How are we? Doing well? If you have your Bibles, go ahead and grab them. We’re going to be in Deuteronomy, chapter 6. This has been the text we’ve been in for a month now as we’ve talked about Family Discipleship. What we see in Deuteronomy, chapter 6, is what the Jews would have called the Shema. It was how they understood God growing hearts toward himself.
We saw in week one these three concentric circles. We’ve said all along that if you are a parent, you are making disciples. You don’t get to go, “Well, you know, I’m a parent, but I’m not really going to make a disciple.” You are discipling them. You see this all the time. Anytime you see a 4-year-old run up and say something absurd like, “Hook ’em,” you know their parents are discipling them. Or “Gig ’em” or “Sic ’em” or “Boomer” or whatever.
What happens in that moment is you have discipled your children. “We don’t do that in this house. We do this. We cheer for them. We want them to lose every week.” You’re making a disciple. Every time your child does something you do and you see that, you’ve made a disciple. When they talk like you… Every parent has that moment of crisis where our kid just acted like us, and we went, “Oh no. They’re literally doing what I do, not what I say.” That’s making disciples.
If you have a kid, you are a disciple-maker. The question, the argument, is not…Are you making disciples? Rather, what are you discipling them toward? That’s always the question, because as a parent, you are discipling your children. You’re shaping how they see the world. You’re shaping how they interact with that world. You have created for them touchdowns that are success and failures that are marked. You have done that.
You have said, “This is the win in our family. This is the loss.” You do that. Whether you know you’re doing it or not, you have said to your children, “This is what’s important. This is what’s not important. We’re going to orient our lives around this, and we’re not going to orient our lives around this.” You have done that. Right now, if you’re a parent, regardless of how old your kid is, you are doing just that.
You’re saying to your family, “This is what we value, and this is what we do not value.” The Shema is actually quoted by Jesus in the New Testament when a group of men ask him, “What’s the greatest commandment? What does it really mean to follow the Lord?” He quotes the Shema. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The second commandment is like the first.” They’re tied together.
The Shema is deep with meaning. We said in week one… We looked at these concentric circles of how disciples of Jesus are made. Let’s look at this again together. Deuteronomy, chapter 6, starting in verse 4. Here’s what we’re looking for. Concentric circles of how our hearts grow and overflow out of themselves to make disciples.
“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.” There’s circle number one. Circle number one is just what it means to be a Christian. This is a stunning pronouncement of how and what it looks like to follow God.
I said in week one… I can’t rehash the entire series, but I do want to say to you over and over and over again that you are not primarily a thinking being. What I mean by that is your life is not marked by what you think is right and wrong. Your life is marked by what you love. We are primarily lovers and worshipers.
You can say with your mouth all you want about what you value and what you treasure and what you stand for, but when all is said and done, you are a person driven by your loves. This is universally true. This is why Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there’s your heart.” Do you want to know what you really value and what you really love? Look at what you spend your money on.
Forget the rhetoric. It’s our hearts and our loves that drive us. That’s why Jesus’ command here, the command of God coming down to the people of God, is not, “Do these things, and don’t do these things,” but rather, “Work on growing a love relationship with me, because if you love me with all your heart, all your soul, all your might, then all of the rest of that takes care of itself.”
What the Christian does is give themselves over to the filling of their lives with things that stir their affections for Jesus. That’s a sweet gig. What stirs up my heart for Jesus? What is it? I know the Bible is going to be involved. I know prayer is going to be involved, but what else is it? Is it early mornings? Is it late nights? Is it this type of scenery? Is it this kind of book?
What is it that stirs my affections for Jesus, and what is it that robs me of that affection? Then I’m just going to jam my life full. There’s nothing awful about that at all. What really stirs up my heart toward happiness in Christ? Fill my life with that. Nobody is like, “Oh gosh, that sounds like such a drag.” No, no, no. This is building ourselves up in love.
