What is a disciple? How can we hope to disciple our kids with our crazy schedules? What if our kids refuse to be our disciples? Join AMBrewster today as he helps Christian parents take the first steps to becoming Disciple-Making Parents.
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“It Only Takes a Generation to Die” (episode 9)
“Disciple-Making Parents” (episode 173)
“The Second Most Important Question You Need to Ask Your Kids” (episode 45)
“Training Your Children to Rebel” (episode 43)
“The Four Children” (episode 56)
“Needy Parenting” (episode 122)
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What is a disciple?
It seems like an old religious term with very little contemporary practicality, but I hope that today we understand that it perfectly describes exactly what our modern parenting is . . . good or bad.
But, before we do that, I want to thank Ryan and Kim for sponsoring today’s episode. Their faithful gifts allow us to continue creating this free content. If you’re blessed and challenged by what you hear, you have God and the consistent giving of His children to thank.
And if you’d be interested in learning how you too can partner with TLP, just click the “5 Ways to Support TLP” link in the description of today’s episode.
Okay, my friends, let’s talk about that oft discussed, but never mastered concept of discipleship.
If you’ve been with us since the beginning of this series, then you know the format. If you haven’t, then I encourage you to start with episode 225. Each episode can stand alone, but I believe the material is best understood in order.
Alright . . .
1. Learn the Truth about discipleship.
I have two episodes to suggest to you today to deepen your knowledge of this topic. Episode 9 is called “It Only Takes a Generation to Die” and episode 173 is called “Disciple-Making Parents."
Both of those would be a great followup to today’s discussion, especially if you don’t really know anything about genuine, biblical discipleship.
I know it’s easy to think we understand it because so many of our churches talk about it so much. But do we really?
I plan to do a whole series about biblical discipleship, and I’m super excited about it because I believe it sums up the entirety of our calling as Christians generally and as parents more specifically.
So, let me unveil the ideas that make up discipleship, but we’ll save our deep study for later.
And don’t forget that our free episode notes are available for you as you deepen your knowledge about discipleship.
First, Merriam-Webster defines “disciple” as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another.”
That’s not a bad definition, but I think there’s more to understand from this word.
Just a cursory glance at the spelling of the word will also show similarities with the word discipline. Now, that’s another word that can be understood various ways.
Some people imagine the negative side of punishment and consequences, and others picture what Merriam-Webster calls “training that corrects or molds, or defects the mental faculties or moral character.”
We’ll talk more about this later when we ask “How Do You Become a Training Parent,” but for now I want us to understand that discipleship is a two-sided process whereby the discipler and the disciple submit to God’s Truth and share that Truth with others.
It’s the process of one who’s standing on the outside coming to the inside and eventually leading others from the outside to the inside.
Now, this should already sound like a very familiar concept.
If I’m an Ambassador, a First-Follower of Christ in my family, then my goal is to introduce my children to my God with the plan that they too will choose to follow Him and lead others to Him.
Now, that may be our long-range plans. Most of us likely see that coming to fruition when our kids are older, but for now we’re in the discipleship phase of helping them grow as disciples of God.
But, before we move on, there’s another really important Truth about discipleship that we must understand.
Earlier I made the comment that discipleship “perfectly describes exactly what our modern parenting is . . . good or bad.” What did I mean by that?
Well, let’s consider Merriam-Webster’s definition of discipline again: “training that corrects or molds, or defects the mental faculties or moral character.”
That’s right. A person can be discipline in all the wrong things. They can be a disciple of evil, vanity, foolishness, and sin.
Our children are likely our disciples whether we like it or not. Here are the four possibilities.
Those are the only two options — “Just two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self.” If you and your child are in any kind of discipleship relationship, it’s one of these. And nearly every parent — I should say, every parent who even remotely wants to fill the role of a parent — wants their child to be their disciple. Every parent wants to pass on to their kids the information they believe will make their child successful.
However, there are two instances where our kids may not be our disciples.
But keep in mind, if your kids aren’t your disciple, they’re someone else’s. They either belong to their Heavenly Father or their Father the Devil.
I tell the boys at Victory Academy that no one is free as the world imagines it. Freedom in God is freedom to serve Him and enjoy the benefits of being HIs child. The only other alternative is slavery to sin. We’re either servants of Christ or slaves of death. There is no reality where we are free from all restriction, expectation, authority, and consequences.
