I have to say, for the majority of my life, I lived very sheltered. Not sheltered from culture, no! I went to public school, rode the bus (and saw and heard more than I’d ever want my own kids to) and attended my fair share of band camps. No, I was sheltered from the Truth.
How? My parents took me to church on and off through grade school and middle school. And yet, I still managed to enter the real world without a working knowledge of Scripture, theology, or even the doctrines of the Christian faith.
How does that happen? It happens when parents fail to disciple their children. How should discipling occur? What is the secret to being a good parent?
I recently read a book* that suggested that in order for parents to be successful, they have to do 2 things:
1) they have to ever be moving closer toward who they’re supposed to be (in Christ)
2) be close enough (proximity and engaging presence) to the children for it to rub off on the children.
It’s not enough to get a child to parrot scripture or ask them what they learned at church on Sunday. It’s not enough because those two things alone won’t carry them through life or even into adulthood, let alone make for a substantial faith.
Discipleship is exactly what it looks like when Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says:
“Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 HCSB
How do you love the Lord if you never encounter His presence? How do you give the Lord the primary real estate in your mind if you never think about or discuss Him or His Word? In order for us to live a godly life (or a Christian life) we have to apply this scripture- really, truly, live it.
Why were the Israelites told to bind the Lord’s words on their hands and foreheads? Because we have a really short memory and virtually no staying power when it comes to making any kind of commitment. It’s become a joke to make New year’s resolutions because they’ll only stick for a couple weeks, or months at best. Why would we bother to committing to a faith that demands we sacrifice our wills and even our lives for the sake of the Gospel when we won’t even commit to working out for the sake of healthy body weight? Or eating right for the sake of healthy blood pressure/cholesterol/sugar? Or reading substantial literature for a healthy mind? We can’t even get church members to commit to regular attendance, let alone serving within the church…
Discipleship is work. It requires diligent effort. It requires caring more about someone else’s eternity than your own ‘right now’.
It’s about telling and resting on the truth of the Bible regardless of what culture says. It’s about calling out people who claim the name of Christ without setting foot in a church for corporate worship and service, to be His hands and feet, His bride. It’s about living what we say we believe.
If you never discuss matters of faith, religion, doctrine, theology, politics, life goals, with your children, you’re failing them. It’s not about indoctrination into a belief system, it’s about teaching them how to think for themselves, to use rationality, to reason, to discern. It’s about building relationships with your kids based on something real and enduring instead of merely discussing the quirks of the family cat** (or dog… I’m a dog person. Cats are lame…then again, Jesus is the Lion of Judah…and lions are cats…I digress.) So that when the big decisions roll their way, when trials and difficult circumstances come, they aren’t steam-rolled by them. So that in the midst of difficulty, your kids have some solid ground to stand on.
Looking around me, I can’t see any more dire need for family discipleship than now.
*Disciplines of the Home by Anne Ortlund
**I will never own a cat. Cats poop in boxes in your house; dogs have the decency to do their business outside under a remote tree in the woods. I own a rabbit, and that’s quite enough like a cat for my liking.