No one is better positioned or equipped to share the gospel with a child than his or her mom and dad. The sheer amount of time spent with their children gives parents a great opportunity to declare and demonstrate the gospel consistently. Because parents know their children best, they also know best how to communicate the gospel to them.
Rarely, if ever, does a Christian parent disagree with the fact that they are called to be on mission to their children, to do their best to lead them to love and follow Jesus. Most parents want to disciple their children, and desire to help and support to that end. Our prayer is that Westport can be a part of the help they are looking for.
When it comes to parents being on mission to their children, there is no better passage than Deuteronomy 6:4-8:
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.
“Teach Them Diligently”
The most often quoted part of this passage seems to be verse 8:
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.
This is a great verse that speaks to the need to teach the commandments of God to children. As parents, we need to teach our children the word of God. We need to tell them the gospel. We need to do this in intentional moments, like family worship times or family prayer times, and along the way, as this passage indicates: “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
“On Your Heart”
Just before verse 8, God talks specifically to parents.
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.
Before parents teach their children God’s commandments, they must first be ingrained on the parents’ own hearts. Those of us who have been on an airplane ride are no stranger to this principle. The flight attendants tell us before each takeoff to make sure to secure our own oxygen masks before helping any children who are with us. It’s a good thing to want to help the children with you, but if you run out of oxygen first, you aren’t going to be much help!
This same principle applies to the discipleship of our children. We can’t give children a faith that we don’t have ourselves. The first step in leading our children to have a loving relationship with Jesus Christ is first pursuing a deep relationship with him for ourselves. Otherwise, our instruction and discipleship will be hypocritical.
“Hear O Israel”
The least talked about part of this passage is perhaps the most important. Listen to the first words God speaks to the assembly through Moses:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
Moses was talking to the entire assembly of God’s people while giving this address. He didn’t say “OK, those of you who don’t have children, you’re dismissed. The rest of you, hang out for a few minutes. I’m going to talk about your children.” God gave his instructions on raising children to the entire assembly of his people, together, regardless of their stage of life.
This tells us that parenting was never meant to be done in isolation. God designed for parents to lead their children in the context of community. While parents have a primary role in the discipleship of their children, the act of leading children to Christ is a community project.
The smallest unit of this community is your marriage. For families that are blessed to have both a mother and a father at home, God has designed your marriage to proclaim his gospel by the way you love, respect, support, encourage, and minister to each other (Ephesians 5).
The larger faith community also plays a role in partnering with you on mission to your children. A missional community, or other small group of believers on mission together, is hugely important to help you live out your faith in front of and with your children. In addition, healthy and Biblical ministries to children and students can be great partners in your mission. We pray that partnering with Westport Church will help you see how to work with the church at large in leading your children to Jesus.
We pray that you will be encouraged and strengthened in your God-given calling to be on mission to your children.