Recently, I received a precious note from a mom. I have been preaching on the subject of evangelism lately noting that ALL of God’s people are, by design, proclaimers of the gospel. In fact, I have been encouraging the church I lead to embrace a challenge to identify one person (#MyOne) and share the gospel with them using the “3 Circles” Conversation Guide. Sharing the gospel is more than a statement or conversation about Jesus; which necessarily makes it more than a Christian greeting (God bless you) or a Christian truth (Jesus loves you) but that it connects the brokenness of man with God’s redemptive story and points to the restoration that is possible when we repent and believe the gospel.
This mom shared the challenge of this. In essence, she wanted to know how her sharing with her children fit into this challenge. It is a GREAT QUESTION and, with her permission, I wanted to pass along some of my response because I imagine there are others who are in a similar situation. So, “does sharing the gospel with my children, who have my nearly complete attention every day, fulfill the great commission mandate?”
In short, my answer is Yes, this is the Great Commission, but, ALONE, it is incomplete. This mom is intentional about consistently connecting the gospel to her kids’ lives. This is the premier method of discipleship. In fact, I don’t know of any better outworking of Deuteronomy 6 than what this mom described.
At the same time, Jesus expressed a “going” aspect of the gospel enterprise. He called us to make disciples as we go (Matt 28:19) and to go and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15).
These truths are not opposed to but complimentary of one another. We are to constantly rehearse, train and teach the gospel to those who are redeemed and exist within our circles of influence while at the same time, expanding the scope of our circle by building bridges to new people. Here is my response to this mom, in part:
My hope, and I think the biblical admonition, with the #MyOne promotion is to treat honestly the intent of the Lord in evangelizing. Jesus did this in every conversation. Sometimes more overt in some than others…but He always pointed to God’s redemption and man’s required response. The other NT writers did as well. I can hardly think of a teaching in the NT that is not focused on evangelizing or on living out the Gospel. They are never really separated from each other.
If we are to treat the Scriptures with honesty, we must also see that there is a “going” aspect of the gospel enterprise as well. It is never the intent that we would simply work within our “constant” circles of influence; rather, that we would be continually building bridges to reach new people INTENTIONALLY seeking to see how the Lord is working in those relationships so that we can join Him in His gospel work. Just as with your child, God loves our neighbors and desires their redemption even more than we do. He has, in these cases, commissioned us as instruments of redemption both in telling and applying the gospel in the lives of others.
So, reach your child and your neighbor. Praise God for that. Encourage other moms with the Gospel. Praise God for that. AND…intentionally grab that wife who is a HOT MESS and have her and her rowdy kid over for a play date…and get to know her and her crazy world. Then, prayerfully, build a gospel bridge. Then do it again!
There isn’t enough time to do it all, but we must continually press the limits of the circle outward…for Jesus’ sake.
So, what do you think? Can you relate to this mom? What would you add to what I shared?
I was blessed this morning in my morning Scripture reading as I began the Gospel of Luke (after many, many months in the Old Testament Prophets). In the first chapter I was struck afresh by an observation from a passage in the Gospel of Luke.
In Luke 1:13-16, the angel Gabriel announces to Zacharias the priest that he will have a son in response to his prayers and according to the purpose of God (See Galatians 4:4-5 for a little perspective on God’s timing and purpose). These are the “broad strokes” of the announcement:
- Your wife (against all odds and outside of what is expected to be physically possible Lk 1:18) will bear you a son.
- You will give him the name John
- Many people will rejoice at his birth
- He will be great in the sight of the Lord
- He will be consecrated to God by solemn vow (drink no wine)
- He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
- He will turn many of the sons of Israel back to God!
- He has been chosen by God to be the forerunner to the Messiah.
I was struck by how this “father” must have valued the announcement of his son’s future life. Nothing was said of John’s success in business, academic achievement or how many trophies he would receive playing sports. Noting was spoken about his prom date or the beauty of the woman he would marry. These are things we tend to value, but they are (I suggest) not the most significant. John’s existence had everything to do with his relationship to the Messiah and his usefulness to the purpose of God as the forerunner of the Christ.
