Raise Disciples, Not Dependents

March 02, 2018


The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
by D.A. and Elicia Horton

If we are Christ followers, we’re not raising mere dependents—we’re raising up disciples! Our children will do what we say for only a little while; soon they will begin doing what we do. Their eyes are watching what we do, their ears are listening to the tone we use in our conversations, and their mouths repeat what we say. Watch what you say because if you don’t, you’ll watch your children say it for you!
Since we have such a great impact on our children, it’s safe to say we’re already disciplining them indirectly with our actions. The statement “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” is often used to describe how kids act, look, and talk like their parents. Much of this shaping doesn’t happen intentionally, yet look how much they resemble us! Its eerie for me to hear our kids talk about having the same fears we had at their age—information we’ve never shared with them.

Now imagine how much we could influence our children if we intentionally instruct them according to God’s Word! What we’re calling for is more gospel-saturated discipleship between us as parents and the children we’re raising. After all, if it’s in God’s will, our children will grow up and get married as well. If we set their life’s rhythm to the pace of God’s Word, we’re creating a higher probability that they’ll be more emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually prepared for their marriages than we were. That’s a goal to work toward—reorienting our perspectives to view our children as disciples and not just dependents!
The same ingredients for discipleship—Scripture reading and memorization, prayer, and fellowship with other saints—that we’ve discussed for Christian spouses should be present in the relationships with our children. When we include our children in our study of God’s Word, we’re proactively shaping their worldview and theological understanding. This means we’re beating the world to the punch! In our family, we chose to make the necessary sacrifices to homeschool our children. But we know that not every family is called to homeschool. Neither one of us was ever homeschooled growing up, but we’ve tried public and private schools in addition to homeschooling and found that the latter works best for our family.
I will be honest and say that 30 to 40 percent of our instruction time is spent delivering the coursework and material. The remaining 60 to 70 percent involves dealing with each child’s heart issue. We take Deuteronomy 6:4-9 seriously, communicating God’s Word to our children throughout the day. We share a conviction to see our children not only leave the nest but also be launched into the world as missionaries with a passion to reduce the lostness around them and help create disciples. We want them to view each gift God gives them as a tool for the mission. We tell them to consider their education advancements, future careers, marriages, and family expansions through the lens of their calling to share the gospel and make disciples.

Our children need the gospel daily just as much as we do. If our children are not believers in Christ, they should be our top evangelistic prospects. If they are believers, they need the gospel to remind them of God’s love for them when they sin, disappoint us, and are disciplined by us.
We will be less likely to drive our children into the false idea of performing for God’s love, and our love, if we practice Ephesians 6:4, which says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” We can provoke our children to anger in many ways: when we withhold clear communication from them, when we say they’re just like the parent we badmouth regularly, when we demand perfection from them at all times, when we pit siblings against one another (meaning we praise one or two regularly while degrading another), and when we consistently break promises. But we’re human! We must learn to walk in humility before our children, admitting our mistakes; asking them to forgive us when we’ve hurt, offended, or sinned against them; and modeling for them what it looks like to walk in repentance.

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