Disciple Making and Children #1

Around 80% of the children who are raised in an evangelical church will leave Christianity at college [1].  If the number were 50% we should be concerned, but at 80% alarmed. Yet churches seem to be more concern about their numerical growth than they do about losing their own kids.  Churches spend thousands of dollars on church growth conferences, consultants, and materials searching for the key to their expansion, while spending comparatively few resources to help parents with their marriages or on how to disciple their children.

In many cases if a married couple volunteers for ministry in their church, they will be required to have some type of training and be under the apprenticeship of an experienced leader for a period of time.  But when a couple announces to that same church that they are expecting their first child they will given little or no training on how to raise that child.

There is something inconsistent about strategizing on how to reach our community and the world when we are unable to reach our own children.

[1] Glen Schultz, Kingdom Education; 2002 Southern Baptist Council on the Family.


Measuring Results by Generations

“Begin with the end in mind”[1], so says Stephen Covey.  The end objective determines not only how I do something but also how long I will do it.   To make a disciple of Jesus requires a loving relationship over an extended period of time.  Disciple making thinks in terms of the impact that my life will have on the generations to come rather than just on immediate results.

A generational perspective comes from God. He instructed the Israelites to not only train their own children but also their grandchildren (Deuteronomy 4:9).  In other words, an Israelite was expected to train children throughout his entire life.  The Lord also warns the Israelites that their sin would cast a long family shadow darkening generations to come.  Their behavior today would affect their children, their grandchildren, their great grandchildren, and even their great great grandchildren (Exodus 34:7).

In contrast, much of Christianity today values rapid multiplication and instantaneous movements.    We view a rapid growing church as being blest by God.  The faster the growth, the larger the numbers, the more blest by God, or so the reasoning goes.  The 3000 converts after Peter’s message in Acts chapter 2 is a favorite proof text.  This is why most church staff positions focus on the worship service as they seek to replicate a Pentecost type movement through what has been called “high impact services”.  I visited a church this week that had four staff members whose jobs revolved around the Sunday morning service and yet their small group coordinator was a part-time volunteer.  We revere the pastor or evangelist who is able to produce a Pentecost type stirring, notwithstanding the fact that not even Paul achieved comparable results.

Though spectacular, movements can lack the depth of relationship and character necessary to be sustained from one generation to the next.    Generational sustainability necessitates a deep love and a sacrificial longevity that a rapid multiplication does not require.    Only a sacrificial love is strong enough to bridge the generations.

[1] Covey, Stephen R. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1989), p. 97.

Family and Making Disciples 2 – The Church: God’s Family

How I view God and His church (ekklesia) affects how I see myself, how I relate to others and how I relate to God. For all eternity, God is a Father, and Jesus is a Son. Therefore, family is an eternal concept based on the nature of God. The idea of family is not confined to man’s time on earth. As long as there has been God, there has been family and as long as there will be God, there will be family.

God the Father behaves like a father because he is a father. God’s father-heart moved Him to adopt us into His family even at the cost of the sacrifice of His own Son. Because of this adoption Jesus relates to us as our brother. The author of Hebrews tells us that: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.’ For this reason he (Jesus) had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:11-17). My relationship to God is both as a child with his father and as a brother with a brother.

The apostle Paul views ekklesia as God’s family. In 1 Timothy 3:14-15 he writes: “…so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church (ekklesia) of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” In Paul’s writings, his language of choice for what we would call “Christian(s)” is familiar language. He uses the word “brother(s)” 129 times – in contrast to his use of the word “saints” 29 times, and the word “believer(s)” 11 times. Paul never uses the term “Christian” or “disciple.”

Paul’s understanding of the Father nature of God and that the ekklesia is the family of God directed the way he ministered to others. In the city of Thessalonica Paul was like a mother and father to the disciples. He writes: “But we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children. We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us…for you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory” (1 Thessalonians 2:7-12).

Making followers of Jesus cannot be separated from the family nature of God. As God the Father loved Jesus, and Jesus loved us, so in the same familiar manner we are to love one another. A parental sacrificial love for others is the catalytic force that will produce disciples of Jesus and advance the kingdom of God.