By Rob Pifer
For the past couple of months, Shannon and I have been spending our Friday mornings exploring the many hiking trails around Tallahassee, enjoying the cool weather before the Florida summer heat settles in. One of our favorites is the J.R. Alford Greenway on the east side of town, a beautiful, expansive park with an abundance of trails and open spaces. This scenic spot is perfect to get lost in for a few hours and disconnect from our usual fast-paced routines.
One trail recently took us over a New England-type covered bridge which straddles a train track, through the woods and around Piney Z Lake. As we looped around the lake and headed back toward the trailhead and our car, discussing where to go for lunch and plans for the rest of the day, something stopped us in our tracks. A simple sign hung from a tree which read: “Bill’s Memorial Trail…Designed and Maintained by a Loving Daughter.”
That was all. No last name for Bill. No first name for his daughter. Nothing to explain why this trail in this park in this town. Nothing about Bill or his daughter or their relationship. No reason for this memorial other than the fact that Bill’s daughter loved her dad.
As we walked on, I found myself admiring Bill, whoever he was. He had obviously left a legacy for his family, enough so that his daughter felt compelled to mark his existence and impact on her life with a peaceful trail through the woods bearing his name. I found myself asking the obvious question, “Am I leaving such a legacy for my children? What legacy am I leaving?”
Whether we know it or not, we are all leaving a parental legacy for our children. What is yours?
The reality is that as Christians, our parental legacy isn’t really supposed to be about us at all. Our legacy should always point our children back to God through the Gospel of Grace through our Lord Jesus Christ. Parents, our legacy should be shaped by what we find in Deuteronomy 6:5-7:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
I’m thankful that I don’t have to figure out on my own how to do what this passage commands of me as a parent. The reality is that I’m not meant to do it alone. God has given us the church, a family of believers to walk alongside me and my children on this road of sanctification. I’m thankful that there are other older men and women at Four Oaks that can speak wisdom and truth into my life and into the lives of my children (Titus 2:3-6), because we so desperately need it. What a wonderful grace this is for all of us!
When I’m asked about what it is we do in Student Ministries at Four Oaks Church, it’s easy for me to start listing out the many activities going on, because trust me, there’s always something going on. Our Student Ministry activities are abundant and great, and we’ll always have something happening, but 4Oaks Students is about so much more than the trips and activities. It’s about calling the body of believers of Four Oaks Church to work together so that a Gospel-centered legacy is passed down for the next generation to embrace and live out. It’s about the church meeting teenagers right where they are, sharing the Gospel with them, teaching them the Word of God, and discipling them as part of the church as they grow in their own faith. This is the legacy I pray everyday that Four Oaks Church is leaving behind for our next generation.
Whether or not you are a parent of a teenager yourself, you can be a part of that legacy, and I hope that you will. 4OaksStudents has many ways for you to be involved in legacy building, from serving on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings as a small group leader, to discipling teens through one of our new “Life Groups,” to financially supporting a student raising money to go on a summer trip; the opportunities for you to be a part of this legacy are abundant. In fact, you can go to 4OaksStudents.com to find out more about all of our activities and how you can have an impact on the life of the next generation in our church.
Be like Bill, and strive to leave a legacy of faith that a child, physical or spiritual, will be thankful for someday. You just might have a trail named after you.