Do you think it is a coincidence that the words disciplining and discipling are so similar in nature? In fact, my spell checker keeps kicking out discipling and wants to turn it into disciplining.
There is a lot of good parenting advice out there on various discipline tactics and techniques. While behavioral discipline is important, as Christian parents, we need to remember that the real purpose, the real aim of Christian parenting, is discipling.
In our last article, we spoke about the importance of parenting a child’s heart, not just behavior. One of the best ways we can address the heart of the child is if we shift our focus from parenting behavior to developing disciples of Jesus.
The dictionary defines a disciple as “one who believes in and helps disseminate the teachings of a master.” One could then conclude that the verb form of this noun would be: “the act of disseminating the teachings of a master to another.” Therein lies the foundational aim of all Christian parents:
To pass on the teachings of the Master to their children.
So how do we do this? Is it as simple as taking our kids to church and Sunday school, praying before meals or engaging in a quick breakfast devotional? Is that all there is to it? Or is discipling more about being than doing?
It seems to me that in order to make disciples, you have to first be a disciple.
The Making of a Disciple
How did those first 12 disciples become disciples? Here is what we know from Scripture:
- God called them to follow Him and they obeyed.
- They gave up everything to follow Him.
- They spent a lot of time with Him.
- They listened to His teachings.
- They questioned Him.
- They imitated Him.
All of these factors combined to help them grow so that they could take the teachings of their Master and share them with others. They spent three intense years preparing for their job of carrying the gospel to the world.
As parents, we can use this model to bring the gospel to the hearts of our children.
Parents as Disciples
You don’t have to put your life on hold in order to spend three intense years with Jesus. You can start today. Here are some ways you can become a disciple of Jesus.
Hang out with God. After all, God is always hanging out with you – even if you don’t know it. Do what you can to recognize His presence in your life. Put up post-it notes, use word associations. Do whatever it takes to practice His presence and walk with Him.
Read God’s word. The best way to get to know the teachings of the Master is to read about Him and His Father. You may find that a parenting book would be more practical and helpful in the moment, but I would challenge you to pick up the Bible instead. The Bible is a living book and by the power of the Spirit that lives in you, God can use it in ways that you couldn’t imagine.
Ask questions. Doubts are to faith as free weights are to muscles. The more questions you ask, the more you will seek answers and the stronger your faith will become. It is so important to be genuine in your faith with your children. Don’t be afraid of letting them know that you have questions too.
Be authentic. Do your best to live out authentic faith in front of your children. The disciples were far from perfect but Jesus used them anyway. In fact, it seems quite clear that God likes using imperfect vessels so that He gets the glory instead of us.
Implications for Making Disciples in Our Home
Realize that our children have a choice: to accept or reject Jesus’ call to follow Him. The disciples had a choice. Remember the rich man who wanted to be saved but went away sad because of what Jesus called him to do? (see: Mark 10:17-31) Our children are faced with the same choice – they can accept the free gift of salvation or pass it by. Our job as parents is to make sure that the gift is front and center in our home so that they can’t avoid tripping over it.
Live it, don’t just preach it. One of the reasons that Jesus’ message was so powerful was because He practiced what He preached. As stated above, be authentic. As much as possible, get your insides to match your outsides.
Be present with your children. Jesus was the master of being present, no matter what He was doing or who He was with. It was this unconditional attention that he showered on people that attracted them to Him and made them feel like they were the only one in a field of thousands.
Prepare them for the future. Jesus spent a lot of time talking to His disciples about what things would be like when He was gone. He prepared them for the hardships as well as the glory to come. We need to do the same to equip our children to live in a world that may not like what they have to say about Jesus.
Pray for your children in front of them. In John 17, Jesus prays for His disciples. The very fact that it is written down by the apostle John makes me think that He prayed those words in front of them. Use the passage as a template to pray for your children. Pray for protection, holiness and truth.
By the leading and power of the Holy Spirit that lives within you, God can give you the desire and direction to disciple your children.
Go therefore and make disciples . . . in your own home.
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