If we have any shot of discipling our children in what ultimately will matter, it starts with us being serious about a growing love relationship with God. We’re in different spaces in that. Some of us just have a little inkling of love. Others of us are further down the line and are aflame, but the call on your life and my life as a mom and dad, in fact as a Christian, is to have our affections stirred toward Jesus Christ.
That leads us into the second circle. Verse 7: “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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.”
That’s circle two. That’s your children, your home, this place where as you do life, you’re talking about the things of the Lord. You’re teaching them a love for the Lord. You can’t make them love the Lord, but you are modeling for them what it looks like to love the Lord. You’re not just churchgoers, but your home is shaped by this God you say you love.
Verse 9 is the third circle. We haven’t talked much about the third circle. We’re not going to today, but verse 9 is, “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” This is that outward-focused missional living, where the world sees that we value and treasure Christ in a way that’s compelling. It’s on our doorposts. It’s on our gates.
People know we’re weirdo religious people. They know we love the Lord and we’re serious about him. We’re not just churchgoers, but we’ve been transformed by something. We’re odd, “aliens and strangers,” as the Bible would call us. Then we set out to say when we’re talking about family discipleship and these concentric circles, we’re talking about time, moments, and milestones.
We defined time like this. All these are going to come together in today’s talk. In time, we talked about creating intentional time built into the rhythm of the family’s life for the purpose of thinking about, talking about, and living out the gospel. There were four C’s when we talked about time. I was really proud of myself on coming up with four C’s.
We talked about consistency. Don’t lose heart, parents. We’re not talking about consistency like, “Every Monday night at 7:00 we’re having a family devotional.” That’s not always going to happen, and you’re going to lose heart because you’re not consistent. What we mean by consistency is it’s not a one-time conversation where we check the box.
We don’t have one spiritual conversation with our children and then go, “Okay, I did that. We’ll see what they decide.” It’s a consistent… We keep bringing it up. We keep having the conversation. The second thing we talked about on this is clarity. It’s important that our kids understand what we’re saying, so we ask open-ended questions. We ask them to repeat back to us what they thought they heard as we consistently have these conversations.
Then we talked about creativity. I used that great G.K. Chesterton quote about the gladness of the heart of God and how childlike God is because he does not sin. I really wanted to force the issue. If every time you talk about spiritual matters with your children you furrow your brow and get crusty, that’s not helpful. If you’re always like, “You straighten up! God loves you, and he loves all of us,” that’s just not helpful.
The God of the Bible, according to the Bible, sings, laughs, dances, delights. He plays. I’m not saying there isn’t a space in which kids should be serious. I’m saying there’s a kind of seriousness that brings joy. Parents should lead the way in the joy of the Lord. Then we finally talked about counsel. What we said on counsel when we talked about time is that we want to make you look like all-stars, Mom and Dad, so we’re going to do everything we can to set you up for the win.
If you have a first through fifth grader who’s in class, when you go pick them up today, we’ve got you again. Sheet is waiting. It’s waiting right on the door. You’ll pick up your kid. This is in the door. You take it, and here’s what we have. We have your conversation. You’re not adding anything to your schedule. You’re going to get in the car and go somewhere after this. I know that. You’re going to get in your car, and you’re going to drive somewhere.
So we have four questions for you. We’ve clearly set you up this week, even more so than other weeks. Today they’ve learned that Jesus alone brings sinners to God. Here’s your question: “Today you learned about someone being the way, the truth, and the life. Who was that?” Jesus. Second question: “What does it mean for Jesus to be the way? How does following him lead us to God?” You have a 90-percent chance right there of hearing, “I don’t know. I don’t remember.”
Okay, but listen. The win isn’t that they have the right answer; the win is that in asking them the question you’re showing them a priority and a value of your family life that communicates to them that they’re not just churchgoers but that this Jesus is going to permeate your lives. Then all you need is to find 15 minutes in your calendar this week, and we have your family devotional. We have it for you spelled out, parents, even the activity for this week. When we’re talking about counsel, we’re saying we want to set you up to be “Mom and Dad of the Year.” That’s available for you every week.
