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Blindfolded. That’s how it can feel when parents disciple their children, but not discipling them is the most damaging thing a parent can do.

It was my junior year in high school, and we were playing the second best soccer team in the state, second only to our team. The stands would have been packed on a normal Friday night; this night, only a few people braved the torrential downpour. The field was drenched which meant you could not trust how the ball would bounce.

Five minutes remained on the clock, and we were down 1-0 when they kicked the ball into our team’s box.

Our best defenseman was underneath the ball to head it, and our goalie was right behind our defenseman for back up. No threat of a goal at all because everyone thought the ball would be cleared.

Well…GOAL.

Our defenseman let the ball fly over his head thinking the goalie would collect it, and our goalie assumed the defenseman would head the ball out. Both were wrong. 2-0.

We ended up losing the game 2-1, but we didn’t lose because they were better than us (beating them in the state championship later that year proved that). We lost because we failed to communicate. Miscommunication cost us the game. 

Even though this miscommunication cost my team a soccer game, there is a miscommunication that is costing us much, much more. It’s not the miscommunication that parents have when one thinks the other is picking up their child and causes the child to wait alone outside the school. It’s not even between two people. It is between the most underappreciated and the only hope of the world: parents and the Church.

The Shocking Problem…

The Huffington Post (a secular American news and opinion website and blog) did a recent study of young adults between the ages of 24 and 29. In this study, the Huffington Post wanted to see if the young adults were involved and serving in their local church and correlated that with the involvement of their parents while they were between the ages of 15 and 17. The results were shocking. 

If their parents were active in talking to them about faith outside the church and were active in their congregations then 82% of those young adults surveyed were currently active in their local church. If a young adult had parents that were not active in their church and did not talk about their faith then that number dropped to 1%. Ninety-nine percent of young adults that did not have parents that were active in discipling them were not currently active in their local church. Let that sink in for a second…if 100 young adults surveyed didn’t have their parents involved in their development as a follower of Christ as a teenager, then 99 of those 100 young adults had either walked away from the faith or had strayed away from church. Ninety-nine percent. 

The study also evaluated the effectiveness of student ministries and the Church in the lives of students, and it paled in comparison to the role of the parent. It appears that the involvement of the student in their local “youth group” wasn’t as significant if they weren’t receiving what they were getting at youth at home.

Destructive If Ignored

The next generation is being robbed of their development as Christ followers, and this should not be taken lightly. This next generation of kids are not going to remain kids forever; one day they will be leading families, organizations, countries and the Church. If we get this wrong we are not just talking repercussions now but major ones in the future. 

I believe the main reason that discipleship at home is not happening is because of a tragic miscommunication. Many parents believe that it is the Church’s job to disciple their kids, and the reason they believe this is because for the last hundred years or so the Church has taken the torch away from parents and ran with it.

There were good intentions on both ends, but now this mindset of the Church’s role as the main disciplor of our children has become a part of our culture. I don’t think that parents are intentionally not discipling their kids, however, this miscommunication needs to be addressed.

The idea of the parent (not the Church) being the primary disciplor of kids isn’t a new one. It actually backs up what the Bible has called parents to do. It says in Deuteronomy 6:4-9,

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

God is commanding Israel to love Him with all of their heart (be fully devoted themselves) and then He commands them that as they are falling more in love with Him they need to teach their children how to do the same. Discipleship 101. 

The Devil wants nothing more than to stop parents from discipling their kids. He wants nothing more than to see 99% of young adults not active in the local church. He knows the only hope of the world is the Church, and he wants to do everything in His power to suppress the light that the Church shines in a darkening world. The devil isn’t clueless. So it’s no surprise that many parents don’t feel as if they are equipped enough to disciple their kids. There is a feeling of inadequacy that paralyzes most parents with fear and anxiety that stems from the idea that they don’t know how to fully follow Jesus themselves so how can they call their kids to do the same? C’mon now, can anyone relate? The task is daunting and the idea of leading another human being can be terrifying, but this feeling of inadequacy is a lie from the enemy himself. If he can make parents feel this way then he can cause some generational scars on families!

Faithful NOT Gifted

The only qualification for discipling someone is for that person to be a follower of Jesus. That’s it! It’s not perfection, not a specific gift and not a wealth of knowledge that can answer any apologetic question that can ever be asked. If those were the qualifications then nobody would be qualified. The Lord would have created a job application for a job that only He can do. Discipleship is going to be imperfect, it’s going to be messy and it’s not going to look great all the time. We’re going to make mistakes.

Despite this, God calls us to just be faithful. Teachers, friends, pastors, Tim Tebow etc. will not open the eyes of your child. In Luke 24 some people who witnessed the death of Jesus were walking on the road to Emmaus when Jesus started walking on the road with them. They didn’t recognize Him! Jesus spent the whole day with these men and then decided to eat with them. After Jesus blessed the food it says in the ESV “their eyes WERE OPENED” and then they recognized Jesus. They didn’t open their own eyes; somebody opened their eyes for them (Luke 24:13-35).

Many times in discipleship, it can feel like Jesus is right in front of the person you are discipling. Many times you may ask yourself, “How do they not see that? How do they not get this? Why do they keep doing the same thing even when it is obvious that it’s going to be destructive?” At times, it can feel like you constantly pour into them, but they will never get it. You say to yourself, “If they don’t get it now they’ll never get it. Jesus is literally right in front of their face.” Almost like the two men on the road to Emmaus who talked to Jesus for an entire day and never recognized Him. 

No matter how much you pour into your kids, no matter how much you know or don’t know, you will never open the eyes of your child. You will not persuade them to be fully devoted followers of Jesus. God is the one that opens eyes, molds hearts, and changes lives. That’s His job, not ours. All that He calls us to be is faithful. The amazing thing is that God doesn’t call the perfect and the people who have it all together to disciple their kids, because there is no such person. Everyone has baggage and shortcomings because everyone has sin! We all sin and fall short of the glory of God, but He chooses to use us to be a part of His plan. We are faithful, and He does the rest!

Discipleship is hard and messy and there always seems to be a lot of work put into it and not a lot of immediate results. Frustration is a pretty easy and common emotion to feel when you’re discipling people, especially kids.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jesus describes the Christian walk to the life of a seed in Matthew 13. Before you can plant, you have to till the soil and make it a healthy environment for that seed to grow. Have you ever tried to till hard, dry soil? If you haven’t, imagine trying to rake concrete. It’s hard work, and it seems pointless while you’re doing it, but it’s SO necessary for the health and the future of the seed. Kids are young in their walks with Christ. They are a lot like seeds. There is a lot of work that is put into them and their early growth as followers of Christ and not a lot of results, but even though we don’t see results, the hard work is so important for their future as fully devoted followers.

Parents- yes, you are the primary disciplor of your child, but the comforting thing is that you are not alone. God created the Church to walk alongside parents as they disciple their children. Use the Church, its resources and its staff all you can! Can I please repeat...you are not alone! There are people that want to (imperfectly) walk alongside you as you are in the trenches. There are people that can rejoice with you as your child grows and can weep with you when your child regresses. The Church wants to help, encourage, provide resources and spur you on as a parent, but the Church is not responsible to primarily disciple your kids.

Miscommunication is destructive in any circumstance, but this is a miscommunication that can be corrected. It cost my soccer team a game; let’s not let it rob the next generation of their spiritual development. Let’s go parents! There are some kids in desperate need of some discipling!

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