The work of parenting is tough. The labor is long and the discouragement is constant, but the joys of parenting outweigh all of it. I’m certain that all parents experience joys in their relationship with their children, but as a Christian parent we approach the work of parenting through a different lens. Being a parent is far more than building relationships with our children. It is the duty of Christian parents to go beyond building your child’s athletic resume or teaching your child a trade. We have a much larger task and responsibility. Parenting is the work of discipleship.
Parenting is the Task of Making Disciples
Jesus’ Great Commission to His followers involved going and making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Before going to the nations, they were to begin that work in Jerusalem. We see them engaging unbelievers with the gospel at Pentecost in Acts 2. From there, they would then go beyond the borders of Jerusalem eventually spreading the gospel to the entire world.
Before we go beyond the borders of our own homes to share the gospel with neighbors, co-workers, extended family, friends, and even short term mission trips overseas—we must begin the work of making disciples in our own home with our own children. Making disciples is the commission, but how is that accomplished? It’s certainly more than getting decisions. It’s far more than having someone repeat a prayer. It’s much more involved than walking through a gospel tract one time and calling for a child to follow Christ by faith. Making a disciple is a hard task because it’s an impossible task.
Paul was sent out by God to open blind eyes (Acts 26:18). That’s an impossible task—something only God is capable of doing. However, Paul was sent to preach the gospel and convince sinners of their need of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone. It would be through that labor that God would perform the miracle of conversion in the hearts of rebel sinners. The same thing is true regarding parenting. We have the responsibility of disciple-making, but only God has the power to open the blind eyes of our children and bring them to faith in Jesus.
The greatest opportunities that Christian parents will have with their children will be during the early days when their children live in their home. Once they leave home, the influence and opportunity of the parent drastically decreases. Maximize your opportunities for disciple making by implementing family worship time where you read through the Bible and pray together on a regular basis. Make the gospel a higher priority in your home than sports.
Parenting is the Task of Discipling Disciples
After a person is converted, the work of discipleship intensifies. Going beyond making a disciple to discipling a disciple is hard work. This is the business of the church, and it’s likewise the business of the Christian home. Jonathan Edwards was one of the great pillars and voices of the Great Awakening in American history. Yet, he was fired from his church for his position on the Lord’s Supper as he took a more biblical and conservative position than his grandfather—the former pastor. In his farewell sermon, Edwards pointed to the home as central for discipleship. He said:
We have had great disputes how the church ought to be regulated; and indeed the subject of these disputes was of great importance: but the due regulation of your families is of no less, and, in some respects, of much greater importance. Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church, consecrated to Christ, and wholly influenced and governed by his rules. And family education and order are some of the chief means of grace. If these fail, all other means are likely to prove in effectual. If these are duly maintained, all the means of grace will be likely to prosper and be successful. 
If your children were interviewed and asked what the greatest priority is in your home, how would they answer? Would it be sports? Would it be recreation? Would it be something other than the gospel of Jesus? Once again, we must be reminded that faithful discipleship goes far beyond the realm of getting decisions. If your children are disciples of Jesus, help them learn. A disciple is a learner, and your children need to learn more about God on a daily basis. Parents need to learn too, so the work of discipleship allows for parents to learn and teach—and this ebb and flow of gospel-centered learning is key to discipling disciples.
As a Christian father who is working to make disciples and disciple disciples in my home—I consistently face challenges of time management. When do we do our catechism questions during a busy baseball season? When life is crazy busy and you add sports commitments on top of that—things can get out of balance in a hurry. It’s essential to minimize the schedule when possible in order to make the gospel shine in the home in a far brighter way than the other things of this world.
One reminder that all Christian parents should revisit on a regular basis is the idea that parenting is not easy—especially if you take the responsibility seriously. Discipling disciples is the work of shaping worldviews, challenging false ideologies, redirecting passions, rebuking sin, encouraging sinners, and leading children to the throne of grace for help and strength. Paul Tripp writes, “You are parenting a worshiper, so it’s important to remember that what rules your child’s heart will control his behavior.”  Remember, what your children see on your television, listen to on your Wi-Fi, and view on YouTube in your home matters. It’s shaping their heart. It’s ultimately your duty to shepherd the heart of your children, so think earnestly about how you’re overseeing and parenting your children in these areas. Freedom to use the Internet is not a right in your home—it’s a privilege.
Perhaps you need to take a season off from sports. Has it become an idol in your heart? Are you fearful of your child not getting that coveted scholarship? If you disciple your child to love athletics more than God, that’s not proper discipleship. This could be said for a variety of other commitments—including academics, business trades, and video games. Depending on the ages of your children, there will be different challenges to face in the work of discipleship. I’m still learning to balance things as I seek to become a better parent each day—I hope you will take your calling seriously.
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 — Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (ESV)
For further help and reading:
- A Baptist Catechism — Adapted by John Piper
- Parenting — by: Paul Tripp
- Family Worship — by: Donald Whitney
- Shepherding a Child’s Heart — by: Tedd Tripp
- Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. I, p. ccvi.
- Paul Tripp, Parenting, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), principle heading for chapter 11 titled, “False Gods.”
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