Keep It Growing: Part A
What Comes After Baptism?
As soon as the child bounces out of the baptistery his parents, Sunday School teachers, and friends breathe a sigh of relief. They have diligently taught the little, wet soul about sin, Jesus, and salvation wrought by the cross. And as the little guy dries off, his spiritual mentors prepare to move onto the next soul, leaving their former charge secure in the arms of Christ.
While this thinking that emphasizes evangelism to the point of neglecting discipleship has a host of complex sources ranging from “easy believism” to parents seeking heaven insurance, we can be sure it’s wrong. As Matthew 28:19-20 makes clear, baptism and a confession is not the end goal of the Christian’s life. Jesus commands us show others how “to observe all that I have commanded you.” Our charge to declare the beauty of the gospel has not ended. It has just started! J.D. Greear reminds us, “
Salvation is not a prayer you pray in a one-time ceremony and then move on from; salvation is a posture of repentance and faith that you begin in a moment and maintain for the rest of your life” (p. 5).
Because the Christian life is a life time commitment, our commitment to declare truth to the next generation never ends. We are to disciple our children (Psalm 76). Let’s keep them growing in the faith!
What Is Discipleship
Like a New York Times best seller, the word “Discipleship” has been steadily clanking up the list of well used Christianese terms. But tossing around a word inside the church fellowship hall does not mean we understand what the term means. Let’s take a New York minute and see what discipleship is.
Unlike many Christian phrases adopted by the church to make it ridiculously confusing to outsiders, the terms “disciple,” “discipleship,” or “disciple-making” actually appear on the pages of scripture 281 times. Jesus defines the concept in Luke 6:40 stating, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” Essentially, a disciple is a follower. In John 6:26, Jesus directly discusses the nature of Christian discipleship saying, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me.” In his book Growing Up, Robby Gallaty helpfully defines discipleship as:
intentionally equipping believers with the Word of God through accountable relationships empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to replicate faithful followers of Christ. (p. 19)
In short, discipleship or disciple-making is the process of intentionally helping others obediently follow after Christ so that they can lead others to follow Christ.
Family Discipleship 101
As the definitions show us, discipleship consists of biblical teaching within the context of relationship. Although families are relational by nature, we still must put forth effort to connect scripture to our family relationships in two ways. Many names exist to describe the two types of family discipleship, but for the sake of simplicity, I will call the first “Family Worship” and the second, “On the Job Training.”
First, we need to create family worship times to teach our children about, “the instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This is a set time during which we bring the word of God to bear directly our children’s struggles and successes. As we talk about what the scriptures say about lying, we encourage little Johnny to be truthful; we apply the sermon on I Corinthians 13 to our son’s relationship with his sister; and we can use the Sunday school lesson on the rich young ruler to encourage our daughter forsake of love money. Although not every family worship time will be glorious (I can remember wrecking a few in my childhood), they will give a platform and opportunities to speak truth directly into your child’s heart.
On the Job Training
Second, we disciple through everyday life. As our children study, play, do chores, suffer heartache, and excel academically, we seek to redeem their life experiences by showing how the gospel helps us make sense of life. When they come home crying because their best friend has spread a lie about them, we can offer them hope, reminding them that Christ is going to return and free the world from suffering. And more immediately, we can remind our daughter that she will be able to forgive her friend through the power of Christ because we have already been forgiven (Col. 3:13). But to have this influence upon our children’s hearts, we have to be diligently creating a platform from which we can launch into these conversations. Our own faithful walk with Christ and family worship makes on the job training possible (Deut. 6:5-6). If we never initiate spiritual conversations with our children, we cannot expect them to invite us into their hearts or expect them to welcome sporadic spiritual correction. If anything, we will just frustrate their young hearts. We need to be intentionally showing our children how to obey Christ every day in every way.
You Can Do It!!!!
Now you might be thinking, “Of course the pastor is all about family worship as a means of discipleship; he did after all go to school for like four years to study the Bible.” But believe it or not being a disciple maker is not a seminary based skill. It’s a God given ability bestowed upon every believer. Think back to the great commission in Mathew 28. Does Jesus command only pastors and seminary students to make disciples? No, he commands every Christian to be a disciple-maker! If Jesus tells us to make disciples, we can have 100% confidence that Jesus will give us the ability to make disciples. And he has! He sent us the Holy Spirit to enlighten hearts. If we are faithful to pray and study the word, God will do the rest. I fully agree with Voddie Baucham’s comment:
If you can read, you can teach your children God’s Word. All you have to do is stay a step ahead of them.” (Baucham V. J., 2007)
You might agree that family discipleship should be occurring in your home, but you feel inadequate to teach. First check your heart. If you have sin in your life, repent of it. And if it’s public sin against your family ask God’s forgiveness and their forgiveness. For you to disciple others, you need to be obediently following Christ and repenting of your sins! With your life right before God, start proactively discipling! Remember,
Ministry is the pathway to maturity, not the other way around” (Gallaty, p. 29).
After you begin family worship, I suspect you will still sin. I’ve even sinned in the midst of our devotion time and had to ask my wife for forgiveness. Even if we or our children sin every time we have a family worship time, we don’t stop. Family discipleship is not designed to make us perfect or to solve all of our family’s problems. Rather, family worship is a time during which we encourage our hearts and the hearts of our children to pursue holiness.
We’ll have to teach the same lessons over and over, we’ll often make the same mistakes again and again, and we must continue to rely on the grace of God to see us through (Baucham V. J., 2011, p. 62)
We never outgrow our need for the gospel!
All About the Daddio’s
Now Dad-s if you are in the home, please understand that much of the above instructions are written primarily with us in mind! We are called by God to lead our family. We are called by God to love our wives as Christ loves the church (Eph. 5:25). We are called to loving care for our children primarily by equipping them with life skills and by teaching them the word (Eph. 6:4 and Col 3:21). The Psalmist says fathers are commanded, “To teach to their children” about the things of God (Ps 78:5). We are called to encourage our families to “Seek first the kingdom of God and righteousness,” making sports, work, and piano practice second to the gospel (Matt 4:4). If we are taking our family to church, that’s great. Let’s keep going. But the spiritual formation of our children rests upon our shoulders. We cannot offshore our calling to the youth pastor or leave all the spiritual stuff to our wives. We need to be spiritual leaders who disciple in the home.
Admittedly, your wife may be a stronger Christian than you. If that’s the case, learn from her! Ask her questions, seek her impute (even if you are a well establish Christian, seek her input)! And remember, the power of the gospel is not tied to her or to anybody else! It’s attached to the Word of God. Even though you might not be writing Systematic Theologies, you can still encourage your wife and children with the word of God! Even baby Christians can make disciples. Let’s get going!
Next week we will look specifically at how to make your family worship time a success.