A few nights ago, standing in the middle of O’Charley’s restaurant, my family celebrated with another family at the announcement of an eleven year old daughter who recently accepted Jesus Christ as her Savior. The mother recounted how the daughter began asking questions after their devotional time at home. She was able to lead her daughter to experience salvation that night.
My pastor frequently tells the church, especially during baby dedications, that parents are responsible for the spiritual formation of their children. He encourages parents to pray with their children and teach them the things of God. He says, “Don’t miss the opportunity to lead your children to the Lord. Don’t leave their lives and salvation to chance. Don’t wait for them to go to an altar at church. Don’t think you have to call the pastor to pray with them.”
I am a firm believer in the “Priesthood of all Believers” (1 Peter 2:5,9), that every Christian is called to be “kings and priests unto God” (Revelation 1:6; 5:10), and that the saints are called to do the work of ministering in the world (Ephesians 4:12). I also believe that God is going to bless and pour out His Spirit in these last days. But I don’t believe this outpouring of revival will start in the same ways as it has historically – with a great preacher drawing large crowds.
The church gathered as a community will facilitate the revival through worship and equipping. I believe, however, that revival will be initiated and break out when we take the message of Christ out into the world…when we go out, living the life of Christ in the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit, and compel the lost and hurting to come (Luke 14:23). Such a great task takes ALL of God’s people. The first step is to realize that you are a minister – regardless of age, race, gender, profession, or any other divide.
We are comfortable with the idea of the “Church” being missional (that is, living out the mission of Jesus in the world, which is to build the Kingdom of God by making disciples of all nations), but somehow forget that the Church is the people…me, you, and others. We are okay with the pastor or youth leader conducting discipleship classes, but balk at the thought of one-on-one discipleship with our friends or coworkers.
My thoughts on being missional were radically encouraged this week after reading an article that presented a very simple concept. A guy named Hugh Halter wrote a book called A Righteous Brood: Making Your Family the Front Line of Mission, and the article summarized a portion of his book.
In this book, Halter challenges our definition of discipleship. The article is linked below, and I encourage you to read it. But I must draw out some key points while I have your attention.
Theologically, we know that the Church is supposed to be on mission for God. The church is called to leave what’s comfortable and propel itself out into the darkness as light, living the counter-culture life of the Kingdom of God.
But here’s a question we all need to consider: How can a church be missional unless the families are?
Generally, we understand the word “discipleship” to mean “teaching our children or our friends, or any convert for that matter, the truths of Scripture, the doctrine and theology of God, and establishing the moral codes of the faith.” All this is good, but only if we understand the fuller meaning of Jesus’ idea of what a disciple is.
He goes on to explain that Jesus understood a disciple to be more of an apprentice. In other words, disciples worked under the watchful eye of the master carpenter as He empowered them to complete the work. He modeled the way and formed in them His very life.
Western, non-participatory discipleship, in other words, is satisfied when a person knows concepts about God, but apprenticeship isn’t satisfied until the person has learned to live the life of God. This is a simple but profound switch in thinking for several reasons.
First, God is going to hold us accountable on the level of apprenticeship. Especially with regard to our children. More specifically, God wants us to form not just doctrine, theology and moral codes in our kids. He wants us to form the very life of Jesus in them.
It is one thing for us or our children to know God in our heads, in a strictly intellectual way. It is something else, and entirely scriptural, for us to internalize that knowledge in a way that transforms our hearts at the very core of our being. It is much easier to tell than to model. Everyone knows that a person who knows a lot or talks a good game, but doesn’t live the faith, is a hypocrite. And nobody likes hypocrites. We have to get into the game. We have to be intentional in our spiritual formation and in the formation of our children.
Halter suggests that the responsibility for the spiritual formation of children is on the parents. We cannot “pass the buck,” or live a life in the example of “do what I say but not what I do.” We must first be passionate followers, apprentices, of Jesus. Having the life of Jesus formed in us means having His heart, mind, and mission. When our children see us living passionately for Jesus and replicating ourselves in others, they will follow in our footsteps.
We are all ministers, and our first ministry is to our families. Because the term apprentice seems so much easier to grasp given our Western mindset, I am using the phrase “apprentice discipleship.” Our children are our spiritual apprentices. Our neighbors are our apprentices. Our coworkers are our apprentices. Fulfill the mission of Jesus in the world by creating apprentice disciples of all nations, beginning at home with spouses and children.
Too many in law enforcement are losing our families, and our children become collateral damage. I’m not being critical, and if you are reading this and have experienced failure, the great news is that God never gives up on us. Maybe having the life of Christ formed in you is for you to experience healing and restoration first.
If we can get this down, God will surely pour out His Spirit in our homes. He will guard our children, and bless our families. Others will want to experience the life we have in Christ, so then we will show them and they will be empowered to live the same life. This move of God will be like wildfire spreading throughout our homes and profession. And I know of no better or more appropriate place for it to begin than in the homes of cops.