As a parent, the most important “tools” in your bag as you seek to raise your children to be followers of Christ are example and instruction.
The “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast is a family discipleship resource from Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina. It aims to equip you and your family to be on mission with God, to the end of the street and the ends of the earth.
Welcome to another episode of “Gospel Shaped Home.” I’m Andy Owens, pastor of family discipleship here at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, thankful for you, our listeners. Glad you’re tuning in. I started last week a series going through our family discipleship pathway here for a few weeks, so taking a break from the normal pattern of interviewing other folks in the church. Last week, we talked about one shared goal, the church and home partnering together to lead the next generation to be disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus. That’s the goal. That’s what this partnership is pursuing. The rest of the family discipleship pathway is really an attempt to help you answer the question: How? How do I do it? What do I do? How do I live and teach?, and what do I focus on and what season in order to help my child grow, become and grow as a disciple of Jesus?
Today, I’m going to share what may be the most important aspect of your role as a parent. But before I share it, I think it’s worth saying, as parents, we have a tremendous impact in the lives of our kids, right? Much depends on us, but ultimately this shared goal, this desire of our children being disciples of Jesus, worshipers of God in spirit and truth is dependent on the mercy and the saving grace of God. We, as parents, get the horse ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord. We cannot save our children. This is not a formulaic attempt to squeeze our children into the kingdom of God. This is a humble relying on the Spirit’s work and relying on the faithfulness of God, attempt to say, “God, you have said walk in these ways. I want to do it faithfully with your help and trust you to use it in my children’s lives.” So God has called us to prioritize certain things and to do certain things as parents in order to lead our children to recognize his greatness and to treasure him above all.
So today, we’re talking about two key tools: example and instruction. As a parent, your primary tools in the task of discipling your children are example, that’s modeling the life of a disciple, and instruction, regularly opening God’s word in your home. Now, these two key tools, example and instruction, come straight out of the Bible, Deuteronomy Chapter Six. These are some of the most well-known parenting verses in the Bible. So I’m going to read, starting in verse four, Deuteronomy chapter six. Moses writes, “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.”
So, really, the first priority in family discipleship doesn’t have anything to do with kids or parenting, but with you and with your own heart, and that is loving God with all your heart, and that is letting His words dwell richly in your heart. We reproduce what we are. We pass on what we possess. So that’s why God instructs us first to love Him and to store His words in our own hearts, and then He commands us to teach His words and His ways to our children. Simply put, your kids need to see you feasting on God’s word. They need to see you depending on God in prayer. They need to see you prioritizing serving your church and sacrificing for the mission. Gospel-shaped, gospel-empowered parenting really is an overflow of our personal pursuit of God.
But there’s a good word of caution when it comes to the idea of modeling and being an example, and that is you have to be aware of modeling only success as a disciple, because none of us experience only success as disciples of Jesus. We have to also be willing to let our kids see, in age appropriate ways, our own failures, and they need to see us acknowledging our weaknesses, our failures, our sin, asking for forgiveness, confessing to God and trusting in the mercy that’s ours and Jesus, trusting in His forgiveness, the forgiveness He bought with his blood. What that does is it really shows the genuineness of our own walk with God to our kids, in a sense. They see, “Hey, these aren’t empty words I’m hearing from mom and dad. They really believe this and they really live this. And they are broken and they fail, but Jesus is a real Savior and a real helper to real people who struggle.” So they’re not going to be able to express it like that early on, obviously, but we want to model both a desire for in pursuit of God and also dependence on God’s grace and mercy when we fail.
But modeling example isn’t the only thing that Moses calls us to do here in this passage. He also says, “You shall teach these words diligently to your children.” You shall talk of them regularly. Now, instruction, he’s not envisioning a classroom setting, a seminary setting. The family discipleship does not mean your home looks most like a seminary classroom. Really, this passage gives the idea that any moment of any day could be a discipleship opportunity with your kids. When he says, when you sit in your house and when you walk, by the way, when you lie down and when you rise, he’s showing different ends of the spectrum to say all the time, everywhere. From the moment you rise in the morning to the moment you lie down at night, whether you’re in your house or out in the world, wherever you are, be reminding your children that this is God’s world, that they are in it by His grace and kindness, that He is a good, providing, fatherly, wise, creator and he is a redeemer. He has sent His son to rescue us.
