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Discipling our Children

This message is designed to do two things:  1) call our parents to attention and 2) give vision and direction to continued parenting.
I’ve enjoyed many conversations with friends in Williamson County.  Being a pastor I naturally take a pastoral interest in the parenting philosophies of our culture.  Parents are deeply concerned for their children.  Christian parents especially want their children to be taught the rudiments of the Christian faith.  Many parents attend churches that have children’s programs because they look to these programs to deliver results!  Williamson County TN is blessed with many vibrant children’s programs and there is a lot of choose from.  What you will hear from church leaders though is that the church is unable to provide the biblical instruction and guidance needed for a child’s Christian development.  Why?  There are 168 days in a week and the church gets how many of these hours, 1-2?  Entrusting the church with the work of teaching a child his/her faith is an unsustainable model.  For sure, the church supplements and supports but it cannot carry the responsibility.
We get some helpful guidance in Deut. 6:7.  Here and in Ephesians 6:1-2, this responsibility is for the parents.  We do not speak of outsourcing.  No.  Christian education is primarily and personally the job of parents!
Here the Lord is instructing parents of faith to be diligent, meticulous, and intentional in the transmission of their faith.  The Shema, Deut. 6:4 (Hear Oh Israel, the LORD our God is One.) and the following verse in 6:5 (You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind) form the bedrock of what is taught.  A lot was at stake here, namely, the integrity and life of a nation!  Children might forget their God.  This would result in God’s firm disciplinary displeasure.  Finally, the faith-fueled practice of observing these commands and teaching them would count to them as righteousness.  It was and continues to be the obligation of parents to teach the gospel to their children.
Paraphrasing verse 7 in today’s language, parents talk about the Lord at the breakfast table, on the way to school, at the supper table and as they go to bed.  They constantly drill, drill, drill the gospel and love of God.  It is as natural as breathing.
Parents may well say, “I agree.  However, I’m not sure where to start or even how.”  First, the north star of biblical parenting is the instruction of love for God.  Whatever we do and however we do it, teaching our children to love God with EVERYTHING they have is number one!
George Barna, in his book, “Revolutionary Parenting: What the Research Shows Really Works” gives some helpful guidance on this question.  The context of this book is this.  They interviewed the parents of successful and flourishing “spiritual giants” to discern how these parents worked out their parenting.  Novel approach, right?  While not a fool-proof plan, this approach does promise some helpful insight on what we might call best practices.
They found that first, these parents really believed and practiced their faith.   They made parenting their number one priority, as opposed to a career or pursuing self-interest.  Most of these households were single income homes.  Parents intentionally spent time with each of their children, daily.  They also testified that these families discussed faith and practice together, as a family.  And secondly, these families together practiced prayer, worship, and Bible study.  These parents took on the role of coaches and were not afraid to issue out orders and commands.  They were also very intentional about where they were going.  The spelled out goals for their children and pursued these rigorously.
There is no perfect plan for parenting.  It is work.  There are parents who are listening here or reading who may be in pain over wayward children.  They may wonder, what happened.  Ultimately, children become adults and choose their own way.
There are pitfalls in parenting to be sure.  If parents rely on “do as I say but not as I do” it will only carry children so far.  Eventually, our actions and hearts will reveal more than our words.  For this reason, may parents first and foremost believe and practice the gospel of Jesus.  Why not first enjoy what we preach?
This message comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-9.  Want to listen? Here’s the online sermon archive.

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