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Family Discipleship

Discipleship is a Process, Not a Product

Discipleship is a Process

Last weekend I led a seminar on raising sexually healthy kids. In today’s world, this topic is even more of a challenge.

But apart from the content, I have been thinking about the method of teaching our children. And it reminds me that I need to remember God’s method as well as God’s content. The key thought?

Discipleship is a process, not a product.
It is easy to fall into the error of thinking that all we have to do is teach our children something once and they should be all set. Or we should take them through a program and then check that off the list.

Formal teaching is helpful. But it is not the whole of discipleship. Discipleship is life-on-life instruction and care.

How Jesus Discipled
If we look at the example of Jesus, this is exactly what we see. Jesus taught his disciples proactively and reactively over three years. He taught them formally and informally. And even at the end, he said he had more to teach them. The Holy Spirit would have to teach them those things later (John 16:12).

Our children also need formal teaching and informal mentoring. They need proactive and reactive instruction and care. Why? Our children can handle different information and different times. In addition, there is a readiness in discipleship. Sometimes our children are ready to learn and sometimes they are not.

Discipleship as a Project
We can apply this in the adult world as well. In my earlier days, there was much more of an emphasis on intentional discipleship. Christians might say something like, “John discipled me when I was a new Christian.” Or, “Have you ever been discipled?”

What they meant was that an individual had taken them through a program so that they would learn specific content and specific habits. In terms of organization and intentionality, I miss that process. I think it has tremendous value.

But there can be an unintended consequence. Both the discipler and the disciple can think that this is all there is to the process. The study produced a product – them.

Paul was able to say to the Philippians that he was there for their progress and joy in the faith (Phil 1:25). We never stop growing and we never stop needing “disciplers” in our life.

Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy
Everyone needs a Paul, Barnabas, and Timothy in their lives. By “Paul,” I mean someone who is teaching you. Who is a person that you seek out to deliberately learn from? If we are never to stop growing, then there is always someone who can teach you in the faith.

We also need a “Barnabas.” A Barnabas is not a mentor but a partner in ministry. Who challenges you as a friend as iron sharpens iron? Who can you share your heart with?

In addition, we need “Timothys” in our lives. Timothys are those that we are teaching and investing in. Who are our sons and daughters in the faith that we are praying for and taking a special interest in? Out of all the people in our church or network, who are we especially pouring our lives into?

A Process or a Product?
As we think about family discipleship, take heart that this is a process. Yes, it involves formal teaching like at church. But it also involves thousands of micro-conversations. It is messy-life on messy-life. Through life changes, it never stops. Whether toddler or twenty something, we are there for their progress in the faith. Even if our adult child is a prodigal, he can’t stop us from praying.

Discipleship is a process, not a product.