As a parent what do you think of when you hear Jesus command to go forth and make disciples? Matthew 28:19-20, says: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (NIV) Do you think of parenting as a way of obeying that? I certainly do. Parenting is indeed the process of discipleship within the family.
In our culture we don’t actually use this language very comfortably. Unlike in Jesus’ time, we don’t see teachers with disciples. In this day of social media we are maybe more familiar with groupies or followers – but not so much disciples. Jesus was just one of many so called teachers that had a close group of followers that were called disciples. There is a difference between being a follower and being a disciple because a disciple learns from and copies their teacher. A follower is just interested and stays in touch.
Which are you?
Which one do you want for your kids?
The role of the parent in a child’s life has many facets. A child has many needs and many areas where they need to ‘grow up’ in and it is the parent’s responsibility, and privilege to teach, guide and encourage them through the years of childhood and the teen years. We have to be aware of the needs and growth in all areas of our child’s life such as their physical, emotional, social, intellectual, moral and spiritual. But this last one, the spiritual, is what sets the tone for the rest of their growing up – and this is the aspect of parenting called discipleship.
We want to introduce our kids to God – who He is, what He has done for them, and how they can respond to Him – today and for the rest of their lives.
We want to teach our kids God’s word – how to read it, understand it and build their life on it.
We want to teach our kids all that Jesus’ taught His disciples. Jesus’ disciples where changed people because they walked with Jesus. This is what I want in my own life, and in the life of each of my kids. I want them to be changed, because they have met Jesus.
We need to Copy Jesus’ Heart
If Jesus is our example of a teacher with disciples – then we need to understand his attitude. An attitude is a belief held in our heart that then shapes our actions, our choices. Looking at how Jesus was a disciple-er I see three key attitudes that we as parents need to copy.
1-Jesus was obedient to the Father. John 6:38 “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but to do the will of Him who sent Me..” The Gospel of John constantly reminds us that Jesus was sent by the father for the father’s purpose.
Our life as a parent is to be obedient to our heavenly Father. This means we ourselves, need to be a disciple of Jesus.
2-Jesus relied on God’s word – John 14:10 “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”
We cannot parent – or disciple our children to become followers of Christ – on our own, in our own strength. This is the very reason Jesus sent the Holy Spirit – to teach us, remind us, strengthen us in the things that Jesus taught – so that we could teach others.
3-Jesus wanted his disciples to see the Father (not himself) And Jesus prayed – John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
It isn’t about our kids being like us, having our heart or making us look good. It is about them knowing God and reflecting who he is to them. This needs to be our central, pivotal motivation.
6 Ways Jesus Taught His Disciples
Not only do we need to copy Jesus’ attitude/belief/heart as he taught his disciples – we can copy his how to as well. Here are 6 things that Jesus did that taught his disciples the things of God’s heart.
- He spent time with them – Just as Deut 6: 7 says – And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Jesus taught his disciples all through the day. He was constantly referring them back to what God thought.
- He knew them & understood them (Luke 9:47 “Jesus, knowing their thoughts,…” ) Jesus knew His disciples questions and fears. He knew when they were ready and when they had doubts. And he addressed them with love, patience and grace.
- He gave unconditional love (even when they missed it) The story of Peter denying Jesus – and then after the resurrection, Jesus calling Peter the cornerstone of his church. Unconditional love. The brothers fighting for position, their fear in the storm, Thomas doubting, their ‘failed’ two by two mission trip: Unconditional love every time.
- He entered their world – I often wonder what was Jesus’ the carpenter doing hanging out with fishermen and tax collectors – he entered the world of his disciples and he taught using stories from their world. Though the disciples often didn’t understand – and Jesus had to explain – this wasn’t because they didn’t understand the illustration (of the parable) but the lesson was such a big shift from their preconceived ideas they needed help to get it.
- They served together – They did life together; when he made water to wine, they were there, when he multiplied the fish and bread, they were there, when he cleared the temple they were there. But they weren’t just observers – they were involved with the crowds too.
- He corrected their thinking – Jesus wanted his disciples to grow, to change, to mature and he continually taught them things that changed their understanding of God and God’s purposes. He lived in a way that was consistent with what he taught – the Beatitudes for example – he taught how to live, and he lived as an example. When the disciples struggled or failed to live that way, or to understand that way – he taught into the situation and left them with a clear challenge of a new way of living.
Are we Discipling our Kids?
Are we discipling our kids – or are we just parenting them? Being a disciple of Jesus is more than going to church, or even going to a mid-week life group or Bible study. It’s more than our family devotions and more than teaching Bible lessons to our kids. Being a disciple of Jesus is about changing to be more like Christ. It is about changing our beliefs, our attitudes, our choices, our actions – to be like Christ. Yes, we have been saved, yes, we have been given a new heart and made holy. Now we have to walk it out – strengthen it – mature it. This is the life of a disciple.
The question really should be – are we a disciple of Jesus? Are we growing and maturing in all the things that Jesus taught?
And as we grow and mature as Christians – we can teach these things to our children, we can give them unconditional love, we can explain things in ways they will understand, we can be gracious in their struggles and failings, we can serve together, we can learn and grow together.
One of my greatest joys has been to see my children grow in their faith in the Lord. John said this of the people he discipled: 1 John 3:4 “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
For this to happen though we have to know we have been charged with discipling our children. Matthew 28:19-20, says: Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Discipling is not head knowledge – it is the act of following and copying our teacher so that we become like him. It is about growing and maturing to be changed because we know our teacher – Jesus.
You have been called to make disciples (of Jesus) and it starts in your family, it starts with parenting the heart of your children.
Over to you:
Are you growing in your faith?
And do your children see your relationship with Jesus as real and living?
If you have any questions about how to raise your children in the Word, how to help them become Christians – please leave them in the comment sor email me.
It’s Important to be Responsible for your Own Relationship with Jesus: You will not grow if you simply depend on others for your spiritual food. We need to dig our own wells; be responsible for our own relationship with Jesus.
Are Your Children Growing Spiritually? Parents want to know that their children are growing spiritually; but we have to be careful not to make it a checklist of things they should be doing.
When You Teach Bible Lessons, Teach from Your Heart: When we teach our children Bible lessons from our heart, instead of from a lesson plan, we make life-giving connections for them.
10 Ways to Make Scripture a Part of Every Day: Our children need to see that God and Scripture is a normal part of every day so that it becomes real to them.