Three Reminders for Anyone Who Disciples (Including Parents)

I recently finished 4 Chair Discipleship: What Jesus Calls Us to Do by Dann Spader (Moody Press, 2014). Spader writes about the way Jesus discipled and learns from his method. Spader spends time looking at each stage of discipleship from non-believer through the multiplier stage, what he calls the “disciple-making disciple.” And he explores how to move from one chair to the next.

Near the end of the book, Spader lists three reminders that those who seek to disciple others should keep in mind. These reminders are particularly important for parents as well as those who work with kids and students.

First, each person you disciple is at a different stage of the process. Next generation disciplers should always be encouraging the kids and students in their care to take next steps in their growth. As parents or children’s ministry workers we need to understand the difference between childish immaturity and perpetual immaturity. Understanding this well means having maturity ourselves. Spader writes, “Maturity means we understand the development process and work with people based on their stage of life and always give them plenty of grace for that stage” (128).

Secondly, at every stage of a person’s journey, we need the Holy Spirit. On this point Spader writes, “As spiritual parents we know better than anyone that ‘apart from Christ we can do nothing’ but ‘in Christ all things are possible’” (129). Only God’s Spirit can change and transform someone’s heart. It’s our job to be faithful with the message and let him do his work.

Finally, our goal in the journey is holiness. Here, Spader says, “We cannot be holy apart from His constant cleansing. And holiness is God’s agenda for each of us, for as we mature we move from grace to grace and become more like Him” (130). Striving for holiness means that we live our lives confessing every known sin to those we are seeking to disciple. We lead by example, modeling what repentance and forgiveness looks like in real life. And this is particularly true when we’ve sinned against them.

Overall, I really loved Spader’s book. It’s great for any believer who is seeking to be faithful as a disciple-maker. Pick it up to be challenged and encouraged in your own discipleship journey.

He Reads Truth (Hymns): "Be Still, My Soul"

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I have the privilege of contributing to He Reads Truth, a website of whose purpose is “To help men become who we were made to be, by doing what we were made to do, by the power and provision that God has given us to do it, for the glory of Jesus Christ.” They do this by providing scripture reading plans accompanied by reflections that can be accessed for free online or purchased as print books. For those of you looking to engage scripture in a fresh way, these studies/plans will refresh your soul and engage your mind.

What follows is the piece I wrote for the "Hymns" reading plan. You can find the full plan HERE.

 

Day 4: "Be Still, My Soul"
Psalm 62, Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 8:22-25, James 5:7-8

Several years ago, my wife wanted to get backyard chickens, and I fought it. I thought the idea was crazy. We live in the city—in the suburbs. Chickens? Really? But she wore me down. And it’s been one of the best parenting decision we’ve ever made. Our kids love them. They’ve named them. And through feeding, collecting eggs, and scooping chicken poop, my daughters have learned all kinds of things about daily responsibility.

But one of the most significant moments came on the day a dog jumped our back fence and killed two of our hens. My daughters’ hearts were broken. I disposed of the bodies, and that night we had a chicken funeral. We went around the dinner table, each sharing our favorite memories of Rebekah and Matilda. We’re not the most sentimental family, but we still grieved. I can remember sitting on the bed that evening with my youngest while she cried. She needed her dad to help her find rest.

A mentor of mine once told me, “Life is full of unfinished symphonies.” It’s true. In this fallen world, things are always falling apart. We face cancer, lost jobs, and disability. Hopes and dreams are deferred. Loved ones die. But even when we feel life’s brokenness more than we’ve ever felt it before, God is still with us. We can patiently bear our cross of grief and pain, because He is on our side.

Jesus calls us to come to him with our griefs and fears. He wants to bear them. Let Him quiet your soul today. When I feel anxious, grieved, and oppressed, my tendency is either to run to my friends or to make myself busy in order to take my mind off the griefs and worries. This isn’t wrong, but Psalm 62 reminds me of my need to first bring my griefs to my Father, just as my little girl brought hers to me. We find true rest in God alone; our hope comes from Him (Psalm 62:1, 5). People and things will always let us down, but God remains faithful (Psalm 62:9-12).

This can be hard to trust when we experience loss and injustice (Sometimes we just want to be mad at the neighbors’ dog!) We can’t always trace out what God is doing, but we know that he orders and provides. Rest and hope are found in remembering his power and providence over all of life’s storms (Luke 8:22-25). One day, he’ll show us the end of the symphony he’s writing for us. He’ll correct the prevailing forms of injustice we experience in this world. And, for his people, Jesus will repay--from his own fullness--all that He has previously taken away (Isaiah 62:3).

