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Parenting: ChildhoodParenting: Early YearsParenting: Teens and Beyond

Commit to the Duty and Delight of a Healthy Local Church

When I first started this ministry over eleven years ago the question on the mind of parents was, “Am I really responsible for discipling my children? That’s why I bring them to this church. It is their responsibility.”

By God’s grace and his Spirit, that question has changed. Now, the question from most parents goes something like this, “I know I am responsible to pass the faith to them. But how do I do it?”

I answer this question in both The Disciple-Making Parent and in the conferences I conduct. But I want to take some time in these emails over the next newsletters to spell out the how of family discipleship.

Specifically I focus on 7 commitments that parents should make. In this email, let’s think about the second commitment. I hope that after you read through these challenges  you will be both encouraged and challenged. Encouraged by thinking, “This is doable.” And also challenged to take further steps. 

The second commitment I encourage disciple-making parents to make is this:  

Commit to the duty and delight of a healthy local church.

“Wait,” you say. “You really have to say that? Isn’t that a given?” 

Not really. Today parents of both younger and older children are being told that the good life includes so many things that the local church is sometimes one choice among many.

When we look at Scripture, we find that, if we are parenting for eternity, if we are being guided by the North Star of the gospel, and if we want to give our children what is best, then this will include a commitment to a healthy local church. 

Timothy’s Life
Timothy is an example of one who grew up in a home that had a gospel witness. Even though his father was not a believer (Acts 16:3), his mother and grandmother’s faith influenced him (2 Tim. 1:5). But there were others. In particular, Paul had a huge influence on this young man.

Paul is able to write, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings… ” (2 Tim. 3:10-11). Paul had become like a father to Timothy.

Your children, like Timothy, needs other examples in their lives. Where do we find those godly examples? The local church.

Jesus, Not Family, First
As much as I want to emphasize family discipleship, I don’t want to denigrate the local church. God’s plan is for the church to complement us, not replace us.

If your child continues attending a healthy church into their 20s, many of the problems and questions they have will solve themselves. Sociological studies point to the benefits of gathering with a group of people for worship.

We can also point out the definite problems that come from not sitting under the Word. God tells us, “Stop listening to instruction and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (Prov. 19:27).  And on the positive side, God says,  Encourage one another daily… so that you will not be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness (Heb. 3:13). We all need regular instruction and encouragement or we will stray. That is a guarantee.

In addition, we need to teach our children what the Bible says about the church. She is the bride of Christ, the body of Christ, the household of God, and the temple of God. She is all those important things. And she is imperfect. But if she is valuable to God, she will be valuable to us. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The church is not perfect, but woe to the man who finds pleasure in pointing out her imperfections. Christ loved his church, and let us do the same.”

Duty and Delight
Notice the words I used in this second commitment.

Commit to. Commitment to the church is just that–a heart-level commitment. Although, you don’t become a Christian by going to a healthy church, you do stay a Christian by going to church. It must be a priority.

The duty and delight. Sometimes our commitment in the church is an easy delight. Our friends are there. Things are going well. We love learning the Word. And other times it is a duty before God. There may be difficult people in the church. There may be hard conversations that we need to have. But knowing there is an aspect of joyful duty helps pull us and our children away from being child-centered. Although we don’t want to exasperate our children, we need to remind them that church is ultimately not about them.

Living Differently
If you are committed to a healthy local church, it will make you countercultural. But it will serve your children well in the long-term. As someone has written, “There is a 0.0296% chance your child will be a professional athlete. There is a 100% chance your child will stand before Jesus.” Get them to church. The body of Christ is essential to your child’s spiritual formation.

Practical Applications
How do we apply this practically?  Let me make two suggestions.

1. Commit to church. That was the big rock in our schedule. Everything else moved around it.  It should be in yours. One question your child should not ask is, “Are we going to church tomorrow?”

2. Explain your commitment to the local church. Teach your children that, with all her problems, she is the bride of Christ. God will not forget the love we shown her (Heb 6:10).