January 20th, 2010 by Kristi Stephens
Today for Fresh Year, Fresh Start, I’d like to piggy back on what Teri Lynne and Kelly shared on Monday – namely that our main job as parents is to teach our kids to be disciples.
If you haven’t read my posts about Radical Discipleship and Packing for Ephesus, they are in the forefront of my mind as I write this post.
As I shared in radical discipleship, learning about the first century followers of Jesus’ understanding of what discipleship meant really impacted how I view our jobs as parents. To be a “disciple” of a rabbi in the 1st century meant that:
1. They frequently would have had the entire Old Testament memorized word-for-word
2. In addition, they memorized all of the rabbi’s teachings (word for word!)
3. They would have been able to explain and defend all of the rabbi’s intepretations of the torah
4. They didn’t just want to know what the rabbi knew, they sought to actually learn to behave just like their rabbi. They often spent 24 hours a day with him.
5. When the rabbi saw they were ready, they would then go and make other disciples themselves
In Packing for Ephesus, we discussed the fact that because of Timothy being half-greek, he would not have been allowed to attend Torah school. Paul, however, points out that Timothy had been taught the Scriptures from infancy – his mother and grandmother intentionally and skillfully had passed on their faith and knowledge of the Scriptures. They had done a fine job, apparently – for Paul (who had studied under Gamaliel and was a rabbi) called Timothy to be his disciple. After a few years of on-the-job training and discipleship, Paul had such confidence in Timothy (who remember was most likely not yet 20 years old!) that he left him to pastor the young and vulnerable church in the incredibly pagan city of Ephesus.
One of my favorite things about this story is this:
Scholars say that in less than 100 years, Ephesus was 90% Christian. Partly because of a gangly teenager, an outcast from his culture, who was taught God’s Word from infancy, discipled well in adolescence, and equipped and sent to serve.
These two women, who were just doing their non-glamorous jobs of running a household and raising this child, impacted thousands of people through the legacy they left. Their faithfulness to teach Timothy from infancy about the Word and ways of God impacted the world in ways they never could have dreamed of. They prepared him well, enabling him to be ready to learn under Paul’s tutelage, and ultimately become a disciple of Jesus himself.
So today, I’d like to think about ways to raise our children as modern-day “Timothies.”
First things first
… As Kelly
emphasized in her post,
much of our children’s training comes from watching us
. Just how dedicated are we to becoming true disciples of Jesus? How passionate are we about knowing, memorizing, meditating on God’s Word? Are we spending the time it takes to not just know the Rabbi’s words, but to actually learn to live just like Him?
Are we modeling for our kids that discipleship is not a part-time job that we fit in amongst the other necessities of life… that it is completely and utterly all-consuming?
Now, some practical thoughts:
1. As I think about raising my children as a process of discipleship, and then look at that list of what a “disciple” really is… I am convinced that memorizing Scripture is a key component. We’re talking about beyond AWANA verses right now – I mean memorizing whole chapters and books of the Bible together.
When you memorize large portions of Scripture with a child, working on it together gives you constant opportunity to explain the text and tie it to other portions of the Bible they know. When you work on it “when you rise up, when you sit down, when you walk along the road,” you can naturally teach them how that passage applies to their life. It becomes part of their training. You are teaching them to know it, meditate on it, and live accordingly.
If doing this seems intimidating or impossible to you, this post
might give you some practical “how to” ideas.
2. The way God sets up life for His people in the Old Testament really gives us some insight on how to raise up the next generation. As we have already referenced, they were to teach their children constantly. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9) In addition, the feasts and festivals that were fixed in the Hebrew calendar were cyclical teaching times. Multiple times a year your family would leave wherever in Israel they lived and journey on foot all the way to Jerusalem – just to be near the presence of the Lord and worship corporately with the rest of Israel. You didn’t just hear a story about God rescuing them from Egypt – you killed a lamb and ate bread without yeast and reenacted, in a way, the events of that night… and you taught your children as you did it.
Every year, we have opportunities built-in to our calendars to teach and train our children. Whether we’re talking about Christmas and Easter, or whether you are considering incorporating Passover and other Jewish feasts into your family celebrations, we have a Biblical precedent to make these annual times more than a tradition.
I think we need to capitalize on these times – they are “teachable moments” that hallmark has already marked on our calendars for us… now we just need to make them meaningful! We’re learning more about how to do this as we go and I share my thoughts in my “holiday reflections
” posts- I’d love to hear from you more about how your family does this.
3. The “faith community” was central to raising children. In the first century, people in Galilee went to their synagogues daily to hear the Word of God read and discussed aloud. They lived in close quarters. They journeyed to Jerusalem for the feasts together.
Being part of a healthy and Biblically sound church is a huge gift we give to our kids. More than just being present on Sundays or attending special programs, being part of the life of the body is so important. I know in my own walk with Christ, the vast amount of time that my family spent with our church family left lasting marks on my life. I saw people of all different backgrounds and personalities who all had different testimonies to share… with the common theme of God’s grace and His power to redeem the darkest spots in our lives.
I know that for those of you with young kids being committed to your church can be hard. Your kids need naps, they get thrown off their schedules, it’s hard to find time for things like small groups or extra Bible studies. But you need it. And they need it. They need to see you connecting, serving, learning. They need to interact with other adult believers who have walked a different road and ended at the same destination. We need to embrace and pass on the fact that we cannot be the “body” of Christ off on our own.
We’ve had some hard and horrible Mondays at our house when our little ones were all thrown off their schedules from church the day before… but it’s worth it.
4. On the flipside, it is not enough to leave our children’s spiritual education as the responsibility of the church, or even a Christian school
. If we choose to do this, we have failed to connect “spiritual knowledge” to everyday life. We have reinforced the idea that the Bible is nice to know, but doesn’t really impact your life all that much. If you want to read some scary statistics about the pattern in the church of doing this, check this out
Remember, discipleship was a 24-hour a day commitment. It was more than knowing what the rabbi knew… it was becoming so immersed in his life that you learned to behave and live just like the rabbi. True discipleship is consuming. From when we rise up, to when we’re walking (or driving!) along the road, to when we lie down at night, we need to be constantly teaching our kids to KNOW God’s Word and LIVE accordingly.
I’m sure there are more points I could list here, but it really boils down to the fact that we as parents need to be radically committed to knowing and obeying God’s Word – to living just like the rabbi. Paul affectionately speaks to Timothy as a son and notes, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)
Lord, teach us to follow wholeheartedly after you. To truly be your disciples ourselves. May we be able to say to our children, ‘follow me, as I follow Christ.’ May our children be modern-day Timothies who will turn their world upside down in your name.
To learn more about “Fresh Year, Fresh Start” or to catch up on posts you may have missed, please click here
. Don’t forget to come back on Friday and link up your posts about starting fresh in your parenting in 2010… remember there’s a blog makeover from Jo-Lynne (@dcrmom) of DCR Design
up for grabs!
This post is linked up to Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family!