So, even a rebellious child is being discipled by another person or worldview.
Some people think that evangelism is part of discipleship. I don’t believe that’s true. Given the definition of the word and the illustration in Scripture, I believe that a disciple is a child who’s participating in the Counseling and Training stages of your parenting. If they’re refusing to submit to Christ, they’re sin’s disciple. They’re not pre-disciples, they’re not Christians-in-Training, they’re rebels and enemies of Truth.
Introducing your kids to Christ and them being justified is necessary to their being a disciple of God, but they’re not his follower until they’re born again.
Now, some people disagree with what I just said and they point to the fact that Judas was considered Christ’s disciple. Yes, from a secular standpoint, in an ancient context, Judas left all that he had, lived with Jesus and the other disciples, was given tasks, and was taught lessons, but in the biblical sense of the word, he was never a true disciple of Christ. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
So, what’s the import for today? Well, during our “Make Small Changes” point we’re going to talk to each of the parents from each of the previous categories because you’re all going to have to make different first steps if you truly want to disciple your kinds in Christ.
And, even if all of your kids are unsaved — which means you’re not currently discipling them — stick with me to the end.
Let’s move to our second point.
2. Believe the Truth about discipleship.
Do you believe that God has put you into your Child’s life to help them becomes His disciples?
Do you believe that being a parent is far more than merely putting a roof over their heads, making sure they’re well fed and have a good education?
Do you believe that the only discipleship that glorifies God is the one where you’re following Him and training your children to do the same?
I challenge you to grapple with these Truths and decide whether or not you’re going to submit to God’s design for your parenting. An Ambassador Parent’s highest goal to accurately reflect God’s character, and their second highest goal is to help their children do the same.
But just like we can’t believe what we don’t know, we’ll never become what we don’t believe.
Talk to God about this. Have a conversation where you acknowledge His will, apologize for the times you encouraged your kids to be your personal disciple as you leaned on your own understanding, and repent. Ask God to empower you to submit to His command, and praise Him for loving you and your kids enough to give you everything you need to do the job.
So, if you’re ready to accept God’s call on your life, let’s move to . . .
3. Get some help discipling your kids.
I hope that if you didn’t previously have a mentor or counselor or accountability partner or mature, godly friend (or whatever you want to call them) that you’re working on it now.
We all need this. I have some and you need some. God created us to live in relationships and community. The Body of Christ needs to be one-anothering each other.
So, if you want your parenting community to be able to help you grow in this area, you’re all going to have to understand biblical discipleship, and you’re going to have to give each other permission to speak honestly into your life when you’re not discipling your kids and encourage you when you’re trying.
Also, as I mentioned before, you can evangelize your kids by constantly pouring the Gospel into their lives regardless of whether they want to hear it or not. But you can’t disciple a child who refuses to follow Christ.
This means that part of your parenting community needs to be your kids. I think it’s super important for this process of discipleship to be out in the open. Your kids should know what you’re doing. This should be a conversation you’re having with them. If they’re not even remotely interested in the process, then you’re not really discipling them.
Just like I think many parents think they’re counseling and training their kids when — in actuality — the kid is not on board, I believe that many parents think they’re discipling a child who’s not willing to participate.
That’s why it’s so important to have this conversation with them. I think this conversation should happen when your child professes faith in Christ.
Now, if that was a while ago, great! Have the conversation now.
But we also have to be careful that just because our kid made a profession or has a date written in their Bible, we don’t just assume they’re truly born again. Be looking for that fruit.
If this is all new information for you, please listen to episode 45, “The Second Most Important Question You Need to Ask Your Kids.” That show will help you understand my meaning and support my comments from Scripture.
The point is, if you believe your child is a genuine Christian, have this conversation with them. Include them in the community. Let them know that you have friends who are there to help you disciple them to the glory of God. Introduce them to your friends.
One of the things I strongly admonish the parents to do whose kids are at Victory is get a mentor for their son. The boys need as much Truth pouring into their lives from as many sources as possible.
Your child needs the same. Imagine the power of multiple discipliers in your and your child’s lives.
Now . . .
4. Make small changes.
Earlier I set out four possibilities for your home:
You have to identify which description best fits your home because I’m going to speak to each of those possibilities now.
Remember, this series is about making the initial steps to becoming a more Christ-honoring parent this year. Depending on the home habits that you’ve created, your first steps are going to look different from another’s.