The Importance of Community

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on Deuteronomy 6:7–9. This passage begins by describing the ways parents can diligently teach their children at home:

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

You can read that last post here. The latter half of this passage unpacks what teaching kids a lifestyle of worship looks like in a community context.

You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

God commanded the Israelites to put their faith on public display—on their hands, as frontlets between their eyes, as signs on their doorposts and gates. The implication is that our faithful words and actions should be publicly demonstrated in the context of our communities. Our worship should be on display for the world to see. This doesn’t mean that we should be hypocritical show-offs (Matthew 6:5). Rather, Moses recognizes the fact that we have a public responsibility to our community, and it’s displayed through our actions.

Each believer’s life of faith and obedience impacts other people around them. Moms and dads aren’t only spiritual influences for their kids, but also for their kids’ friends. And each member of your church community is an influence upon the kids in your church’s care. The kids are watching your life, even if you aren’t serving in children’s and student ministry.

So, is your faith visible?

As Christians grow in their knowledge of God’s love, that love should overflow in one-another-ing. The Bible calls us to service and love for one another (John 13:22, 34–35; 15:12, 17; Rom. 12:10; 1 Thess. 3:12; 4:9; 1 Pet. 1:22; 4:8, 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11–12; 2 John 5). We’re commanded to live in harmony with one another (Rom. 12:16), to not pass judgment upon one another (Rom. 14:13); to instruct one another (Rom. 15:7), to welcome one another (Rom. 15:16; 16:16, 1 Cor. 16:20; 1 Peter 4:9–10; 5:14), and to comfort one another (2 Cor. 13:11). We must serve one another (Gal. 5:13), guard ourselves from provoking and envying one another (Gal. 5:23; James 4:11; 5:9), bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2; Eph. 4:2), be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32), and submit to one another (Eph. 5:21). This list of one-another’s goes on and on. We’re told not to lie to one another (Col. 3:9), to bear and forgive one another (Col 3:13), to admonish one another (Col. 3:16), to encourage one another (1 Thess. 4:18; 5:11; Heb. 3:13; 10:25), to seek to do good to one another (1 Thess. 5:15), and to spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24). We must confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) and clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Peter 5:5)

Romans 12:1–5 reminds us that the church isn’t a club where we pay our annual dues but a body to which we belong. We’re called to be living sacrifices with transformed hearts and minds. And we’re called to serve the whole. We tend to think of ourselves more than we think of others as if we’re above them and their concerns. When we do this, we’re forgetting to practically apply our faith. But God has uniquely gifted each of us to be a blessing to the body—to be a blessing to one another. Everyone within the community has a role to play.

That includes our kids. We should be intentional about leading them to serve as well—giving them opportunities to love their church family both on Sundays and throughout the week. What does that look like practically? I’ll close with this quote from Robert J. Keeley’s book, Helping Our Children Grow in Faith:

Children and young people should participate in the life of the church through authentic tasks. By authentic I mean tasks in which they give as well as receive. They should feel that if they aren’t doing their part, the whole group will suffer… In some churches there are a number of high school students who love to work with the sound and video equipment. These students take their work very seriously, and if given the chance, really take ownership of that aspect of church life. They arrive early to set up for worship and they come in during the week to try things out and make things better with the system. They realize they are needed and important in the life of the church and play and important role enhancing worship. When children and teens are serving the church, they feel like a real part of the body of Christ instead of a grow for whom special programs are created until they are old enough to really take part.

Let’s invite the next generation into the community life of the church. Let’s let them experience all of the one-another’s. Let the way we worship and demonstrate our common faith be ever visible and public before them so that as they grow, they’ll embody everyday worship themselves.

Teaching a Lifestyle of Worship to Our Children

It’s simple to say, but it’s more difficult to put into practice: A lifestyle of worshiping God must be taught. Deuteronomy 6:7–9 describes it this way:

 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

 I’ll say it again. A lifestyle of worshiping God must be taught. By lifestyle I mean the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, and spending habits that together constitute a person or family’s mode of living. The truth is that every lifestyle is one of worship. We were made to ascribe glory and worth to all kinds of things—our children, a great meal, our Instagram feed. In fact, because of sin, we ascribe disproportionate worth to all kinds of things. And when we do, we’re worshiping those things instead of our Creator. If I’m honest, a lifestyle of worship doesn’t really have to be taught. What has to be taught—what must be learned—is a lifestyle of worshiping God.  