Then the next week we talked about moments. Moments are about capturing and leveraging opportunities in the course of everyday life (again, this is what we’re already doing) for the purpose of gospel-centered conversation. If we’re going to turn little moments of everyday life into conversations about the gospel, there were three things I said we were going to need.
We’re going to need to be observant. We’re going to have to pay attention to the kids we have, how they’re wired. We’re going to need to look for those opportunities. We’re going to be prepared, and we need to know two things on being prepared. We need to know something of the nature and character of God, and we need to know something in regard to godly character.
If you’re like, “I’m no theologian,” again, we’ve got you. You don’t have to be. You just have to be able to read pages 22 and 23. You might be like, “That’s a huge book.” I’m saying, “Fine. Two pages…22 and 23.” Now you have something of the nature and character of God and something about godly character that you can seize these moments and turn the conversation to who God is and what God wants for us for our joy and his glory over and over and over again.
Lastly, we talked about being genuine. When we talked about being genuine, we talked about the fact that, ultimately, what we want our kids to know is that we don’t want to manipulate them with the Bible or try to control them with religion, but we want there to never be a doubt that we love them and we’re for them. We want to love the kid we have, not the one we want.
Some of our kids are optimists, and everything is always awesome. They’re kind of Tigger. Then some of our kids are like Eeyore. “I knew it was going to rain today.” They’re more like Eeyore. You don’t ask Eeyore to be Tigger, and you don’t ask Tigger to be Eeyore. You love the kid you have, not the one you want. You engage them where they are. You’re genuine. You love them. They might not agree with you, but there shouldn’t be any doubt in their minds that you see them and that you love them. This is what we mean by genuine.
We’ll end our series today by talking about milestones. Milestones are marking and making occasions to celebrate and commemorate significant spiritual milestones of God’s work in the life of the family and the child. Here’s a good way to think about it: marking and making, celebrating and commemorating. That’s what we’re doing. Now these all start to flow together.
As we’re spending this intentional time being consistent with these conversations, seeking clarity, having fun, using the tools that are available to us, and as we’re seizing these moments, as we observed, with how we’ve prepared, now we begin in these moments to mark pretty big ones and then begin to make some other ones. Then we celebrate and commemorate these things.
Let’s just talk about marking and making. First, let’s talk about marking. God has wired us to be people who remember. I think this will be a universal experience for everyone in the room. If you ever go out with a group of your friends or a group of family members… Maybe it’s just four of you. Maybe it’s six of you. Maybe it’s ten of you.
If you go out, every single time you get together, at some point, regardless of what the point of the evening is, it will devolve into storytelling. As soon as somebody starts to tell the story, then you can just see other people go, “Uh-huh,” just waiting for them to finish so they can throw their story out there. Then it just becomes, “Hey, remember that time,” or “Hey, one time I was…” We are a storytelling people, and this is universally true everywhere in the world.
By the grace of God, I’ve been multiple places in Africa, in India, in China, in Europe, in Australia, in South Africa. Everywhere I go, people at dinner tell stories. They remember. They laugh. They cry. Most of the stories are crazily embellished. They’re different every time it’s told. You’re like, “Wait a minute. I thought last time it was two touchdowns that game.” “Well, no, there was a pick six.” “Oh yeah, you just for seven years have never mentioned that, and then tonight, apparently, the pick six enters the story.”
You become a better athlete as you get older, not worse. Right? The older you get, the better you were. This is what happens. We’re a storytelling people. We remember. Yet one of the evidences that not all is well in our hearts is what we choose to forget. Namely, when it comes to God, the people of God throughout the Scriptures and throughout history are very quick to forget how good God has been to them historically.
