I recently listened to the testimony of a young woman right out of college. She shared about growing up learning all the “right” answers thanks to a private, Christian school; numerous activities, classes, and drill clubs at her church; and a God fearing mother exhorting her in her learning. She explained how she enjoyed all those things and had willingly and eagerly wanted to know the “right” answers. However, it was not until college that the lights came on and she heard and understood the gospel of Jesus Christ.
My husband and I teach on three goals of discipleship in the home. Though these can occur in a sequence, and are listed as such here, all three goals can be pursued simultaneously. We are simply sharing our attempt to be intentional in obeying God’s plan for parents to be the primary disciplers of their children. This girl’s story reinforced to me the importance of all three arenas leading to the display and discussion of the gospel as central in our home, and that nothing is more impactful than a child seeing in their parents a great love for Christ as the result of a life changed by the gospel.
The first goal is to capture our kids’ attention for God, which is key to do through godly discipline according to Ephesians 6:1-4. This first arena is the foundation for discipleship because, let’s face it, it is difficult to disciple a rebellious and disrespectful child. Jeremy Pierre, writing for The Gospel Coalition, hits on the goal of discipline: “The point of discipline is to show need for the gospel of Jesus Christ, not to hone children to the point of not needing [discipline].” I will never obey God perfectly as long as I’m human and on this earth, and my kids will never obey me perfectly either. Every disciplinary situation is an opportunity to point our kids to our need for Christ. Also, we demonstrate the gospel at work in our lives when we mess up and are quick to apologize and ask our kids’ forgiveness. They need to see that mom and dad are not perfect and desperately need Christ as well.
The second goal is turning their minds toward God. One way we do this is through catechism and a daily family devotion. Catechism teaches us what to believe and why. Without the why, the result is moralism. The gospel is the foundation of both the what and why for Christians. The first half of Romans explains the gospel in great detail, and then halfway through the letter (in chapter 12), Paul says, in essence, “Therefore… now live in this way as a result of the gospel.”
The third goal is turning their hearts toward God. We do this through daily and special occasion traditions and routines that help us keep a continual dialogue in our home about God and the gospel. Kids love traditions, and kids ask a lot of questions. Moses knew this when he commanded the Jewish people to keep a regular Passover meal, and Joshua knew this when he had the people build stones of remembrance. They knew children would ask questions about these things giving parents opportunity to tell stories of God’s great faithfulness and steadfast love toward his people.
In conclusion, Noel Piper reminds us the gospel can ultimately only be revealed to our childrens’ hearts by the Holy Spirit. “We can help our children know God and understand Him in ways that prepare them to believe in His Name, but the salvation of our children is in God’s hands. It is good that we exert ourselves to help them see and understand God. But nothing we do has any ultimate impact, except for God’s Spirit working on their behalf. Therefore PRAY Eph. 1:18 that ‘the eyes of their hearts may be enlightened.’”
[Contributed by Kathryn Vaughan. Kathryn is a disciple-maker in her home and in the Memphis community. She is married to Kennon, the Director of Downline Ministries. The Vaughans have three boys, Caleb, Luke, and Jonathan. You can follow her on Twitter @kathryn_vaughan]