So 1. If you and your children are both actively, though not perfectly, following after Christ and growing in your conformity to Him, I praise the Lord and hope you do too. It’s not easy because we’re all sinners, but this type of house is a growing house. It’s a house that’s functioning the way God intended, even though it won’t be doing it perfectly.
Keep up the good work.
However, likely there’s still more you can do.
I would suggest that you start by having the conversation with your child where you share with them the significance of their sanctification. Make it a big deal, a special dinner, a plaque, a commemoration, something. Invite your child’s mentor; invite your accountability partner.
If your child doesn’t have more people than you actively discipling them in Christ, then my second admonishment is to get more people on board. These people need to be mature, God-loving people, who love your child enough to want to significantly invest in them at least once a week.
I would also recommit and rededicate yourself to the task. No matter how well you’ve been doing, you can always do better. You can always move from your present state of glory to the next level of glory God has for you as you’re conformed into His image.
2. If you’re the parent who’s not been discipling your child in Truth — I’m not saying you’re teaching your kids how to rob banks or sacrifice cats to Satan — I’m simply talking about the fact that your parenting doesn’t really include God.
When you correct your kids, your words are filled with worldly paradigms, Failure Philosophies, pop culture, and your own emotionally-laden responses, then you’re communicating to your kids that God’s Truth isn’t important to life.
Sure, you may even go to church on Sunday and have your kids read their Bibles, but if God and His Word aren’t important any other times of the week or day, then you’re teaching them to pay lip service to God during formal times of “worship” and then they can jettison Him during the rest of their lives.
And friends, I say this because I love you, I believe that this describes the homes of most people in the church.
If you’re kids seem to be sweet and compliant and obedient to you, then what you’ve been doing is teaching them to follow their own pragmatism. They do whatever feels right in the moment, but it’s not grounded in God’s unchanging expectations.
If that’s the case, then you’re training your children to be disciples of sin and death.
Now, this is a huge topic that I have addressed in various episodes, and I can’t take the time to unpack it here. But you can listen to “Training Your Children to Rebel” in episode 43 for a jump off point.
So, what are your first steps.
I believe you need to start between you and God. You need to go back to the “Believe the Truth about Disciple-Making” step.
Second, you’re going to have to sit down with your kids and have a significant heart-to-heart.
I step parents through this kind of situation all the time. It generally goes like this.
You see, your kids have likely learned very well from your example, and it’s always easy to follow the example of someone who’s encouraging me to follow my own heart. That’s humanity’s natural tendency. We all want to lean on our own understanding
And, like any Hard or Rocky or Thorny-Hearted child, your kids are not necessarily going to like have their worlds turned upside down. They may potentially fight the whole process. The response of the Hard and Thorny Hearted kids is to push back hard against the increased amount of Truth flowing into their lives.
If you haven’t heard “The Four Children” series, please check out episode 56. It will step you through what your next steps need to be depending on how your children respond and what they reveal their hearts to be.
The point is, you have to be ready for just about anything. Even if you make the choice to double-down in your own discipleship, you may have a battle ahead of you when your kids realize the home isn’t going to continue to be comfortable for people who want to just live for themselves.
This is the path that nearly every family takes who ends up sending their child to Victory Academy for Boys. It’s not everyone’s journey, but it is for many of them.
Often the parents hadn’t evangelized or disciplined their kids to follow Christ. Instead they inadvertently taught their kids to live emotionally, pragmatically, and selfishly. When the child is young and manageable, it wasn’t hard to control them, but when they’re older and still living that way, it makes the home situation unbearable. The family from the second category quickly becomes the family from the third category when the child starts rebelling even against his parents’ version of godless living.
Now, the parents, feeling like they’re losing control they never really had, reach out for help. And all of a sudden the kid finds himself going to doctors and pastors and counselors and mentors and they flip out even more because the selfishly comfortable life they had been living is being challenged.
Listen, I’m not saying this to discourage you. I’m saying this to warn you, to admonish you. Start now. Start early. Regardless of what stage your kids are at, regardless of what habits (good or bad) you’ve made in the past, take the first steps and trust God for the rest.
We have a ton of episodes about how to parent foolish children, angry children, hateful children, and rebellious children. If you rely on His strength and His Word, God will give you everything you need to respond to whatever comes your way, but you still have to do your part.
And please notice how important that parenting community is to this individual. They need help. Their rebellious child needs help. Their family needs help.