God will deliver. He will save. He will make a way. He will invade dark spaces and drag into the light. He will show up and support and build up and enable and empower us to hang in there, if not outright flourish and conquer. Then what’ll happen is we’ll hit another storm. We’ll hit another low point, and then all of a sudden we feel like God has abandoned us and betrayed us, and we just knew he would eventually do this because we don’t have a consistent quiet time.
That’s where we go. We go to the dark places. We’re prone to forget the goodness of God. When we’re talking about marking, we’re talking about remembering and building things into our lives that enable us to remember. Let me show you one place this happens biblically, although I could be at length with this.
Just so you know, I am swimming in the book of Exodus right now, because I’ll start to preach it in the fall. We’ll start mid-August, and we’ll go through, I think, next June in the book of Exodus. So just be prepared that for the rest of the summer, every subtext I use…not the anchor text, but the subtext…will probably be out of the book of Exodus. Exodus, chapter 12, starting in verse 24, says this. This is right after the Passover.
“’You shall observe this rite [the Passover meal] as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ”What do you mean by this service?“ you shall say, ”It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.“’ And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.”
Then later on, when the people of Israel cross the Jordan River and get to the other side…now they’re in the Promised Land…God commands a man from each of the 12 tribes to grab a stone and build an altar on the other side of the Jordan River. Why? As an act of remembrance. It’s very familiar language when they build that altar, so that they might look and remember what God accomplished in their day.
God, longing to anchor us to himself, anchor us in his goodness and grace, to fortify us in the day of trouble as we live in this space in between what Christ has purchased for us in its ultimate fulfillment in the return of Christ or our death, we remember. We’re anchored in the truth of God’s goodness in our lives by building milestones that enable us to remember. This is what marking is all about.
For our kids, we’re looking for those moments that are probably more significant moments than the smaller moments. Let me give some examples. When your child is baptized. That’s a pretty big milestone. We want to commemorate that and celebrate that. Your kid’s first Bible, their first Communion. Those kinds of things. Those kinds of spiritual highlights. We want to mark those things. We want to commemorate them. We want to wire some things into our lives so we’ll never forget all that God did to get them to that point. We want to figure out a way to celebrate that.
It doesn’t have to be complex. It can be taking them out to dinner. It can be buying them a gift. It can be a trip. I’m not talking about Paris. If you have that kind of flow, take them to Paris. Most of us don’t. “You know what? I’m glad you were baptized. I’m going to take you to Paris.” That’s not most of our world. If that’s you, get on your jet and go, boss. I’m just saying you don’t really need to do that. It can be driving down into Dallas. It could be taking them to a park, getting one-on-one time with them.
My favorite is just a handwritten letter. Brothers, sisters, a handwritten letter to your children that marks special occasions will be a stunning gift to them the rest of their lives. Long after Daddy and Mommy are gone, a 40- or 50-year-old son or daughter can pull a letter and remember, not through pictures but through your very words, what they meant, what you loved about them, how you cared for them, and your hopes for them.
How easy is a handwritten letter? You don’t have to be a poet. Golly! In the world we live in, you don’t even have to be able to spell. The computer will spell it for you. You can have your pen, and then just type it in and go, “Oh gosh, nope. Autocorrect. Okay, that’s how you spell that word. Love.” You can do that. These are ways we mark, we commemorate.
Our oldest, Audrey, turned 13 this year. One of the things Lauren wanted us to do as we thought about our children, thought about how we wanted to parent… For Lauren and me, there was never this point that anybody said to me, “Okay, now you’re a man.” No one ever did that. No one ever said, “Okay, now you’re a man.” You just kind of wake up one day, and you’re like, “Oh gosh, I’m a man.”
You’re in a weird meeting you can kind of remember your dad having. You’re sitting with a life insurance person, and you’re like, “What? Why am I… Oh my gosh! I’m a man. I’m buying life insurance for myself. When did that happen?” I have a mortgage. That’s freaking me out a little bit. There was never anything in my life that during transitional periods of my life someone was there to say, “You’re doing great. This is stage two. This is where we’re headed. Come on, you can do it.”
