Much has been written over the years about making disciples. In my own denomination (SBC), there has even been a disciple-making taskforce established. They have given a report. For what it is worth, it is a great report, and wonderful recommendations made. Much of my thinking and change in strategy has come from one of the people on that taskforce, Pastor Robby Gallaty of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Henderson, Tennessee. I have enjoyed reading the books he has written, and listening to the podcast he produces. Robby has mentioned it in multiple places, but he unfortunately is one of the few. For all of the talk about being a disciple who makes disciples; we often overlook the first disciples we are called to make. Who are they you ask?
The first disciples we are to make are our family. The basic building block of society, and what I argue makes stronger churches and communities, are strong families. It doesn’t surprise me that Satan seems to attack marriage and the family the hardest, because those were the first two institutions created and blessed by God. One thing that God is leading our church to do is to recapture that vision of strong families. A few weeks ago, in our mid-week Bible study, I laid out three principles for doing this. I won’t go into great detail on all three. But I did want to talk about the first principle. It is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the LORD is one. 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 die, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” (bold is mine for emphasis). In these verses we see two important truths. First, the parents must know and live the truth. Simply put, you can’t teach what you, yourself do not know and live. If you want to talk baseball, I feel I can sit down and have an intelligent conversation with you about it. I feel as though I have something to contribute to that conversation. Why? Because I spent years playing baseball, and I have given part of the last several years to coaching the game. However, if you want to sit down and talk about cars; I should be a passive spectator in that conversation. It’s not that I don’t like cars. It is simply that I don’t know much about cars. I wasn’t blessed with being very handy, and I don’t have the greatest amount of patience when dealing with tight spaces. If we try and talk about something that we don’t have knowledge or experience in, people are going to see right through us, especially if those people we are trying to talk to are our children. They see right through us, because they live with us. The second truth Moses points out here is that parents are to teach their children. The primary teacher of spiritual truths in the life of children is to be their parents. The formula of knowing and living the truth and then teaching it to others is seen in the New Testament as well in Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:1-2. By teaching our children the truths of God and His Word, we are ensuring that the Gospel will continue to spread from one generation to the next. We are passing along the faith that was once delivered to us. A thought hit me just the other morning, it is possible for us to be involved in trying to make disciples in the church, while neglecting to make the first disciples we are called to make, our family. It is possible to get so involved in the work of ministry that we forget our first and I would argue, our most important ministry occurs not in the church building but in our house. The second truth I taught on that Wednesday was that the church plays a secondary role in training children. As parents, we need to resist the idea that it is the church’s responsibility to teach our children everything they need to know about God and the Bible. Due to time constraints, the church simply can’t do a proper job. In the same line of thinking, the church must resist the temptation to be the all in all teacher of the children. This lead to the third truth which was, the church’s responsibility then is to help teach and equip the parents to train their children spiritually (Eph. 4:11-12). God has given the church gifts and leaders who are to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. The work of ministry begins in the home! So how can we make disciples of our family? How can the church help?
The most effective way of making a disciple is by having them be active in your life. I know many people were hoping for a silver bullet or some ministry program, but I’m convinced that those things simply don’t exist. We can start by doing two things. First, let our spouse and/or children see us reading God’s Word and hearing us pray. Second, have them study and pray with you. Being a disciple is more caught than it is taught. This was Jesus’ method with His disciples. You can break the Gospels down into three distinct phases. The first one was Jesus did and the disciples watched. Then, the disciples did and Jesus watched. Finally, when Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples did and continue to do. Jesus didn’t give them some classroom formula and tell them to go do it. He taught it, modeled it, and then helped them do it. Another way to make disciples of your family is to worship together. One thing that has been on my mind for a year or more now is just how isolated our churches are most Sunday mornings. We talk about family and the important of family. However, when the family gets to the church building, we send them in a bunch of different directions. Husbands and wives often go to different Bible study classes while the children go to their own. Then, they spent a little time in worship together before we ship the kids off to children’s church (if your church does children’s church). Then, if you have a mid-week service we do it all over again. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have age specific Bible study classes. There are times in which they are very good and helpful. But at a minimum, we might want to think about studying the same lesson on age appropriate levels. Give the family something to talk about after church or during the week. Give them something they can study as a family, and grow in their faith together. The leadership team that I serve with at Westlake and I have talked about this, and we are beginning to get some answers to our prayers, think about it this way; a normal “church” week involves Sunday school, worship, children’s church, and then a mid-week Bible study. For adults, that means typically at least three different lessons that we are to digest and apply. Anyone else have a hard time digesting one lesson and applying it? For a child, the normal “church” week involves three lessons, Sunday school/small group, children’s church, and mid-week. If it is hard for us as adults to process all of that, why do we think it is any easier for our children to? I believe it is important for families to worship together, not just sing the same songs, but for the child to see their parent(s) studying God’s Word as the preacher is preaching. At the same time, the children will pick up and learn more than we often think they do. The final suggestion for making a disciple of your family is this, be intentional and be honest. You won’t grow in your walk with God on accident. You are going to have to be intentional about it. At the same time, don’t try to paint a picture of you that isn’t true, and that your family will see right through. As hard as it is, we need to be honest with our family about our struggles. Talk about how you need God’s grace each day, and how God loves you even though you frequently sin. Your child will not think less of you, they will see authenticity, which will help woo their heart to Jesus. At the end of the day, our job as parents is to love our children as God loves us. We are to represent Him to them, and point them to Him as who they need. So let me ask one final question at the end of this long post, are you making disciples of your family? If not, confess it, know God has forgiven you, and seek His help to begin today. We are in a war, it may be invisible, but it has very real casualties. Let’s keep the Gospel moving from one generation to the next, by loving and teaching those closest to us.