The Allure of Good Behavior in Faith Formation

Let's not substitute good behavior for authentic faith. Hear more in this Family Ministry Conversation video.
3 min read

Hi, my name’s Michelle Anthony, and welcome to Family Ministry Conversations. Today’s conversation topic is the allure of good behavior.

Oh, it is so alluring, isn’t it? It’s alluring to have good behavior, to seek good behavior in our children or students.

Faith is the one thing Jesus said He’d be looking for.

When we as teachers and parents see good behavior, we are quick to recognize it. And when we see ill behavior or poor behavior, we are quick to recognize that too—with a consequence.

That’s the way we were trained, and it’s the way that we are trained to train other generations.

I’m not saying that good behavior is bad. I’m just saying that the allure of it is so intense, that sometimes we can substitute good behavior for authentic faith.

Searching for Authentic Faith

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Authentic faith is the one thing that Jesus said He’d be looking for upon His return.

Jesus said, “When the son of man returns, will he find faith on the earth?” Faith is the one thing Jesus said He’d be looking for.

Faith is that robust understanding that not only do we believe, but we’ve submitted our entire life and will to that belief. That we have given up all of our rights and privileges to do so.

Getting Beyond the Do’s and Don’ts

When I was raising my own kids, it was tempting for me just to focus on good behavior, because that was a full time job every day, all day.

It was, “Stop doing this, start doing that. Don’t hit your brother. Clean up this room. Say please, say thank you. Don’t lie, don’t cheat.”

All those things are moral, good, and necessary for living in this world, but I wanted the message to be more than that.

I hope that some days I got it right, because I know some days I was exhausted as a parent and my focus was on the good behavior.

As a ministry leader, it can be the same experience.

Keeping calm in our classrooms, getting everybody from station to station or picked up safely, asking kids not to hit other kids, to not say a bad word during prayer and worship response.

All of those things can be seductive in their own ways, and yet—when do we actually get to see germinating faith? When do we get to see an “aha” moment for a kid? A moment when they actually experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. Or when kids pray, we can see that they really believe they are praying to a living God who is listening.

A Change in Perspective

We have to pause; we have to slow down. We have to not overreact to poor behavior.

I go into ministry situations—and even most of my days with parenting—expecting that my kids are going to make mistakes or poor decisions sometimes.

Then, I don’t have to be shocked and appalled when they do. I can answer with a gentleness and redirect them—not shaming them in their behavior, but showing them that God has so much more for them.

He has so much more for them than to be a hitter, a liar, a cheater, a stealer, a bad-mouthed whiner. He has life abundant for them, and He’s called them into this part in His story.

When we reengage their thought from just the negativity of what they’ve done wrong, to the positivity of what could be, as they say, “yes” to Jesus. As we redirect their attention and our attention to the things of Christ. We fix our eyes on Jesus, not just the simple behavior.

Then we start to create an environment where faith can flourish. The reality of it is that we are going to have to correct poor behavior. And we will celebrate good behavior. But let’s make sure our focus and attention are equally, if not more, on helping our children and the next generation fix their eyes upon Jesus. The author, perfecter of their faith.

And that’s when, “The things of this earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and Grace.”

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  Updated on May 24, 2021

About the Author

  • Dr. Michelle Anthony is the Pastor of Children and Parents at New Life Church. She is the author of Spiritual Parenting, The Big God Story, Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family, and 7 Family Ministry Essentials. Michelle has over 25 years of church ministry and leadership experience in children’s and family ministries and graduate degrees in Christian Education, Bible and Theology from Talbot School of Theology and Southern Seminary. In her free time, Michelle enjoys being with her family, reading a good book, and being at the beach while drinking a strong cup of coffee.

  • Your Ministry Spark Team is made of ministry volunteers, leaders, and experts who work with David C Cook. We’re passionate about helping others know, love, and follow Jesus. And, we have a big heart for those who serve the kingdom—that’s you. Together, we can do this!

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