Juggling family and mission can be difficult. Looking around, it seems like churches and Christians sometimes come to the conclusion that its impossible and since the promise of a happy and healthy family fills seats, we opt for family over mission. We tell ourselves and each other that we are in a “season of life” when mission must be foregone so we can attend to our “first mission field.” But is this a choice we need to make? I would contend that it is a false dichotomy which sets us up to both neglect the mission and fail at raising godly kids.
Why do I say this? Because disciples make disciples. If we accept the great commission, then we understand “make disciples” to be one of the things “whatsoever he commanded.” So, if we want our kids to become disciples then they had better learn to make disciples. If they’re going to learn to make disciples, then they will need parents who demonstrate that this is an ultimate priority. Sitting our kids down for devotionals and teaching them to maintain a quiet time won’t produce disciples. It may produce Bible students or church goers or even moral people but that may actually be worse than raising them with no reference to the Bible at all. After all, the Pharisees knew the Bible.
Someone might respond, “I’m making disciples of my children, isn’t that fulfilling the command to make disciples?” I don’t think so. Discipleship begins with a call, “Come follow me.” If someone is to follow another then that person needs to be in motion and going somewhere. Jesus called his disciples to follow him and help him serve others. He trained them in the field. Parents need to be in the “field” in order to train their children to harvest. We need to be “followable.” The disciple maker says, “Follow my example as I follow Christ.” How might our children follow us if our every expression of faith gets reduced to the way that we parent them? How do we communicate that life is not about them when we sacrifice every other agenda to invest in them? Won’t they come to see themselves as the center of the universe and us as their subjects? This mentality looks much more like Satan than it does like Jesus.
Speaking of Satan, I’ve been thinking recently about several young adults who were home schooled by serious Christian parents but have become outspoken critics of the Bible and Christianity. One thing that most of them have in common in addition to atheism is a struggle with crippling anxiety. I have a mounting sense that “Fear” and “Rebellion” are familiar spirits which work to undermine the faith of God’s people. Here’s how the scenario plays out. A Christian couple has a child and as they consider her future and the hazards that living in this world will present before her, they become afraid. They begin to make decisions which they hope will keep their child physically, emotionally and spiritually safe. Unfortunately for them, our safety isn’t really God’s priority and so the parents turn a deaf ear to God’s call to mission. That is, they rebel against him. And so the children have come to be raised by church going, Bible thumping rebels. Of course, rebels now have even more things to fear since they have left the fold and have chosen to go it on their own in defiance of God, so the fear intensifies which further foments the rebellion. No wonder kids leave the church!
When a parent chooses to live on mission, not only do they help their children find humility, they gain credibility. The other day, two of my children got into a discussion about who is the nicest person in the family. My son contended that it was me. My daughter mentioned that I wasn’t always nice to which my son agreed, but countered, “Yeah, but dad is just awesome. I mean, he has so many stories!” In that moment I realized that a poor excuse for a Christian parent such as myself could still raise godly kids by insisting that we live on mission together.