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You don’t go far in a basic biology course without studying DNA. It’s the blueprint for life, the molecule that carries genetic information. Great advances in professional fields like medicine, agriculture, and forensics have all come from researching DNA.  

One of DNA’s important functions is to convey hereditary characteristics across generations. The reason you and your dad both have grandma’s nose and ears is because of DNA! Those traits were passed down to you.

Christian churches and parachurch organizations also pass on important familial traits to successive generations through spiritual DNA. Spiritual DNA is important. It matters. A lot. What is passed down to each consecutive generation determines whether a church or organization is Christ-focused as well as scripturally and historically rooted, or loses its way because of small mutations in the spiritual DNA. You want to know why you saw that strange discussion/disagreement between Christians on social media? The one that discouraged you, that was so outlandish it left you wondering, “How in the world did we get here from the Scriptures?” The answer is probably, at least in part, spiritual DNA.

However, unlike parents who excitedly wonder if their child will have brown eyes or blue, churches and parachurch organizations, and especially those in influence within those places, determine what is passed down to the next generation of Christ-followers. Spiritual DNA can be carefully crafted before it is transferred. What is truly treasured gets valuable resources and passionate airtime, while other things deemed less important only get occasional lip service. It’s been my observation during a decade plus of teaching that students quickly figure out what really matters to leaders implicitly, based on what is heard and seen most often (or not) in corporate worship. The fruit produced in the lives of spiritual offspring gives a clear picture about what is being passed along, what has been emphasized and held dear by the spiritual parents.[1]      

Intended or not, it’s easy to miss passing the few important things on, things you would die for, while doggedly trying to pass on something that isn’t a priority to God or His mission in the world. The result? Imagine being cornered after a church service and told this: “Yes, of course Jesus rose from the dead, but let me tell you about my obscure prophecy interpretations and unique positions about any number of topics which I think distinguish me and my group from the rest of Christ’s church” (this example is fictitious, any similarity to actual events is coincidence 🙂 ).

This person was passionate, even zealous to be understood. It was in their DNA, it had been passed down. They had a cause and were a passionate missionary for it. It just wasn’t Christ’s cause. And their misplaced enthusiasm made them at best a mild distraction and at worst a spiritual danger to themselves and everyone else around them. What’s more, it was clear they were completely closed to discussion because their positions were so deeply encoded into who they were. I realized it would do no good to engage them, and that no amount of biblical or historical data would budge them from deeply held but misguided beliefs. Sadly, apart from significant Holy Spirit intervention, their DNA was most likely going to be passed along to the next generation in that context. 

Knowing he was near death, the apostle Paul wrote to Timothy a second time and urged him, “What you have learned from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Tim. 2:2). In other words, just like I’ve discipled and mentored you, Timothy, you do this with other faithful Christ-followers so that the gospel is spread and preserved through generations. Put good spiritual DNA into them, Timothy, so they can pass it to others.  Be faithful to the Word and the things I’ve taught you. Don’t swerve from the faith, and avoid “foolish, ignorant controversies” (II Tim. 2:22). Communicate the whole counsel of God accurately, and keep reminding them of Christ’s resurrection and of their own personal, spiritual resurrection (you were raised to walk in newness of life!). Above all, “remember Christ Jesus, risen from the dead” (II Tim. 2:8).

And just as Paul was faithful to Timothy, who was faithful to the people he shepherded in Ephesus, who were faithful to their neighbors and the gospel was spread and disciples multiplied across the ancient first-century world, may God himself help us to be faithful in training those who will train others now. That the DNA we pass on would result in disciples who passionately love God and others, and who are committed to making the name of Christ great in the nations.

Grace and peace,

David

If you have comments or questions, please interact with me on social media or privately at dave@mondaychristian.com


[1]  I am not minimizing the reality of Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the soils. It’s true that not all the good seed scattered will yield fruit because of the soil it falls in. Nonetheless, fruit produced, good or bad, is a product of the seed put into the soil.

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