

About the Author
Daniel Darling is the senior pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of numerous books, including Teen People of the Bible (nominated for a Gold Medallion Award), Crash CourseiFaith, and REAL. Dan’s work has been featured by the leading evangelical publications, including Relevant, Christianity Today, Focus on the Family, On Course, and In Touch. He is a contributing writer to Stand Firm, a columnist for Enrichment Journal, Crosswalk.com, and Lake County Journals. He also blogs regularly for Patheos.com.