Discipleship in the Family

When the Lord moved our family to Minnesota, He brought us to a church that would teach us family discipleship. Now, that sounds like something pastors would do with their kids, right?  Not this time. God would show us first hand what family discipleship should look like in every Christian home.

Later that year, what we weren’t expecting was for the Lord to introduce us to one family in particular who lead family discipleship in our church as an extension of the ministry they already lead in their own home.  Up to that time, I had little experience with Christians who were good at both church AND home discipleship.  They took us in, they listened, counseled, and shared both their wisdom from their experience and the wisdom and instruction from the Scriptures.  We could see God had changed their lives through the process of their own discipleship: lead by the father and supported by the mother.  Their changed lives changed us- they pointed out the right path for us, and it is this same path that we joyfully and faithfully walk this very day.

It seems that most Christians I meet do not share this experience.  Every month without exception, I meet more and more people, some with children, others without, who are floating downstream in their Christian walk.  The common theme between their stories is this: they were never personally discipled by a mature Christian, a caring mentor.  But further, few, if any, were instructed on how to shepherd their family.  They do not know the Scriptures or read them intentionally, and so they pass along a powerless, drifting faith to their children.

The Bible speaks plainly on the subject from the beginning; Abel, Adam’s son, offered a sacrifice that was pleasing to God (Genesis 4:4). Moses later called Israel to pass along the knowledge of God to her children, and their children’s children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9), even writing His commands on the doorposts and walls of their home.  So also Asaph reminds his readers God has commanded us “to teach [the Law of God] to their children…so the next generation should set it’s hope’s anew on God, not forgetting his glorious miracles and obeying his commands…” (Psalm 78).  David, Solomon, Paul, Peter and others join God’s witnesses in reminding His people they have a religious and family duty to disciple their families.

The ‘how’ we do family discipleship is just as important as the ‘what’ we do.  The ‘how’ comes first.  The number one thing I hear from families is that they are busy, rushing here or there, committed to a break-neck schedule without room to breathe.  So, if you want to disciple your family, the first difficulty you’ll meet is to cut something out to make time for family.  Open the Bible during the evening meal, or meet together as a family before bedtime.  Turn off the television (or throw it away) and you’ll find time for God. We do these things every day in our home.  On Sundays, we normally share what we learned from the teaching and preaching that day and discuss how to put them into practice in our lives.  At first, this is the most difficult part of family discipleship- making it happen.  We all choose to put our time towards the things we love.  So, love Christ first, and everything else will work out on its own.  Make time today to train your family in godliness.

What should your family do for discipleship?  Fathers, lead your family to sit down together and open God’s Word.  Read two or three chapters sequentially through the Bible.  Here are a few other ideas we do regularly as a family: sing a song together, read from a daily Family Devotional guide like Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening or Harold Vaughn’s Family Devotions, review a question or two from a Christian catechism (question / answer), ask some Bible trivia questions, review a chapter of Bible Doctrine, memorize a Psalm (1, 8, 100, 112, or 139), review the key pieces of the Gospel (God created, man sinned, Christ provided, man must respond in repentance and faith) or memorize the Romans Road (3:23, 5:8, 6:23, 10:9-13.  At other times we discuss a topic of the Bible (sin, temptation, Christian virtue, prayer and fasting, etc.)  Sometimes the topic we discuss together was prompted by the events of the week.  We always close our time in prayer where two of our seven children pray and either father or mother closes in prayer.

Here are a few practical tips to keep in mind.  It’s better to utilize several smaller times in God’s Word than doing one big event done randomly. Both are good, but smaller and more frequent worship can be powerful and more apt to form a God-centered family culture.

Sometimes, the family is tired from the events of the day and little ones tend to either fall asleep or act out in trying not to fall asleep.  You may need to worship earlier rather than later- your family will certainly be different than mine.

Much more can be said here, but let me give one final instruction.  Just as my family and I learned the ‘how we do it’ and ‘what we do’ from another family, so should you.  God never meant for us to be alone to figure out our Christian struggles and worship patterns alone.  No, he gave us the church, the community of Christians to help us point each other in the right direction.  If you don’t know who these families are in your church, ask one of your pastors or elders. If your church is small and there are no other families who worship this way and shepherd their lives in godliness, understand that God is seeking and preparing you to be that model family who will shepherd the shepherds.

Article by: Zach Zajicek

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