Here is the value question: If God announced to you that your child will be a great missionary and live in obscurity; or, your child will be greatly misunderstood and vehemently opposed by many because of His religious faith; or, your son will be a preacher whose stance on truth will cost him his life…do WE value the purpose of God in that announcement the same as we do the promise of academic, athletic, or business success? Are we as “stoked” about our child sharing his faith as we are his receiving a $1,000 scholarship for a high school essay?
Ultimately, the answer speaks more about our heart and our values and our view of God’s sovereign calling…than it does about anything our child achieves or has assigned.
Perhaps we should seek the answer from the One who looks deeply into our souls. Perhaps in so doing, we will recognize error in our values…or maybe we will be affirmed in them! There is no greater place to be than in the midst of the will of God. To this end, we should pray, and yield, and seek, and long.
Is Faith “Taught or Caught?” The Answer is YES! In this article in the Huffington Post, which may or may not be on your daily culture reading list, we find the conclusions drawn from a recent survey on the factors that most effectively contribute to faith practices in young adults. In short…parents who communicate and demonstrate the importance of faith in THEIR LIVES through their PROCLAMATION and their ACTIONS transmit the importance of faith to their children/teens…and it “sticks” through their young adult years when most studies claim that most people fall away from their faith.
“…sociologists Christopher Bader and Scott Desmond found that children of parents who believe that religion is very important and display their commitment by attending services are most likely to transmit religiosity to their children.“
Of course it is anecdotal on my part, but I believe that my faith was directly communicated by my parents…both good and bad. I came to faith in Christ at a church service when my dad AND mom took me to church (age 9). When “mean people” in that church acted judgmentally toward my dad (age 10 for me), we stopped attending. I did not see the inside of another church until around age 14 or so. Then, dad took us to another church where he was committed and served and invited me to serve alongside him (as a Junior Usher no doubt). I even began wearing a slick little sport coat to church and everything.
In fact, dad taught me my early beliefs about “giving an offering” at church in those early days. I still remember the message he taught me (which was biblically wrong then and he would reject himself today). Later in my late 20s and 30s as I felt the calling to ministry and began to preach, Dad again shaped my faith. He went with me on most occasions that I preached in other churches. [This deserved the big award…since those were horrible sermons…but he went and offered great encouragement. He even called around to help me schedule additional opportunities.]
The point is, I learned much about the importance of faith through what my dad said and did. Honestly, I learned much of the substance of theology, hermeneutics, homiletics, apologetics, etc. from my pastor, Bible college, and Seminary…but my “heart” for “faith” was first transmitted to me by my dad. Many of the early anchor points (good and bad) were transmitted to me by my dad.
So, as a pastor and dad myself now, it often grieves me when I see moms and dads transmitting dangerous faith lessons to their kids: when they prioritize travel ball over church, or cheer practice over student ministry, or fishing over soul winning. I am grieved when they teach their kids to hold loosely to community allegiance by changing churches so that their kids can experience the latest “cool” thing in ministry (insert your flashiest new outreach or ministry program here). I am grieved when faith is rarely discussed in the home or when opportunities to demonstrate reliance on God are passed up in times of major decisions or planning.
In closing let me offer one last tidbit: moms and dads, you communicate more about the importance of depending on God when you speak of and live dependently. Actually PRAY before major decisions. Actually plan vacations around church events. Actually be “caught” reading your Bible and serving in your church. If you do or do not…you’ll be amazed at how your faith shapes the faith of your children throughout their lives.
NOTE: I spoke of my dad throughout this article. In no way am I diminishing my mom’s contribution. She was a woman of faith. She was there throughout the journey. I simply watched and emulated my dad more. I believe part of that is the fact that, well you know, I am a guy. The other part relates to the biblical reality that dads have amazing and God-ordained leadership roles in the lives of their children. Single moms have it tough. Married moms with husbands who are disinterested in practicing their faith have it TOUGHER since mom now has to counteract the influence of the father and attempt to win her children to a strong faith position even though her husband is ACTIVELY leading the children to another faith position, though not faith in God. THANK GOD my mom did not have to overcome my dad’s influence…and THANK GOD she too was influenced by it and communicated a consistent message to her children.