I try to include books on parenting and family as a regular part of my reading diet. I began this month with Chap Bettis’ book The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ and I’ve been so convicted in the first couple of chapters that I’ve not only had to re-read them, but I’ve decided to blog my way through the remaining content.
Not pulling any punches, Bettis is quick to get to the real heart of the matter when it comes to effective disciple-making. Quoting Scottish pastor and theologian Robert Murray M’Cheyne, he writes
“What my children need most
is my personal holiness”
It might seem obvious, but how can I effectively disciple someone if I’m not a disciple – being discipled – myself? As a student, I often observed that what I learned at seminary wasn’t just information; I came to love what my teachers loved. I caught their curiosity for the course content, and I inherited their desire to go deeper. This didn’t happen simply by what they taught, but by how they taught it. The same thing is true for Sunday sermons; what the congregation hear in that 30 minutes is (hopefully) the result of hours of careful study and constant prayer. What I bring to my children in family devotions and daily discipleship must be the same; the overflow of my own times in the word saturated with prayer for the growth of their faith and love for the Lord. To expect them to grow by a make-it-up-as-I-go-along impromptu delivery is likely to be disastrous.
For me to be the best parent I can be, I must acknowledge my complete dependence on the Holy Spirit. I must be careful not to make an idol out of having perfect Christian children, but I should be encouraged too that God has promised to lead, teach, guide, and fulfill his promises when I put him first in my life. It sounds counter-intuitive at first, but the beginning of family discipleship really has nothing to do with children. Deuteronomy 6:5-7 shows us the order of our priorities:
“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.
This command makes plain for us that we must love God with – and for – our own selves before we can teach our children to follow. We must have his laws written on our own hearts before we can effectively model what it means to be a Christ-follower. My most sincere hope is that I don’t simply teach my children about a deity that I know with my head, but rather introduce them to a Lord and Saviour that I treasure with my whole being. It begins with me.