Quickly now, let me jump over the third category and move to the fourth.
4. Listen, if you’ve been living apart from God, and the Lord has been gracious enough to save your child despite your influence, and God is trying to mature your son or daughter in Him, but you have been fighting that process, please submit to your Creator.
We have a page on our website called “The First Step to Being a Good Parent.” You can click the link below to learn all about that most important first step. You can also contact us at counselor@TruthLoveParent.com to learn more.
Alright, now parent number 3. Why did I wait to get to you? A couple reasons, first, I wanted to piggyback my comments to parent 4 from what I said to parent 2.
Second, this category is very prevalent and most people believe they fit into this one . . . whether they actually do or not.
I wanted everyone to grapple with whether they really were discipling their kids in Christ, discipling their kids in secular humanism, or even leading their born again children away from God.
Don’t just dismiss the possibility that those descriptions better match your parenting than you think. Lean hard on your parenting friends to speak truthfully into this as well. Be honest. Be broken. Be that needy parent who humbly acknowledges your total dependence on God.
Now, 3. For you parents who believe that you truly have done your best to evangelize your kids, and you’re Parenting Bible is thick — you constantly are pointing back to the Bible in the daily instruction and interpretation of life — but who have kids who refuse to submit to the Truth their parents are daily living . . . here are some first steps for you.
1. Determine who your child is really rejecting.
Remember, this category includes parents who both live for Christ and live for self. In some situations, the child is rejecting God and rejecting his parents submission to God.
But in other situations, the child is rejecting God and rejecting their parents own self-worship.
I’ve said it often, but we too frequently take our children who are not worshipping God and ask them to worship us. We demand that they submit because of everything we’ve done for them. We require them to stop because we just can’t take it any more.
In those situations, it’s true that your kid doesn’t want to worship God, they want to worship themselves. But, they also don’t want to worship you, so they reject your demands as well.
Therefore you need to figure out who your child is really rejecting. Are they rebelling because they hate God and they hate you for loving God, or are they rebelling because they hate God and they hate you for demanding that they worship you?
If you’re calling your children to love God, keep it up, but learn from my admonition to the fist category of parents. If you’ve been guilty of demanding your child submit to you, then learn from my admonition to the parents in the second and fourth categories.
2. Determine if your child needs to be evangelized or discipled.
Now, from my personal experience, a child who lives in open and daily rebellion, is an unregenerate individual. Do Christians sin? Yes, and yes again. But are their lives categorized by living in the darkness of the flesh? No, they’re not.
However, it is possible that your born again child is struggling with sin and — perhaps — you’ve compounded the issue by provoking them to wrath. I would encourage you to draw them back to the Gospel either way.
They’re submission and discipleship needs to be grounded in Who their God is, not your or my expectations.
3. Once you’ve determined as best you can if your child even wants to be a disciple, the choice has been made for you.
An unsaved child will need to continue to be evangelized, and a genuinely Christian child will need to be discipled, and I encourage you to follow the steps I outlined above for the first group of parents.
But don’t try to Counsel and Train someone who hasn’t submitted first to the crosswork of Christ. It will be fruitless and aggravating.
Now, in conclusion, this episode has been long. I know, but there was so much to say.
But what makes it worse is that you can take the first steps to being an intentional, premeditated, Ambassador Parent all by yourself. But you can’t just start being a Disciple-Making Parent if your kids aren’t willing to be disciples.
However, you can stop making the wrong types of disciples, and you can continue growing in your own personal discipleship.
Now, after today we will have spoken through our tagline. We will have talked about how to be intentional, premeditated, Disciple-Making, Ambassador Parents. But our last four episodes of this series are going to answer how we can start being Teaching, Interpreting, Counseling, and Training Parents as well. Because that’s all part and parcel of being an Ambassador.
And you’re going to find some uncomfortable similarities between this discussion and our Counseling and Training topics. Those require participation from your child as well.
However, you need to be growing into the parent you need to be today so that when your kids are ready to submit tomorrow, you’re ready for them.
Please share this episode, and don’t miss our next one where we answer the question, “How Do You Become a Teaching Parent?”
I know this whole parenting thing is probably a lot more involved than you may have originally thought, but it’s truly and blessed and noble and necessary endeavor that you have been hand-picked by God to fulfill. And we want to equip you as best as we can.
So, to that end, I’ll see you next time.
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