This is the fourth in a five part series on Vision given at Grace Church on February 3, 2013.
Strategy of Grace – Raising Spiritual Parents
In 1974, a quaint little show called Little House on the Prairie followed the life of a family and a young girl named Laura, who grew up in Western Minnesota in the 1870’s. Each week, Laura encountered a new situation to learn about life, develop values and morals, and take responsibility. She had conflicts with the local bully, Nellie; she fell in love with a boy who didn’t love her back. She learned respect for her parents. Most importantly, each child learned his/her purpose and role in the family. Laura helped her mother care for the younger children; her older sister did sewing jobs to contribute to the family. Everyone pitched in to help with the farm and animals. There was no law at the time to say children must attend school; it was considered a privilege. Laura did her homework nightly because she wanted to learn and because it was expected. Her parents allowed her to experience struggles and she learned she could overcome adversity. Her mother didn’t run to bully Nellie’s mother over every argument. The message Laura received was “Work it out.”
Fast forward to 1987. That was a time of big hair, pop music and a comfortable life. A movie called Parenthoodwas a film about the joys, anxieties, and ups and downs of parenthood. It was also a movie that subtly showed how society had begun to change its views regarding the roles of parents and children. One of the characters, Larry, is a 33-year-old adult child who has returned to his parents’ home. With thousands of dollars in gambling debt, he returns with a small child. Larry literally cannot believe it when his father suggests he get a “regular job,” with no potential for a quick payoff and riches. “I’m better than that,” he says. The end of the film shows Larry’s father, a man in his sixties about to retire after a lifetime of hard work, getting a job so he can pay off his son’s debts, while Larry leaves on another get–rich–quick scheme. The father also takes on the role of raising his grandchild, as Larry has no ability or inclination to care for his child himself. Larry was never made to take responsibility.
Let’s move on to 2006. There was the romantic comedy Failure to Launch, which depicts the life of a 35-year-old man who has never grown up. He has no idea how to commit to a real relationship and is perfectly comfortable living with his parents. His parents, on the other hand, are veryuncomfortable and hire a beautiful woman who makes her living doing guess what? Building a man’s self–confidence and creating a “crisis” that he can successfully resolve, thus gaining the skills he needs to make it on his own. Her job is to help grown men accomplish what they never did in adolescence or early adulthood – to live independently. God’s goal is not for His children to live independently from each other OR from each generation. God desires far more than independence.
Researchers suggest that kids grow up believing that they’re so special, so talented and can be anything they want to be. When that doesn’t pan out, they easily fall into chronic disappointment and despair. The idea seems to be that if you cannot have exactly what you want, there is little point in trying and they move home. I think we call it the entitlement attitude. If we don’t, as a society, know how to raise physical parents, how will we raise spiritual parents? What is God’s solution to raising spiritual parents? Growing up Spiritually?
1) Pursue the Lord’s pattern for raising parents Deut. 6:1-9
Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the LORD your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess,
2“that you may fear the LORD your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged.
3“Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the LORD God of your fathers has promised you–`a land flowing with milk and honey.’
4“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!
5“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
6“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart.
7“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
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. (Deut 6:1-9 NKJ)
Let’s go back to the physical realm first. How does God tell us to raise parents? Yes! In God’s first set of books the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 6:1-9 lays out the plan for parenting responsibilities. If parents followed this under the filling of God’s Spirit, children would grow up seeing the example of what parents are supposed to be and they would be diligently taught what they are supposed to do.
Note verses 1.These are not suggestions from God. They are His commandments. They are commandments so people will learn “the Fear of the Lord.” Now that’s something that is missing in society today! Note the responsibility given: to 1) you and 2) YOUR son and 3) YOUR grandson. There is a connection between each generation. Parents are responsible for training and loving their children to the Lord and their grandchildren. I used to laugh at the expression “Spoil your grandchildren to get back at your children.” That is so worldly and wicked. Only a fool would think that is funny. We have the privilege of helping our children and grandchildren grow to godliness. For how long? Until the nest is empty? No! Verse two states “all the days of your life.” And the blessing is that if we are diligent there will be prolonged days to enjoy those children and grandchildren.
Moses declares in verse four that God is one! God is not double-minded. God is not confused about His purposes. There is one plan. God’s plan is to raise up physical parents who understand Him and His will. The only way for that to happen is to give ourselves entirely to the Lord – our heart, soul and strength. I must learn to not fit God into my schedule, but fit my schedule of work and even family into my relationship with God. Then we get to the good stuff in verse six.
Moses charges that these words of the Lord are to be in your heart. How do you know when the words are in the heart? They are not in the heart when you hear them. They are not in your heart when you can pass an academic test regarding the content of Scripture. They are not even in your heart when they merely influence your life. They are in your heart when it is coming out of your heart in your words and actions. Jesus said, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. (Matt. 15:18) The Word must be in the parents to raise parents. It can’t be a Sunday morning thing.
