PARTNER TOGETHER TO GROW GODLY GENERATIONS (2/22 message notes)
Josh McDowell in his book, The Last Christian Generation (p.60) says, “Parents carry more weight – for good or bad – than they give themselves credit for. How a child thinks and acts is still molded by his or her home life, which means the crumbling foundations of the faith among this generation is as much a parental problem as a church problem, if not more so. If we’re going to reclaim the next generation, then the home and the church must join forces together like never before.”
Teach your child to obey/worship (Eph 6:1-3).
Paul directly addresses children in the Ephesians letter. The presence of children in the congregations where the letter is to be read can be taken for granted. The command is for children to obey parents. This command is repeated either directly or indirectly at least 11X (Exodus 20:12; Deuteronomy 5:16, 22:7; Matthew 15:4, 19:19; Mark 7:10, 10:19; Luke 18:20; Ephesians 6:1-2; Colossians 3:20; 1 Timothy 5:3-8). This is an insurmountable principle hammered throughout the Scriptures and cannot be overlooked. Children honor their parents by obeying them.
The language of obedience is active and ongoing, υπακουετε meaning to listen under, to submit and heed authority. In other words, the command is to keep on obeying your parents. Obedience and honoring one’s parents does not stop at a certain age. However, this does not negate individuals becoming mature, fully independent and responsible adults.
In the Bible, obedience is closely related to the idea of worship; they are almost synonymous. Obedience is to be from the heart, with a desire to please the person. How does all of this relate to parent partnerships to grow godly generations? How can we teach children to obey and worship?
1. By nature, children are worshipers; we all are. They either worship Jesus or they worship an idol or false god; neutrality is not an option. Worshiping anything other than God is a sin and violation of the first and second commandments. For parents, one of the first assignments is to bring out this reality of right and wrong. We cannot obey God in ourselves. That is why we need a Savior. Parents can shepherd their child’s heart by pointing them to this reality. And part of this process is discipline and correction.
Proverbs 22:15 “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.”
Much can be said about disciplining a child. I recommend the excellent book by Tedd Tripp, “Shepherding A Child’s Heart”. Its counsel and advice is biblical and God-centered rather than the plethora of worldly goals and techniques offered on parenting today. Any Christian parent should make it their #1 book to read apart from the Bible on parenting.
The point I wish to make is discipline must first start at home. You will notice through the book of Ephesians, 2 main institutions: the home and the church. It is the parents who are commanded with the responsibility to teach children obedience and proper worship. It is not the role of any corporate/social organization (church, school, day care, etc.) to discipline your child. In fact, it is that much more difficult if for such organization to accomplish its mission if home discipline has been negligent.
Correction teaches the reality of consequences. It communicates that obedience is an essential character trait to learn and apply throughout all of life. Even adults must obey authorities, laws and yes even honor parents! Ultimately, correction prepares children for that day when eternal destinies will be fixed. Will your child be ready for this day by the way you have disciplined and corrected your child. To remember, and perhaps most importantly, discipline is a heart issue not behavior modification. You must lovingly point your child to the reality they are a sinner in desperate need of God’s forgiveness and grace in Jesus Christ.
2. Parents can teach children to obey by loving what is good. Worshiping Jesus is the greatest and highest action any person can do. Parents model this through faithful, consistent participation in the corporate worship of God in a local church.
Psalm 84:1-2, 10 “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God… Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Priorities and repeated behaviors communicate to children what parents value. If you did something 884 times the cumulative message is that “this matters”! Well, that is how many opportunities you have to take your child to Sunday worship until they are age 17. Parents may raise objections to say it is not reasonable because of hectic schedules families face. While there may be some truth, I want to offer some helpful tips for making Sunday worship a priority.
– Discipline your Saturday nights. Get a good night sleep, have clothes picked out, and other items ready to help the morning time contain less stress and conflict. Help your child anticipate and see the worship service as a special.
– Prepare your Sunday mornings. Eat a good breakfast, turn off the t.v. and prepare your heart to corporately worship God. Pray with your family, read Scripture together, listen to praise music.
