This is an introduction to a series of posts encouraging and teaching parents who want to focus on their calling to raise children who become disciples of Jesus Christ. My model is simple: I offer encouragement for such parents to renew (or rededicate) their homes to the calling and concerns of Christ and his Kingdom. We must live out our faith with our children at home because weekly church meetings are simply not enough.
Anyone can look good on a Sunday morning or Wednesday evening. But, in order to do our part as parents, we must be Christians at home, daily, where relationships and circumstances offer so many opportunities for us and for our kids to practice what we all believe in the nitty gritty, and in matters that are relatively small compared to what our children will experience as adults in the world.
Consider this: there are 31 “one anothers” in the New Testament. (HERE is a list of 59 Scripture passages that display them. Some are repeated.) How many of these can we practice for real on a Sunday morning, or in a 2-hour Bible Study group? And, are our children practicing them at these times? The honest answers are “not many” and “not really.” This is why we must see our homes, not our church buildings, as the center of our child training efforts.
How Do Children Learn How to Walk as Believers?
Christian parents can become discouraged and anxious when reading articles that trumpet statistics about the growing number of adult children who leave their faith behind as they enter adulthood. This trend is indeed concerning, and leaves younger parents asking, “Is there a way to safeguard my children?”
At it’s core, the answer is “no.” You cannot safeguard them by means of your efforts. Only God can direct their hearts. Only He can save them, by having mercy on them and revealing Himself to them. For this, we must earnestly pray and ask for God’s presence and power in their lives. We ask this in faith, knowing the promises and power of our loving God to do us and our children good.
Having fully affirmed that it’s not by human effort but by grace that our children are saved, yet we are commanded as parents to be a shaping influence on our children’s lives. We are to “train them up in the way they should go” (Proverbs 22:6). We are to make disciples. While it is God’s role to give saving grace, it is the parent’s responsibility to train young people for lives of service to the One True God. We set the table, as it were, and cook the food. God provides the appetite for the spiritual meal.
You Can’t Train What You Don’t Know Yourself
Parents have a problem. We are human. As such, we are sinful and wayward. Added to that are both the common distractions that go along with the busy years of building families and wealth: the hard work, long hours, tiredness, etc. of bearing and raising children for mothers, and providing for the household’s present and future needs for fathers, and that’s where there are two parents who share the load. It’s even harder for single parents!
Added to these are the multiple challenges of living in a modern world where biblical values are under constant attack, both directly from foes of God and indirectly by the pleasures of the world, including all the options for entertainment and/or communications (cell phones, tablets, video games, movies, email, social media, etc.).
The words of Moses to the Israelites on the eve of their entering the Promised Land (where life would be easier for them) can center parents of our modern world on what is lasting, fruitful, and full of joy:
“It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied. Beware that your hearts are not deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them. Or the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and He will shut up the heavens so that there will be no rain and the ground will not yield its fruit; and you will perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
“You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. (Deuteronomy 11:13-18; emphasis added)
And as you learn how to obey God more and more effectively, love Him more and more passionately, and serve Him more and more faithfully, then you can pass on God’s words and the things that you have learned about Kingdom life. Moses continued:
You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your sons may be multiplied on the land which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens remain above the earth. (Deuteronomy 11:18-21 NASB)
How to Obey?
Many parents choose to homeschool because they reason that, in order to take this passage seriously and diligently train their children thusly, they need to be with them for most of each day. This is sound reasoning, and I myself have schooled six children K-12 and written a homeschool curriculum. My husband is an attorney who devoted 14 years of direct ministry to homeschoolers at HSLDA, and then helped to support the company that published my curriculum for years after that. However, not all Christian parents can choose homeschooling. Are they then gambling with their children’s eternal souls?
Again, the core answer must be “no.” God is bigger than our circumstances, and He is able to save to the uttermost all those who draw near to Him (Hebrews 7:25). While full time parent-child apprenticeship is a model that was followed for much of human history and has obvious advantages for discipleship, modern parents who send their children to day schools still bear the responsibility for discipleship, and can effectively train their children. However, it takes purposeful, creative, sustained effort to do so (as does homeschooling).
In this series of blog posts, I intend to cast a vision for making your home the hub of ministry, and the central influence in your child’s lives, even in our modern world that is filled with distractions. I hope to offer snapshots of the ministering home: a place where the calling and concerns of Christ and His Kingdom are central and paramount.
Here’s a Summary of the Series
Coupled with a regenerated heart, a vibrant ministry can ignite and infuse a child with a lifelong passion for Christ and His work on the earth. It is in the home that one should learn to practice the principles of wise and godly living that are set out in the Bible, but that many think belong mostly to the interactions of adults within the greater church context.
I will argue that, as purposeful parents, we should seek to make our homes outposts of the Kingdom of God. It is there that we practice hospitality, give healing words to one another, repent of sin, forgive one another’s faults, humbly ask for help, share struggles, bear each other’s burdens, love in Christlike ways, and serve both our King and one another, in His name.
Young adults are leaving the evangelical churches in record numbers. Why do we lose our children? Could it be partly because we parents are not seeking first the Kingdom of God, having become distracted by the cares, worries, and/or pleasures of this present age? If so, we present no “salty” taste to our children (Matthew 5:13). We do not touch their palates (literal meaning of “train them up” in Proverbs 22:6) with savory dishes that they long to taste again. Instead, our daily spiritual “diets” often are “fast food meals,” full of “preservatives and additives” that sap our health overall, or “sugary” — sweet going down, but neither satisfying nor healthy for us in the long run.
We so easily become more concerned with getting our children prepared for Harvard than for Heaven. We may seek to follow our culture in working hard to give our children the best that we have to offer–instead of intentionally preparing them for what God has to offer: a life of service to the King, that leads to (eternal) lifelong blessings.
Another reason that children choose to leave the faith is that they have never seen a compelling reason to stay. Parents who are busy about the business of the world, or who do ministry only in adult contexts such as church or Care Groups, don’t offer their children a role in, or a vision for, Kingdom work. A purposeful parent will seek ways to bring their children into service with them.
Since parents will have differing spiritual gifts, families will develop differing home ministry models. Thus can each family become a vibrant, yet unique, outpost of the Kingdom of God. This series therefore seeks to offer creative ideas that are linked with the spiritual gifts.
Index of Posts in This Series