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 the process of making disciples of Jesus within the family.  Keep listening as I talk about how we can follow Jesus’ command as parents.

The Great Commission is an Instruction to Parents to Make Disciples of Jesus

The Great Commission – to make Disciples.  What does it mean to make a disciple?  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 followers – but not so much disciples.  Jesus was just one of many so called teachers who had followers, but he also 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?  Are you a follower of Jesus, or a disciple of Jesus?

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 into the teen years and beyond.  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 were 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, and for them to choose to glorify Him in all that they do.  This needs to be our central thought, our key motivation in discipling our children.

 

6 Ways Jesus Taught His Disciples

Not only do we need to copy Jesus’ attitude/belief/heart/motivations 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.

  1. 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 God.
  2. 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.   We need to know our children, know where they are up to.
  3. 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. We need to show our kids unconditional love.
  4. 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 (they understood the parable) but the lesson was such a big shift from their preconceived ideas they needed help to get it.  Jesus knew the words they would understand.  We need to enter our chldlren’s world so we can use the right words, so they can understand the big truths we want to teach them.
  5. They served together – They did life together; when he multiplied the fish and bread, they were there, when the crowds gathered and let down the paralyzed man, they were there, when he cleared the temple they were there.  But they weren’t just observers – they were involved with the crowds too. They were living life together – they experienced along side of Jesus His highs and lows.  
  6. 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. We need to do that with our kids as well. Teach into the situations that we face with our kids.  Correct their thinking.

 

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.  That 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.”

Discipleship 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 – we know 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 and helping them see who Jesus is.

 

Introduce your Children to Jesus And then Keep Teaching them

There are four simple steps for you to remember as you disciple your child.  

  1. Your child needs to see Jesus.  We have to show our children that Jesus is real.
  2. Your child needs to meet Jesus. We need to introduce Jesus to our children as our Lord, and Saviour and someone whom we love very much. 
  3. Your child needs to know Jesus.  Our children need to know who Jesus is, what he has done for them, and how they can respond. 
  4. Your child needs to choose Jesus.  Our role is to help them understand that they have a choice to make.  Will they choose to follow Jesus and obey all he taught?

Each of your children will be in a different place when it comes to their understanding of who Jesus is and what that means to them.  As parents we need to be aware and ready to help them move to the next step; whatever that is that they need in their spiritual journey.

 

Heart–focused Action Step

The first step is to acknowledge that it is your job to teach your children all that Jesus taught.  If you have difficulty with this then that is your heart-focused action step.  Spend time reflecting and praying about why you feel inadequate and in particular ask what God says about those inadequacies.

Second step is to assess where your child is at – and think about what they need to grow in their relationship with Jesus.  Then find a way for that to happen!

Discipling my children has been one of my greatest joys and even with them now as adults, I still call them on to be true to their God.  God’s word was so much a part of our family life – we talked about Jesus and their relationship with Him, their understanding of God’s word, and God’s ways and how that applied to their world all the time.  Even now in our many family Messenger groups we will bring things back to what does God have to say, and what does this mean to me if God says that?  Christian parenting is about making disciples of Jesus – and helping our children obey all that He taught.

This is what we are called to do as Christian parents.

If you have any questions on how to raise your children in the Word, how to help them to become a Christian or grow in their faith – please leave them in a comment or email me as I’d love to talk to you about some ideas to help you with that.  

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Let’s not overcomplicate it – there is no formula for our kids to become Christians. We do want them to know Jesus and choose to follow him. 

There is no one way to disciple your children – every family, every child faces their own challenges and opportunities. You the parent need to discern what your child needs and when they need it.

Just remember – discipleship is a lifelong process, not a one-time event. Spiritual growth and maturity take time and intentional effort.

Don’t put it off.

Don’t drop the ball.

Don’t ignore your greatest calling.

Discipleship is about passing on what we believe, and value, and practice to our children.  And the Old Testament instruction paints the best picture:  

Deut 6:6-9 These words I am commanding you today are to be upon your hearts. And you shall teach them diligently to your children and speak of them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as reminders on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

In summary:

  • Love God and His Word for yourself
  • Teach what you know to be true to your children
  • Talk about them when you are doing life – coming, going, sitting, and going to bed
  • Have things (or do things) that remind you of who God is and what He has done

 

Further Reading:

Ten 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.

When you Teach Bible Lessons, Teach from your Heart: When we teach from our heart our children listen more closely.

2 Ways You can Teach your Children to Hide God’s Word in their Heart: Our children need to know God’s word.

Christian parents are to follow the Great Commission by teaching their children to obey all that Jesus taught. This is discipleship in the family. Listen to Podcast #37 on all major podcast apps.

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