Deuteronomy 6:7–9 tells us to teach this lifestyle of worship to our kids as a part of the regular rhythms of family life. Here are a few key observations from the passage:

First, how do you teach your kids a lifestyle of worship? Diligently! We must give constant, attentive, and persistent effort to teaching all-day worship. You shouldn’t do it occasionally or randomly. Rather, you need a plan to teach consistently. You don’t know when an opportunity may present itself, so you need to be ready, like 2 Timothy 4:2 says, “in season and out of season.” Ready to correct faulty thinking. Ready to rebuke—expressing stern disapproval of what is wrong. Ready to exhort—urging and give earnest counsel. And doing all of that with gentle patience. Parents, you need the reminder of Deuteronomy 6:7 particularly for those times when you don’t feel like it. That’s when you need it most. Your kids are always learning from you. Remember, your family is your primary ministry. They aren’t your only ministry, but they must remain primary, because you’re responsible for their spiritual health.

Second, when do you teach your kids a lifestyle of worship? Throughout your day! The Bible should be the subject of our conversations inside and outside the home—from the beginning of the day until the end of the day. There is no part of our day in which God is not involved. He’s there at home and on the road. He’s there when we sit down and when we rise up. If we are paying attention, we might see a handful of the hundreds of things God is does for us and in us. Capture those times by making gospel observations—relating in that moment how the truth of God’s story intersects with your day. This will help your kids to see how big God is. Then, move from simple observations to gospel conversations—teachable moments—when you can show your kids the implications of God’s grand design for their daily life.

Third, what are the pre-requisites for this diligent teaching? It’s not possible to teach your kids about your faith unless your faith is growing at the same time. You must let your children see your faith in action—in how your read and study, in how you pray, and especially in how you repent. Repentance is more caught than taught, and it couldn’t be a more important practice for training our children, particularly when our sins are against them. Repentance is more than simply saying “sorry.” Rather, in repentance, we’re teaching our children about what 2 Corinthians 7 calls godly sorrow.

Fourth, why must we teach so diligently and consistently throughout our days? There’s much at stake if we don’t. Without this constant and persistent effort our kids may make a number of common mistakes. They may forget how involved God is in daily life, and that leads to a lack of thanksgiving. They may presume upon God, which leads to laziness about obeying his commands and participating in his mission. When we fail to teach diligently, we may even be putting our kids’ souls at risk; we’re giving them a dangerously incomplete picture of God’s kingdom. We’re leading them as if God is a part-time God who is not completely sovereign, that is, in complete control at all times. We may be teaching them that worship is something we do in our spare time, on Sunday morning, and not something we do every day.

Finally, what do we teach them? What does everyday worship look like?

Everyday worship is personal. It looks like prayer, in which we adore God for who he is, confess our sin to him, thank him for what he’s done for us, cry out to him, and wrestle with him. At the end of that wrestling, you experience the promise of Philippians 4:7, the “peace that surpasses all understanding.” It’s the kind of peace that guards our hearts and minds. Where? The only place peace can be found—in Christ Jesus!

Everyday worship means learning together as a family during times set aside for family devotions or even studying the Bible together as a family. Here’s my suggestions. Keep it short—around ten minutes! Keep it simple and Scriptural. Focus on God’s big story. Teach your kids to study the Bible, how to pray, and how to sing. Be adaptable; Just because something worked when your kids were three doesn’t mean it will work when they are seven or thirteen. Also, keep it creative and fun; they are kids after all!  

Sometimes everyday worship looks like diligent course correction. My kids’ favorite response when I ask them to do something they don’t want to do is “One second, dad!” What they mean by that is they’ll wait just long enough for both me and them to forget what I’d asked them to do. It’s super annoying. The problem is that they learned that response from me. I say the same thing to Cheryl. [Insert clinched teeth emoji] Now that this bad habit has been exposed (in both of us!), we must be diligent to course correct and learn the proper response (immediate action) each time we’re tempted to use that annoying phrase.

Here’s the long and short of it. Teaching our kids diligently takes time. Don’t worry about doing it perfectly; you won’t. But you should be concerned about being faithful with the message. Press in every day, and be ready to play the long game!