So we wanted to create those things for our children. When Audrey turned 13 in February, we had a rite of passage party for her. If that sounds really geeky and lame, it is geeky; it wasn’t lame. What Lauren and I did is we sat down and came up with 12 attributes Audrey has shown, part of who she is, from when she was in diapers.
Audrey is witty. That’s a better way to say sarcastic or smart-mouthed. She’s quick-witted. She is compassionate. She is crazy courageous. In fact, she’s the only human being ever I have been like, “God, can you sow some fear into her heart, please?” I mean, broken collarbone. Been bucked off her horse. Been rolled over on top of by her horse, only to get back up, smack it, and climb back on. I mean, just no fear in that girl at all.
Then we invited some women who really have poured into her, who love her, who she loves. We brought a couple in from out of town, and then many of them are actually here. The only men who were in the room were my dad, my father-in-law, Lauren’s brother, and me. Those were the only men in the room, and then there were these women, and then three of her little friends.
What we did is we brought her cake in, and there were the 13 candles. People would read that attribute. Courageous. They would tell a story and encourage her heart. “We love the courage God has put in you. We think the Lord is going to use that courage in stunning ways. Be careful that your courage might lead you to this, when what the Lord wants to do is this. We wanted to affirm it, call it out, and bless it.”
They would read that, and I threatened them. “You’re going to need to stay about three minutes. Somebody gets verbal diarrhea here I’ll shut it down. I ain’t scared to go, ’All right, thank you. That was awesome. Courageous. Great. Next!’” So they would read that, light the candle, and then they went around the room.
After everybody had gone, the 12 attributes had gone, I had written a letter to Audrey where I just blessed her, and then I talked about the space we were entering. “At 13, you’re moving more quickly toward womanhood, but you’re still somewhat tethered to childhood. In that, there’s this pressure and pull in two separate directions. You’re going to want more freedom. You’re going to want more space. You’re going to feel the pull of being who God designed you to be, and yet you’re still a little bit tethered to childhood. This is going to create tension in you and conflict with us.”
This is universally true. Nobody is going to escape 13 to 17 without drama. It just doesn’t happen. We just wanted to acknowledge, “This is coming.” “Here’s what we want to lay before you. Because you’re now 13, we will increase your responsibilities, and if you walk into these responsibilities you will get increased freedom. If you do not walk into these increased responsibilities you will not get more freedom. In a very real way, 13-year-old Audrey, we are laying before you the opportunity to grow this direction and be supported in this tethering.”
I outlined exactly what those responsibilities would be and what kind of freedoms she could gain. Then there was an exchanging of vows, where everyone in the room committed verbally to Audrey that we were going to encourage her, pray for her, and, when necessary, lovingly confront her for her good and the glory of God. Then we just laid before her the opportunity to walk into that and said, “If you want to take this next step, you light the thirteenth candle.”
She came and lit the thirteenth candle. We prayed over her. We got all those little notes and books and made a little thing for her and gave it to her so she could keep it and go back and read those things we wrote for her. For the rest of her life, I think Audrey will look back on her thirteenth birthday and remember that night. She didn’t get any exotic gifts or anything like that. It was just, “At 13 we said to you, ’You’ve taken a step toward all God has for you in being a woman, and here’s what that’s going to look like.’” It’s clear communication and celebration, and it was an epic night.
That’s what we mean by milestones: setting a marker down in a way that the mind is informed and the heart is stirred up. That moves us to making. When we talk about making, here’s what we’re talking about. Marking is looking back; making is looking ahead. Again, this idea of kids need something to aim for. They just need something to aim for. They need to know what’s next. What’s the next step? How should I be growing?
