Christians these days talk a lot about what we call “The Great Commission.” The last words of Jesus Christ before he ascended into heaven amount to a job description for we Christians on earth before He returns. The core of it involves the process of going and making disciples of all nations. This is a noble goal. This is a legitimate priority. I’ll step out on a limb here and say that Jesus was right.
The problem is that we’re awful at actually doing this. We know this is true. That’s why we talk about it so much. Christians talk the most about what they do the least. I suspect the problem lies not in programming or relevance or even intentions. Our churches today are the best ever. We have never been more culturally attuned. The amount of evangelistic books, messages, and movements has never been more prolific than today. Then why are we still so feeble at this chief goal of “making disciples?” I suggest it is because we haven’t even learned to do it with our own kids, whom we know better than anyone. How then, can we hope to transfer that process to other people?
The Beef Station
Only a quarter-mile down the road from our house in Marion, Indiana there was an old gas station which had been converted into the dank, dingy and somehow legendary “Beef Station.” The big red bull on the discolored plastic sign lured few newcomers to the place. Most that eat at The Beef Station are regulars. Truckers and farmers know where the good food is. They also know where there’s enough smoke and mustiness to keep away the Yuppies. The Beef Station was just such a destination. For two or three years after our momentous trip to Israel, Dad and I would go to breakfast once a week at this memorable eating establishment. Dad would get his black coffee and I would get my home fries with extra ketchup, and then it would happen.
It was these breakfasts that taught me how to be a Christian man, not just do the things a Christian does. It was then that I learned the principles of the New Testament. It was that day of the week that I collected countless napkin diagrams that simplified life’s spiritual principles with everyday “real” language. It was there that I first heard the inner confessions of a father that was beginning to treat me like a man, even a peer. It was those mornings in which I was first discipled. We even called this time our “discipleship meetings.” My father knew that being Dad on purpose is discipling your kids and is the priority of your week.
Dad discipled me the entire time I lived under his roof, but those intentional mornings together were the boot camp of my journey into spiritual maturity. Let’s examine ten principles of discipling our kids that I learned from my own discipleship years with my Dad:
- Making disciples out of our kids is important enough to schedule – If we have our weekly staff meeting in the day planner then this should be in there too. If we never miss coffee with the guys on Saturday morning or bowling on Thursday nights then we should never miss this one either. We talk a lot about our priorities, here’s a place to prove them.
- We can’t fill our kids up if we’re not full ourselves – It will be tough to think about investing spiritually in our kids if we are not spiritually vibrant ourselves. As our children come to discipling age (11-16 years old) we need to do everything in our power to have others invest in us and disciple us so that we can pass along that overflowing love and simple knowledge of God. And even those of us as Dads that don’t know the Lord want our kids to. So this is a good time for us to get right so that we can get our kids right. We know what to do; we might just need this motivation to start down the right path.
- There are only weak substitutes for actually spending time – this is not just quality time, it is quantity time. We shouldn’t squeeze these meetings in; we should schedule around them and look forward to them.
- One-on-one is the only way to go to show how important our kids are to us – this is no time to cop out by inviting other people to join us, or even to do it with the rest of the family. They will feel the importance of the time if it’s soul-to-soul, just Dad and the kid.
- By applying the Bible our kids will see its value for life – Living a biblical life is more caught than taught, and kids imitate the way their Dads use the Bible in their daily lives. These meetings are the prime time to make this happen. This doesn’t mean you have to learn to preach, in fact, it’s just the opposite: share the Bible with them on a very simple practical level.
- We are making them disciples of Jesus Christ, not of ourselves – Some of us might try to use these meetings to build up some shrine to our own spirituality and personality. We have not truly discipled our kids until they no longer think of us when they think of God. We must point them to the cross, not hang ourselves on it.
- Kids learn better through our humble efforts than our vain fakery – They see right through us when we try to fake things spiritually. If we instead try to open up and even express our insecurities spiritually, they may express their own fears and questions and hurts. Then we will be able to grow together with our children as we guide them.
- Being ourselves is the best way to help them be themselves – We cannot show them anything but who we are in God. It may not be a pretty thing, but it will impact them greatly just in the process. We shouldn’t focus on the content or level of our spiritual lives; we must focus on the process of our investment.
- Giving homework for both ourselves and our kids can help drive the following meeting – Simple and easy-to-complete things to do before the next meeting keeps the subject matter in the mind throughout the week as well as providing content for the next time we meet with our kids.
- Cover the tough issues as much as the easy ones – These meetings are the best time to cover the issues of sex, sin, hate, drugs, fear of death, the existence of God, racism, etc. How many of us have struggled to find the right time to bring these things up, or even worse, were ambushed with an issue when we were unprepared. We can let them know a week ahead of time that we’re discussing a tough issue, and then we have to make it happen.
Questions to Ask Yourself or a Group of Other Dads:
- What person has had the most significant influence on you spiritually?
- What are the ideal intentional things you hope to do to be a spiritual influence on your kids?
- What kind of date or meeting could you schedule with your kids to make these things happen?
- What is the ideal age to start this at in your opinion?
- What kind of resource or book would you use to go through with your kid? What ideas do other people have for resources?