How do parents incorporate Jesus’s model of disciple-making into their home? Various ministries have followed Jesus’s approach but when it comes to our families we are not quite sure what discipling our children should look like.
Christianity in the West has known for years that 80% of our children are not becoming followers of Jesus. Vast resources are given to children and youth ministries because we were told that it was vital to get our kids into children’s ministry and youth group, only to have our children leave God when they leave home. Parents feel spiritually inadequate and it is easier to leave the spiritual formation of their children to the professionals.
Recently I read the account of Jesus’s last evening with his disciples and I realized that I had looked at the question of disciple-making and parenting the wrong way. Rather than trying to figure out how to fit our families into Jesus’s approach to disciple-making I saw that Jesus had patterned his disciple-making on a familial model so that our homes are the optimal place to make disciples of Jesus.
Jesus’s approach to disciple-making was based on the familial nature of the Trinity. He says to his disciples, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9) Jesus assures them that their heavenly father has a home and in that home each disciple will have a place to belong. (John 14:2) Jesus goes on to promise them that he will not leave them as orphans (John 14:18) and that the heavenly father and Jesus will make their home with them, all familial language.
Making disciples of Jesus should be in a familial way. (Jesus and the apostle Paul both used familial language to describe disciple-making.)
Our families can reflect the nature of the Trinity to the world.
Our homes can be a picture of the gospel to the world.
The family is a place for children to experience the nature of God and the wonder of the gospel.
No matter the age, create a familial environment to which your disciples can belong.
To be one of the twelve disciples of Jesus was an experience of love. Jesus had modeled his disciple-making after the mutual love between the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Kallistos Ware writes, “The circle of divine love however has not remained closed. God’s love is, in the literal sense of the word, “ecstatic”-a love that causes God to go out from himself and to create things other than himself. By voluntary choice God created the world in “ecstatic” love, so that there might be beside himself other beings to participate in the life and the love that are his.”
This “ecstatic” love caused Jesus to come to earth and as John explained “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.” 1 John 4:9 Jesus then formed a group of twelve men and for twenty-seven months he loved these disciples and he taught them how to love the other men in the group. One purpose of a disciple of Jesus is to be an image bearer of God to the world and a disciple cultivates this by learning to love other disciples. Jesus instructs his disciples, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34
The process of making disciples today should be little different than what Jesus first showed us. A discipler guides a group of men and women in how to receive love and how to love others. This discipling experience moves a person towards flourishing by being in mutual love with God and with fellow disciples because, “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.” 1 John 4:16
The evidence that disciples are maturing is their ability to love others and to receive love.
 Ware, Kallistos, The Orthodox Way (Crestwood: St Vladimir’s Seminar Press, 1979), p. 44.
Churches do not make disciples of Jesus, disciples do. From the beginning kingdom multiplication came by disciples making disciples, not churches starting churches or small groups starting small groups.
(This is not to say that disciples cannot be made in churches or in small groups, but it is the disciples in those churches or small groups that are actually making the disciples.)
The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give us four extensive accounts of Jesus training his disciples. Nowhere in that training do we find “how to start a church” or “multiplication through growing small groups.” Jesus sends his eleven men into the world to make disciples following the pattern they had experienced with Jesus the previous three years.
Jesus had used farming to teach the disciples how kingdom multiplication works. The evidence of a plant’s maturity is its ability to produce fruit. The mark of spiritual maturity is a disciple’s ability to produce another disciple. One tomato seed will produce hundreds of tomatoes and one apple seed will produce generations of apples. It is unnatural for any life form not to reproduce itself and so it is spiritually unnatural for a disciple of Jesus to not reproduce himself.
There are very few that can lead a small group and even fewer that can start a church, but everyone can make disciples of Jesus. On the most primary level, parents and grandparents making disciples of their own children and grandchildren.
Today in our three-author panel, authorsR. E. Clark,Paul Juby, and myself offer our thoughts on discipleship, practicing faith, and serving as missionaries.I’m excited to post the Missionary sectionbelow and hopefully begin a discussion among readers. Please leave comments below and visit the other two authors’ blogs to read through the rest of the panel.