Some people say garage comes from the heart because garbage goes in. You’ve heard of GIGO “garbage in, garbage out.” There is great truth to that, but garbage will come out of my heart even when I don’t put garbage in, because I was born with a sin nature and God will continue to set my heart aside for His purposes as long as I am alive. If I don’t pursue the truth, I’ll always have garbage in my heart. I need to get His word in my heart so I can fulfill the next few verses. If you want to know what’s in your heart, ask your children or grandchildren, what they think is in your heart. That can be revealing!
Moses writes in verse seven that parents are to teach children diligently. It’s not enough to expect the church to train your children. It’s not enough to set an example and hope they will “get it.” Every child must be taught diligently. They must be taught until they are raised to spiritual adult status. Then they are ready to launch and raise more spiritual children (if they are of age physically also!).
Then Moses tells parents to use every opportunity to teach God’s Word (verse seven). When you sit down includes family devotions, but also serious conversations about life or even discipline. It includes sitting down to dinner. Walking by the way refers to those times in life where you see a point of truth in everyday circumstances. When you lie down means that parents can help their children recall what God had done during the day and go to sleep with the hope of all that God is and does for the next day. When you rise up refers to the joy that “this is the day the Lord has made” and there is hope for what God will do in the future. If you are going to raise parents, you must be diligent and use every opportunity to instill confidence in God’s good character and His perfect will for raising parents.
Then Moses adds in verse eight to “bind them as a sign on your hand” refers to instilling “doing” the Word and not just hearing. Parents, you must be diligent to teach your children to obey. Love them as special and precious children, but ensure they obey God’s Word. The “frontlets” refers to establishing God’s way as the lens of sight. Teach children to guard their eyes to avoid evil and see only according to God’s holiness to build His kingdom. Finally in verse nine Moses admonishes to “write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” In other words make sure that every time your children go out of your home, they are going out representing the king and building his kingdom. When they return through the gate, they are returning to rest in God’s purposes knowing that when they pass through the gates again, the children understand their purpose is to reach the world for Jesus Christ. That is raising parents, because that will raise children to be parents for Jesus Christ.
Many of you have heard of Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: 3“that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth. “ This is not so parents have someone to order or do their bidding. Parents must have the Word in their heart and train their children so children can spiritually grow. What must be true? Because parents represent God, they must have a wise plan on how to raise their children. Parents need to know God’s plan, because they represent God to their children. They have to be like God in training, that is clear, patient, consistent, self-controlled and merciful, but always helping the children rise to the holy standard of God. If they do, children will be raised to be good parents. What is God’s solution to raise spiritual parents? Raise children to be godly physical parents in order to teach principles of how to teach spiritual parents.
2) Pursue the Lord’s pattern in raising disciples Matt 4:18-22
If you were God, how would you establish your kingdom on earth? If I was God, I’d direct the angels to secure auditoriums and gather invalids I could heal and give everyone my dictates. People would submit to that show of miracles and power. Probably not. It wouldn’t matter. That’s human strategy. God’s way is different. Jesus took twelve men, one who never believed, and formed them into disciplers. It was the Holy Spirit who transformed them into an unstoppable group of men sold out for Jesus.
Jesus did minister in large group contexts proclaiming His kingdom message, but he only explained the message to a small group – those who wanted to know and understand. Most of His time was spent in the small group. They traveled together, shared meals, experienced hardship together and even faced deception from religious leaders.
Jesus chose to spend time listening, encouraging, challenging, forgiving and debriefing the disciples. Jesus’ emphasis was on relationships in the small group, not on programs. The men were not brilliant. They were common, but teachable. They ran off when the going was tough. Jesus knew they were ones the Father gave Him (John 17:6) and Jesus asked that the Father set them apart (17:17). It was through those common men that millions would believe their word (17:20). What’s God’s solution to raising spiritual parents? Pursue the Lord’s pattern for raising parents and pursue the Lord’s pattern in raising disciples. Finally, note the Lord’s exhortation.
3) Pursue the Lord’s exhortation to raise spiritual children 1 Thes. 2:5-12; Heb. 5:12-14
Note these exhortations.
For neither at any time did we use flattering words, as you know, nor a cloak for covetousness– God is witness. 6Nor did we seek glory from men, either from you or from others, when we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. 7 But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. 8 So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us. 9 For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and God also, how devoutly and justly and blamelessly we behaved ourselves among you who believe; 11 as you know how we exhorted, and comforted, and charged every one of you, as a father does his own children, 12 that you would walk worthy of God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. (1 Thess. 2:5-12)
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Heb 5:12-14)
God exhorts us like a Father to grow up spiritually and become spiritual parents (disciple-making people). So what is the best way to make that happen so most of the congregation, let’s say 80%, feel like they can achieve that and actually see that happen?
