Theologically, we know that 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 all leaders need to consider: How can a church accomplish that mission unless the families of the church are living with that same mindset? Every church would be “missional” if the parents understood their role in discipling their children.
Generally, we understand the word discipleship to mean teaching 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.
When He used the word, He actually meant what we might call an apprentice. Western—non-participatory—discipleship 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:
God is going to hold us accountable, 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.
Apprenticeship puts the onus on us as parents, not the other pastors in our church. Pastoral staff can disciple your kids, but the one who is designed to spend the most time and who can actually model the life of Jesus is you.
Apprenticeship creates kingdom citizens. It’s a strange concept, but Jesus actually warned His apprentices to watch out for the “leaven of the Pharisees.” The leaven was the doctrine-focused spiritual fervency that naturally extracted them from truly loving people. Jesus didn’t come to belittle them or suggest that Scriptural knowledge and moral living was bad, but He did come to fulfill, enlarge and expand what true spiritual formation was. He came to model a holistic life where doctrine, theology, knowledge and morality were coupled with love, mercy, faith and action.
Western, non-participatory discipleship tends to shrivel the heart, whereas active apprenticeship actually helps Jesus come alive in the heart. Paul summed up the power of kingdom apprenticeship this way, and it should be the goal of every parent: That “Christ be formed in you” (Gal. 4:19, KJV). That involves the whole life of Jesus, which includes:
● The mind of Jesus and how He viewed people and His calling to be faithful to the Father.
● The heart of Jesus that broke over the things that broke the Father’s heart.
● The character of Jesus that protected Him and gave Him street cred with people.
● The mission of Jesus, which gave Him purpose and clarity for His life.
All parents want the character of Christ, the heart of Jesus or mind of Jesus to be developed in their children, but maybe not the life or mission of Jesus. His character is safe, but to be honest, if your children get the heart of Jesus, they may choose to live a life of service that makes you squirm. They may not go after the American dream as many of us have. They may instead seek justice, live for the poor and put themselves in harm’s way.
So the gut check begins with us: Do you really want all of Jesus to be developed in your children?
Excerpted from the free Exponential Resources Series free eBook, A Righteous Brood by Hugh Halter. For more information, go to exponential.org.
Hugh Halter is the national director of Missio, a ministry team committed to training, developing and apprenticing incarnational leaders for the church. He is also lead architect of Adullum, a local movement of missional communities in Denver, Colo. He is author of Sacrilege and co-author (with Matt Smay) of The Tangible Kingdom, and the accompanying Tangible Kingdom Primer, as well as AND: The Gathered and Scattered Church. Halter is an advocate for disoriented God-seekers and loves to inspire and re-orient leaders around the mission of God.