God's Design for Discipleship
The “God’s Design for Discipleship” conference has renewed my conviction of the non-negotiable necessity of intentionally raising our children to be followers of Christ.
There are three things we must have clearly in our minds when it comes to discipling our children.
- The Value of our Children. We believe, by conviction, that our children are God’s children – they have been placed into a covenant home by divine appointment and have a rightful place in the community of faith. Our children are precious in the eyes of God.
- The Deadly Intent of our Surrounding World. We also understand, or at least we should, that this world is continually seeking to lead the hearts of our children away from Christ and His church.
- The Normal Means of Grace. We know, from God’s Word, that the primary way God leads his covenant children to faith is through the ministry of the parents – in conjunction with the ministry of the Church.
There’s a wonderful line in Proverbs 17:6 that highlights the special role fathers have to play in this critical ministry of teaching the ropes of Christian discipleship to God’s little children.
The writer is expressing the fact that a father forms the substance of a child’s identity and reputation. In biblical days, grown men were identified by the names of their fathers. Simon is introduced as “Simon bar Jonah”. James and John were the sons of Zebedee. The “other” James was the son of Alphaeus.
I remember being introduced to distant relatives at family reunions as “Willie’s boy”. Gave me a sense of pride. They didn’t know me – but they knew him and somehow my Dad’s reputation and identity extended to me. I couldn’t have put words to it, but I already understood that my father was my glory – my reputation, my boast. This is true of every young child, isn’t it? He senses that his father is his glory - for better or for worse. Every little boy and girl hungers to boast in their father.
Why is that?? God has woven it into the fabric of creation. God has structured human society in a way that highlights the necessity and importance of covenant fathering. Douglas Wilson in his book Father Hunger explains that fathers act like a “theology primer” for their children – whether they intend to or not.
“The family is an analogy of the cosmos. God intends for his children to learn about HIS Fatherhood by this analogy first. A two-year old boy shaking the crib at 3:30 am is not doing so because….he is being vexed by some theological or philosophical problem. But he IS studying what fatherhood is like. And in so doing is learning his theology by analogy.
This divinely ordained order provides a magnificent calling for Christian men – to have an outsized influence upon the lives of others, for generations. But it also makes for great sorrow for those wives and children whose husbands and fathers have neglected their calling. And so many have. An increasingly defining characteristic of our society is young men and women who long for a father they never had.
Men, we are needed on the front line. The Devil is after the souls of our children. The world is pressing in aggressively in its desire to destroy them. This is not a test. It is not a drill. It’s the real thing. Our children desperately need us to do all we can do for their eternal spiritual good - with all the strength and grace and truth and courage God gives to those who ask!