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Getting Started With Family Discipleship

Posted by Aaron Adams on

Provide For Your Family

There are talented painters and dancers who have chosen an office job for the stability and reliable salary. I know contractors who chose institutional maintenance over larger paydays in construction in order to be home by 6pm every day. Parents know what it’s like to make major life decisions for our children’s sake. The sweetest moments as a family are often the direct result of these decisions: regular meals together, family vacations.

Provision is a God-ordained purpose for parenthood (1 Tim 5:8; Luke 11:11-13). Wisdom and instruction are two things we must provide for our children, especially Gospel wisdom and instruction. Family discipleship is a matter of providing for the family.

In his letter to the Christians at Ephesus, Paul instructs fathers, “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 ESV). In another letter sent to Timothy, Paul describes what this looks like:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. (2 Timothy 1:5 ESV)

 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:14-17 ESV)

 Timothy, a third-generation believer, received wisdom and instruction in the Scriptures through his mother and grandmother. Lois and Eunice model what Paul instructs fathers to provide: The discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Start With Family Worship

You may be convinced of this calling to disciple your children, but how are we supposed to do it? Many of us are like Eunice without Lois, we have not seen this firsthand. Where do we begin?

We begin where Eunice and Lois began: In the Word. If family discipleship is one of the good works mentioned in 2 Timothy 3:17 (and it is), then the Bible must be sufficient to equip us for it. Family discipleship starts with getting your family into the Word together.

There’s a truly excellent primer on family worship called Family Worship, by Donald S. Whitney. It’s brief (70 pages) but absolutely packed with practical advice. In my favorite chapter, Whitney’s prescription for families wanting to begin worshipping together is simply to (1) read the Bible together, (2) pray together, and (3) sing together. This is marvelous advice. It’s also wonderfully Biblical, as passages like Deuteronomy 6:1-12, Psalm 78:1-8, and others show.

Two Categories of Family Discipleship

So that’s family worship. But is that all there is to family discipleship? Not quite. A disciple is a learner, a follower. Discipleship is the duty of shepherds leading sheep as they follow the Chief Shepherd. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Outside formal moments of family worship, I think of family discipleship in two categories: (1) deliberately Christ-centered parenting, and (2) unscheduled Gospel moments.

Deliberately Christ-centered parenting can take a number of forms (many of which will be discussed in future posts). A family devotional book, Scripture memorization, Gospel-centered service projects, and parent-prepared Bible study are among some of the more useful ones. But one thing is for sure: Christ-centered parenting starts with Christ-centered parents. It is impossible to disciple your children if you are not a disciple. Christ is calling you to Himself in order that you can lead your children to Him as well.

The good news is that this is not a calling you accomplish alone. You may feel like Eunice without Lois, but there are men and women in our church to whom you can turn for guidance and help, just as Eunice learned from her mother. Even Timothy and Titus learned from Paul, who called both of them his “true child” in the faith (1 Tim 1:2, Titus 1:4). Mothers and fathers in the Church have walked the road we are now walking. They are an indispensable resource as we disciple our families.

Unscheduled Gospel moments are a bit different. I remember taking a walk one fall, when Halina was quite young, and my heart was overcome with wonder as I noticed the colors of the leaves. I turned to Halina and said, “Why are the leaves beautiful?” “I don’t know,” she replied. “Because God loves you,” I said. The leaves didn’t have to be beautiful—that was a deliberate choice on God’s part. And it was also a deliberate choice on His part to make us able to see the beauty in them. The rest of the walk was a discussion about God’s love for us, shown in Creation and in Redemption, while we collected leaves to press in heavy books when we got home.

The interesting thing is that this originally “unscheduled Gospel moment” has become a “deliberately Christ-centered parenting” activity we repeat every fall— now with three children instead of one. It’s a favorite family tradition. We were (unconsciously) following Jesus’ example, who invited His disciples to look around themselves as he taught them about His Heavenly Father’s provision: “Consider the lilies,” he said in Matthew 6:28-34. The lilies, the leaves, the snow, hemoglobin, friendship, athletics— all of these are potentially unscheduled Gospel moments waiting to be discovered.

 In upcoming posts in this series, I’ll expand a bit on these two categories of family discipleship, these “deliberate” and “unscheduled” moments. Whether you’re just starting to think about providing for your family through discipleship, or looking to deepen your practices, we hope these short articles are a help to you. Family discipleship begins with family worship, and grows through deliberately Christ-centered parenting, and unscheduled Gospel moments.

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