Make disciples – How to disciple spiritual children

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Make disciplesMake disciples – Biblical discipleship patterned after natural child rearing

Make disciples, easy right? Yeah, about as easy as raising children. As a young father and up to the time when our two sons left home to go to Seminary, I never considered myself a very good father.  I always loved our sons but I constantly felt like I was far behind the curve as a good father.  I always felt like my parents did a good job raising me but when our boys were much younger I regularly wondered how they were able to raise my sister and me.  I had a happy childhood.  My parents regularly disciplined me but I never felt frustrated by them.  I never felt any lack of love or attention or support from them.  However, when I became a father, I never felt like I measured up to my parents in child rearing.  I made plenty of mistakes in disciplining our two sons.  I was not always consistent and felt like it was obvious to them that I was a weak father figure.

After they became teenagers I began to notice that friends and relatives would make comments about how well behaved and disciplined our boys were.  At first, I was convinced that these comments were just polite ways of expressing love toward our family, but after a while, I began to be convinced that the compliments were truly sincere.  Then in August of 2009 when the two of them moved to central Brazil to attend a two-year pastoral leadership course, I began to discover that I did an O.K. job as a father after all.  At the same time it dawned on me that spiritual leaders make disciples in a similar manner.

Hold on! I will explain about how to make disciples! But first I must continue about raising kids.  Every two months I would travel to Brasilia for pastoral meetings and I would get a ride to Goiânia to spend a couple of days with the boys.  I met scores of people who just fell in love with them.  It was almost embarrassing.  Apparently, they would spend a lot of time bragging about how my wife and I were good parents.  I cannot begin to remember how many brothers and sisters, adults and teenagers as well as pastors would take my hand and congratulate me for the excellent young men that our sons had become.  I doubt that there is a greater pleasure in life than receiving compliments for the way we raise our children.  I know that pride is a sin but I also have experienced what the Apostle Paul must have felt when he referred to his converts and disciples as his crown.

Now the reason I share this is that it taught me something about how to raise children and how to make disciples.  The Great Commission is about teaching how to obey the commands of Christ, not about teaching what the commands are or how to understand them.  The purpose of child rearing is to prepare our children to be parents and eventually to raise their own children.  We do not raise children to make them family therapists.  Think how ridiculous it would be to send our children to school to learn how to live in general.  Public education is about reading, writing, arithmetic and the sciences.  Traditionally the goal of education has been to teach children how to think, not how to live.  We do not send children to school to potty train them, or to learn how to brush their teeth faithfully after each meal, or how to use a fork and spoon.  Children learn to walk, talk, have good manners (or unlearn bad manners) in the home, all of these things are the parent’s responsibility to pass on to their children.

In the same way, we make disciples by teaching young Christians how to live before God and before men.  We make disciples by teaching new Christians how to walk by faith, how to pray and how to read and meditate on the Word of God all within the context of a spiritual family .  Disciples learn how to be faithful and responsible members of a local church, how to be a good husband or wife, how to raise children, how to preach the Gospel, how to cast out demons, and how to pray for the sick.  We do not learn these things in a classroom.  These are not subjects for Sunday school curriculum.

We learn all of the things I mentioned through a model, an example, a spiritual father figure.  My father never gave me child-raising classes.  Actually, he never gave me any type of classroom instruction.  My father, like all fathers who maintain a physical presence in the family was a role model.  He lived, worked, played, rested, got up early to study the Word, put our home in order and molded my character simply by being an example.  I suppose he was just doing what his parents did with him.  In the same way, I did the same things with my sons that my father did with me.

After I left home, I became an early riser just like my father.  It has been over 30 years since I left my parent’s home but my wife can attest to the fact that I am just like my father.  Twenty years under his roof set me up for life, and the same is true of my sons.  I imagine that they will reflect even more of my influence when they marry and begin their own families.

The implications of principles that I have just shared through my experience has helped me to see that discipleship, knowing how to make disciples and fathering spiritual children is not attained by taking a course on how to disciple or how to make disciples of Christ.  The main requirement for success in this endeavor is simple to have been raised by a spiritual father figure.  In the spiritual realm we learn by imitation just as we do in the material realm. The focus should not be so much on a technique or system as much as the history and identity of the person who accepts the challenge to make disciples.




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