The way that you grow in your ability to recognize and take advantage of these unplanned opportunities, these as you go moments, is by obeying what he told us in verse four and five … no, five and six … loving God with all your heart and having His words in your heart. So if your mind and your heart is stocked with God’s truth, you are going to recognize as you go moments to teach your kids. But when he says you shall teach them diligently, I think it pretty clearly implies we should also, in a regular systematic way, teach God’s truth to our children.
Now, there’s a lot of flexibility in what that can look like. I would encourage everyone listening to this and every family at Providence and anywhere any other believing family who desires to magnify Jesus as a family, to pray about and consider establishing a rhythm of family worship. Family worship is a time tested way to diligently teach God’s truth to your kids. A lot of us didn’t experience it growing up, but it’s okay because it’s actually pretty simple. Really just three ingredients: reading the Bible, singing God’s praise, and praying together as a family. You read the Bible, you sing, and you pray. Now. I will not try to rehash everything here that we’ve already said on this podcast about family worship. I would direct you to the first five episodes where Daniel Savage and I went through Don Whitney’s little book, “Family Worship,” and talked about historical precedents for, biblical support for what it can look like, challenges to it, all these things, and some practical ideas. But I will just give you a few pointers here, some practical things.
First, it shouldn’t be too long or else your kids are going to lose interest and maybe begin to resent the time. You want it to be fun. You want to be age-appropriate. There’s flexibility. You can try something for a season and then feel free to make an adjustment, do something different. But at the same time, don’t be afraid of repetition. Younger kids especially really love it. Some things that can help with consistency or having a set time and place, you can anchor it to something concrete in your schedule, like a meal or bedtime.
We’ll talk a little bit more about that later, but as far as what you do, what you read, when your kids are really young, you can read scripture. You can start with an age-appropriate story Bible. You can pick simple songs. You sing the same song for a week or a month. You can pick two or three songs or rotate through until your kids learn them. You can, when you’re praying, you can pray for one another. You can pray for neighbors. You can pray for extended family, can pray for the church and for ministries and pastors at the church. You can pray for unreached people groups and missions partners. There’s really no end to things and people you can pray for. You can praise God. You can thank God. You can confess sin. The key is regular patterns of reading the Bible, singing God’s praise, and praying together.
Now, I think probably the most important thing to say about leading in family worship is you have to be willing to start again and again and again. If you are moved by the Lord and desire to lead your family this way, and you resolve to start having family worship, there’s going to be days, weeks, maybe months where you fail, you forget, you get busy. It’s an opportunity to model for the family. “Hey, guys, I’m sorry. I haven’t been doing a good job of leading.” Maybe you’ll say, “Guys, I’m sorry I’ve never led our family to do this, but I think we should do this and I’d love for you to go with me. Would you be willing to let’s start having a time each day where we listen to God’s word together, we pray together, and we sing together?” So be willing to start and fail, and start and fail, and start and fail, and just keep trusting the Lord for grace to get up and do it again and rest in the fact that these small investments in your children’s lives are going to have a big impact in the future.
So, example and instruction, kind of indicated earlier, there’s lots of ways to teach God’s truth. Family worship is one of them. It’s an important one, but it’s certainly not the only one. So may God make these effective tools in your hands and in your home. May He use them to show the worth of Christ to your children and to stir up your own affections for Him. May He help you to teach your children diligently as you love Him and pursue Him and store up His word in your own hearts. So thanks for joining and I look forward to catching you on the next episode. Bye.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the “Gospel Shaped Home” podcast, produced by Providence Baptist Church of Raleigh, North Carolina. For more information and resources from Providence, visit us online at pray.org. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please consider subscribing and leaving a review on Apple Podcast.