– Unite your family. This involves sitting together with your children. Try sitting up close where children can see what is taking place in the service. Don’t be afraid to explain what is going on. Help them participate in the worship service by discussing what will take place as you look in the bulletin. Bring a special notebook/crayons/pens, etc. for children to “take notes.” Tell them to write/draw things they enjoy in the service or write questions. Make a list of items for them to draw or words for them to listen for in the music and sermon. Model the process of taking notes and have them watch what you are writing and doing during the service. Remember, you are the living example!
– Summarize your Sunday. Praise and encourage your children when they have worshiped well on Sunday morning. Ask your children what they learned. Move beyond “yes” and “no” questions to seize the opportunity in teaching and nurturing your child. Be creative and do a project that was based on the sermon. Make use of the new Sunday School curriculum pages that are being sent home to enhance discussion during the week.
– Pray for/with your family. It is no coincidence that Paul discusses spiritual warfare following his instructions concerning family relationships in Ephesians 5-6. A battle is being waged against your family and the greatest weapon your family has is prayer. Pray for/with your family- even beyond the family meal.
– Remember your calling. Training a child to love God and enjoy corporate worship is not easy; it’s counter culture. It will take significant time and effort to shepherd your child’s heart over the course of his or her life. The key is to remember your calling before God and trust God for the results. The benefits you will receive far outweigh the challenges you will face in knowing you are investing in the next generation to know and serve the Lord.
– Cultivate your friendships. Make opportunities for your child to talk with the worship leaders and pastors. Invite them to your home or out to eat so that they will feel that the worship leaders and pastors are approachable and friendly.
– Recommended Resource: Parenting in the Pew: Guiding Your Children into the Joy of Worship by Robbie Castleman. See Pastor Dave for study guide to coincide with book.
Teach your child to feed/grow (discipleship) (Eph 6:4)
Paul also commands parents, specifically fathers, to bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Again, the language of the command is continuous (εκτρεφετε) to imply keep on feeding and training your child. It is the same word used in verse 29 of caring for your own body. The goal is for fathers to take an active role in maturing your children to spiritual growth.
I want to make a couple observations on this point and then share some other unique perspectives with you.
– Discipleship starts early.
I cannot emphasize enough the need to expose your child to spiritual truth during their earliest years. George Barna says that a child’s moral, spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional and relational foundations of people’s lives are determined primarily before age 13.
– Discipleship takes intentionality.
Your child will not know or understand spiritual truth by default. In fact the opposite will happen, and perhaps disastrous consequences may occur. As parents, you must set some goals for your child’s spiritual growth. You must also understand how to accomplish such goals. I believe in this area our expectations are too low. We need to be challenged to raise the expectations for our children and as we do I believe our children will rise to the occasion.
– Discipleship happens relationally.
When Jesus wanted to make disciples he called people to “be with” him (Mark 3:14). This is where the partnership with other parents and the church fits in as well. By the family and the church relationally walking alongside each other we can set our sights on raising spiritual champions for Christ and growing godly generations.
Andy Stanley says that we are making our children experience rich but relationally poor. We give our children experiences in school, sports, competition, trips and travel but we cannot forget that our children long to just be with us.
There is one perfect person that we can partner together in our parenting and raising up the next generation. That is the Heavenly Father. God does not want you to do this alone. He wants you to be in relationship with him. Are you in relationship with God? Have you committed your family to journey on the foundation of God and his Word?
TAKING IT HOME
– What makes it difficult to reach today’s generation, the Millenials?
– Why does obedience have a negative connotation?
– What can you do to show that joy is a byproduct of obedience?
– Of the 8 helpful tips to prepare your family for Sunday worship, which are the most challenging? Easy?
– Of the 3 observations concerning child discipleship, what stands out to you and why?
– What parenting goals will you begin to establish for your children? How will you implement them?
– What are some ways your family can partner with others through the church to raise godly generations? (The Mattox’s spoke of a few… get the recording!)
 The Expositors Bible Commentary, Ephesians 6:1.
 Again, I refer to Tedd Tripp in Shepherding a Child’s Heart, especially pp. 103-117. Also, Russell Moore’s article, The Eschatology of Parenting found at http://www.russellmoore.com/index.php/2008/12/10/the-eschatology-of-parenting/
 Transforming Children into Spiritual Champion, 2003.
 Parental Guidance Required, DVD.