Again, I think this is stuff you’re already doing. Every time you say to your son, “Hold the door for your sisters,” you’re doing a making. You’re saying, “This is what men do.” Every time you say to your girls something, you’re teaching them, “This is what a woman does.” You’re giving them something to strive for, something to grow into, and something to move toward. These are good right things.
Al Mohler, who is president of Southern Seminary and a leading intellect in our day… I don’t know if you know that, but intellect is actually a job. I tried to argue with one once that it wasn’t, but he was an intellect, so I lost. Al Mohler said in 1960 the vast majority of young adults had, by the time they reached 30, accomplished the five standard milestones used to measure adult status. These five milestones are sociological, not theological, although the Bible has much to say about all five of these.
These milestones include completing school, leaving home, getting married, having a child, and establishing financial independence. According to the US Census Bureau, less than one half of all young women reached these milestones by age 30 in 2000. Even more concerning, less than one third of all young men did. What we’re seeing in our culture is an ever-expanding time period of adolescence, so that you literally have 28-year-old boys and 30-year-old girls, and that shouldn’t be.
Let me just say this about the five standards. There are, at times, forces outside of our control surrounding all of these. So you need to listen to that quote and go, “Well, I might live at home, but man, medically this happened or financially this happened or this situation.” It’s not trying to judge you. It’s just sociologically, here’s how we’ve judged human flourishing in this culture as far back as we go. This is not a problem with children; it’s a problem with parents.
Parents have not said, “This is what it means to grow up, and we’re going to, in a strong relationship with you, move you toward adulthood.” We have said, “You make us matter. You give us purpose. You give us value, so stay as long as you can, and we’re going to take care of anything that causes you pain. We’re not going to make you fight your own fights. We’re not going to make you own your own sin. We’re not going to make you own your own mistakes. We’re going to clean it up for you, and we’re going to make your life a life of ease.”
What you get is a 30-year-old boy playing Call of Duty on your couch, unwilling to commit to anything, unwilling to grow into what God has called for him. I’m telling you, the broken, incestuous relationship that is is you somehow get value from that that you should not be getting. Your role as Mom and Dad is to lay out some making, some pictures of what life is supposed to be, and in a strong relationship, move them in that direction.
The fact that we make our kids make their beds isn’t because if they don’t make their beds the house explodes. The reason we’re serious about their schoolwork is not because I think if they make all A’s they’re going to have better lives. I don’t believe that. I don’t think that’s true. I certainly haven’t seen that that’s true. But hard work and discipline will be required regardless of where they go or what they’re called to, and so we’re making. “Here’s what you do.”
As they get older, that responsibility increases, because they’re growing closer and closer and closer to adulthood. My job is to get them to adulthood. That’s my job. Not to get my value and to go, “Aren’t they awesome and aren’t I awesome because they’re awesome?” That’s not what this is. This is not a competition sport for parents. We love them. We encourage them. We walk with them. We shape them. We require of them…lovingly, honestly, openly require of them.
We hold firm standards for them, loving them as they fail, understanding the grace of God on their lives, like we understand it on ours, speaking life to them. We want touchdowns for them. “Here’s how you win. Here’s how we expect, and here’s what we’re going to celebrate and rejoice in when you do it.” Then we want to drop stakes in the ground. Here’s where they start to be related. If you have older kids, when you mark for that kid, you’re making for your others.
If I go back to Audrey’s birthday, little brother and little sister were in the room. What they heard us say is, “Here’s what you get when you’re 13. You get increased responsibilities. If all your homework is done and your reading is done, then you get to stay up till 9:00. You don’t have to go to bed at 8:00.” So now they’re going, “Okay, I’d like that.” “Okay, well, here’s what that requires.” “Okay, I’ll move toward that.” “Well, move toward it when you’re 13.” Boom! You got it.
