The Mandate for Home-Based Disciple-Making

Taigen Joos

a family of four on a beach

The first God-ordained institution is the home. Adam and Eve formed the first marriage, and they subsequently had children. A man and woman getting married and having children is the pattern set for Christians still today. While unregenerate people follow this same pattern, Christians are able to follow it in a more significant way. By this I mean that we have the opportunity not only to bear children, but also to disciple our children towards a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

The general mandate which we call “The Great Commission” is given for all Christians to follow. Each of us are expected to do our part in making disciples of Jesus Christ. Within that greater mandate, God gives Christian parents the mandate to bring up our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph 6:4). Unbelievers cannot do this as they do not have Christ as their Savior, nor his Spirit to indwell and empower them. Christian parents are uniquely positioned to not only make, but also to mature disciples of Jesus Christ for the glory of God within the confines of their own homes. Our children are our primary—though not only—mission field.

While home-based disciple-making might be assumed to take place within a home, I am not always convinced that Christian parents are giving it the kind of attention that it demands and deserves. Christians are looking outside the family for people they can seek to win to Christ and disciple—and that is not a bad thing. However, if we do that to the neglect of our own children, that is problematic.

Christian parents are uniquely positioned, equipped, and mandated to strive to bring their children up to be God-glorifying, Spirit-controlled disciples of Jesus Christ. How can we do that?

Cultivate a God-honoring Marriage

A home consists of husband and wife before children come along. A man and wife make vows to one another that they will never make to their own children. Ephesians five and six gives more attention to the husband/wife relationship than it does the parent/child relationship. In that passage, a marriage is meant to be a visible illustration of Christ’s sacrificial love for his church, and the church’s loving and willing submission to Christ. In other words, marriage is a picture of the gospel.

One of the most powerful evangelistic tools a Christian married couple has is the example of their own marriage. Your marriage will be something that supports and points your children to the beauty of the gospel, or it will be something that paints for them an ugly picture of the gospel. The former will create more of a thirst for Christ; the latter may very well push your children away from receiving the gospel. Because of this, a husband and wife must cultivate a godly marriage in order to help lead your children to Christ.

Practice Family Worship

Family worship is different from corporate worship with your church family, and different from your private worship with God each day. Family worship is when the father leads his family to keep Christ and his Word central in their home. It may take on different formats and different schedules throughout the life of a family, but it will be done with some kind of regularity. Basic components of family worship include reading a small portion of Scripture and perhaps explaining it, singing, and praying. Whether all three components are practiced, or only one or two, this family worship does not need to be long, and in fact it is probably better if it is not long. But it is a constant reminder to your children that your home must be centered on Christ and his Word. 

Make the Local Church Important

Christian families are not meant to live their lives outside the safety of the local church. The church provides community, accountability, responsibility, ministry, and so much more. It is a place where the affections of your children’s hearts will be shaped, and where reverence for God will be taught. Your local church is the visible representation of the body of Christ, and you need it as much as it needs you. Your children need to understand that the local church is important to the family, and that the family ministers together to the rest of the body of Christ. Ephesians four emphasizes how it is within the context of the local church family that every part of the body does its part to grow itself towards Christlike maturity. Apart from the local church, discipling your children towards Christ cannot happen effectively—if at all.

Talk with Your Children

Deuteronomy six emphasizes how parents are to talk with their children about life and spiritual things in the regular context of daily life. Talk to your children about spiritual things, biblical truth, and issues that they are facing in their lives. Point their attention to what the Scriptures say and to how they can please God in each difficult situation of life. Ask probing questions about what they are thinking and going through. Create an environment within your home where they know it is safe to ask any question, no matter what the topic. Especially when they become teenagers, they need to know that asking mom and dad about something they see or hear will not be shunned or dismissed. We would rather have them ask us their difficult questions than to ask Google, or social media “friends.” 

Involve Children in Ministry

Children are great helpers. They are not to be viewed as our slaves, but rather as helpers to the overall ministry of the family. Ministry happens in the home first. Teach your children to be helpers within the home in a variety of ways. Ministry also happens at the church, too. Involve them in cleaning the church or helping with various ministries. Even from a young age, they are able, and often willing to help, especially when they see that mom and dad are both excited to serve as well.

Obviously, the goal for us as Christian parents is to see our children receive Christ, grow in spiritual maturity, and serve God with all their hearts for the rest of their lives. While not every child of Christian parents will do that, by God’s grace many will. Parents, do not neglect the prime area of making disciples. Pray for your children. Model the gospel through your marriage relationship. Lead your children to honor God in the church context. Talk frequently with your children. And involve them in ministry with you. By God’s grace, as we seek to obey our mandate to disciple our children, our children will obey their mandate to receive Christ and serve him in truth with all their heart.

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