What is the wisest approach to help 80% of the congregation become spiritual parents (disciple-makers)? Some possibilities:
· Disciple people to be seminary graduates emphasizing on original languages
· Disciple people to be Bible College graduates from a correspondence network
· Disciple people with years of intense Systematic Theology from the pastor
· Disciple people with years of intense counseling training and practical theology
· Disciple people in small groups teaching various books of the Bible
· Disciple men through the Colossians 2:7 material
· Disciple people in small groups using the Message Based Discussion Questions
Every example above is great for churches. They are great goals. However, it won’t happen. People have their lives to live and maybe 2% might become seminary graduates, 5% might become Bible college graduates, 10% might be deeply entrenched into Systematic Theology or plug into counseling training and 20% might be able to lead a book of the Bible study in a small group, but that still leaves the majority thinking they could never disciple a group of people. If we are going to fulfill the Great Commission, we need a plan whereby 80% feel like discipling other people is even a remote possibility.
The last possibility is the most effective for 80% of the people to see that they could become spiritual parents. Message Based Discussion Questions are something that almost any Christian with a little biblical background and trust in the Lord could lead and facilitate a good discussion. It’s interesting that the early church devoted themselves to what the apostles taught. Luke records in Acts 2:42, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.”
I’m all for our Fellowship Groups and am thankful for the truth that is taught in them. They have many strengths and here are a few of them.
Current Fellowship Groups have strengths of:
· Equipping with solid teaching of God’s Word
· Credible leaders teach and provide opportunities for others to teach
· Relationships form and exist in and out of FG
· Prayer support for those in the FG
· Care Group support for those in the FG
If we were expecting a reproducible process to occur through Fellowship Groups, it’s likely not going to happen. We don’t have the right model and below are listed a few weaknesses related to reproducing in a Fellowship Group.
Several weaknesses of Fellowship Groups related to reproduction:
· Some people hide in the group and end up as spectators
· They are content driven and we may be unsure how much is absorbed
· Some absorb content, which doesn’t have to be practiced
· There is often not an intentional method for reproducing disciples
So that brings us to the wisest environment I see in the church to capture 80% of the people to become reproducible disciple-makers or what we call spiritual parents. Below are found many of the strengths of a small group related to helping people become spiritual parents.
Small groups provide a wise environment to develop spiritual parents (disciple-making people):
· There are 10-14 people which is easier to develop trust
· They develop deeper relationships because more time is spent in relationships
· They provide a safe place to be authentic with personal struggles and get help
· They allow for many groups outside the church building
· They provide a back door for people to come to church
· Everyone participates because we learn by doing (teach them and release them)
· There are 12, rather than 30 or 50, so people are willing to lead also
· It’s easier to know if people are “getting it” because of greater feedback
· They practice a model where a new person can learn quickly he can lead also
· Often more is caught than taught
We should recognize there are at least two assumptions to this scenario.
n This assumes 1) on-going training, 2) support for disciples and 3) accountability for the discipling leaders
n This assumes using a material that 80% of the people can grasp, apply and implement
With these assumptions, 80% of the people can become multiplying disciples as spiritual parents. Here’s the key for the message:
The Lord Jesus gave the example and
taught us to become spiritual parents.
· Too many Christians mimic the movie, “Failure to Launch.” The goal is not being independent, but interdependent raising new spiritual parents or disciples to Jesus Christ. Are you in a FG or HG, accountable for growing to the next spiritual level? Is there someone helping you advance?
· God loves you where you are, but where you are God wants you to keep growing. He wants you to become spiritual parents for others. That means adjusting your schedule to fit with others.
· Life is not about you. Life is about Jesus Christ and His message to disciple others, i.e. raise spiritual parents.
[The introduction comments were adapted from the website empoweringparents.com.]
Here’s a copy of the Message Based Discussion Questions for the message:
Message Based Discussion Questions
1) When and how were taught to be an adult who was ready to raise children?
2) In Deuteronomy 6:6, where is the word supposed to be solidified? _________. What will that look like according to the larger context of Deut. 6:1-9?
3) How many times was Peter called to follow by Jesus? _________ (compare John 1:35-42 with Matt. 4:18-20). What do you suppose was going through Peter’s mind?
4) What are the three challenges Jesus makes in Luke 9:57-62?
a) _______________________ ; ________________________;
b) What are examples of challenges today that you face in considering the invitation by Jesus (Luke 9:57-62)? How do they hinder disciples from being fully committed to follow Jesus?
Application of the message to life:
5) Are you ready to seek the next stage of growth? What are three things you might have to do or rearrange in your life?
6) Do you know the miracle and joy of taking responsibility for discipling others in Jesus? How is that more fulfilling that not having spiritual responsibilities?