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.