In one sense, you’re marking while you’re creating a touchdown for your younger kids. So now there’s not this kind of, “What are we going to do?” They’re really geeked up about their thirteenth birthdays now, because for us, we decided 13 was going to be that age that we dropped a stake in the ground for them. Then we’re going to do it again probably at 17 or 18, and then we’ll see after that. We haven’t thought that far ahead, to be honest with you. We have 13 down, which is good, because we have a 13-year-old. So marking and making then can begin to walk side by side.
Another game we’ve played with our kids… For the last 20 years, I have traveled more than I should, and by the grace of God, come this fall, I am here and at home, and most of my traveling will stop. That has been a two-year process of trying to stop the crazy pace we’ve been living on. What we told our kids is if they could sit through a service at The Village without having to get up and go to the bathroom and without having to be told to be quiet and quit squirming, they could travel with Daddy.
We’ve tested them. They get a once-a-month shot until they make it, and that’s it. So my kids will have to come in and sit on a weekend Lauren is not singing, and they can’t go to the bathroom, and they can’t be told even once to be quiet, and they have to take notes, and when Dad gets home, they have to give Dad his outline. If they can do that, they can travel with Daddy.
You can giggle about that, but if I’m at a conference in an arena and I’m preaching my message and all of a sudden think, “Where did Audrey go?” that’s a problem. So they have to do that. We’ve been ruthless. I just remember Reid was like, “Ooh,” and then he just bailed with like two minutes left in the service. We were like, “Good try. Try again next month.” Just not giving an inch on that.
That sets a touchdown for them. “If you can sit through an hour-and-20-ish-minute service, then you can travel with Daddy.” At this point, I have had a blast. Audrey has been to London and San Diego and China and Uganda. It has been awesome taking them with me. Reid has been all over. I was doing these men conferences called Act Like Men for a while, and little buddy went to every one of those things with me.
Now Norah still hasn’t quite made it. She failed two weeks ago, so she has another two weeks to give it another go. She has to hurry, because Daddy is about to get off the road. Got to hurry up and get that trip in. We’ll see. That’s an example of just saying, “We want to create touchdowns for you. We want to create opportunities for you to grow and win.”
When we talk about counsel, we talk about how The Village wants to serve you to this end. We’ve created some of these milestones for you. Let me give you some examples. Again, parents, you can do this. You can do it. The first is we’ve created a baby dedication kit for you. I’ll tell you why we did it that way. It was my experience, and maybe my experience shouldn’t be the gauge by which we gauged it, but it was my experience and others that baby dedications in the churches we got saved in was much more a fashion show for the kid than it was any type of real baby dedication.
So we wanted to create a kit that you, as parents, could take and invite family members and friends and those who are going to be a part of this kid’s life and can put on a formal baby dedication for that child with your family members and friends, where there are prayers and promises and vows and a certificate and all of that just set up for you, so you can drop a stake in the ground and say, “We’re going to raise this child in the fear of the Lord, and we want our friends to hold us accountable to that.”
That’s just there for you. You can pick it up any given weekend. We wanted to provide that for you. Parents, I would pay particular attention to Promotion Sundays, particularly kindergarten to first, because that’s when they leave Little Village and roll into Kids Village; and then fifth to sixth, because that’s when they leave Kids’ Village, our elementary school ministry, and roll into junior high; and then eighth to ninth, because that’s when they roll into high school.
Again, this isn’t complex. Moms and dads, this is simply on Promotion Sunday, you’re going to take them to lunch, and you just talk about what you saw and loved about the elementary school years. You remember. You do what you do. You tell a couple of funny stories. “Love this about you. Excited for you as we’re moving into… Are you anxious about it? What are you nervous about? I’m not nervous. Maybe I am, but I’m not telling you I’m nervous. You’re going to do so well. You’re going to have great opportunities. There are some dangers, but Mom and Dad are here.”
It’s just conversation over lunch. Grandparents, get in that game. We need you. Then other examples. Baptism. We have a Family Baptism Class, where you can sit in the room with your child and hear about baptism. There are some questions we ask you and you get to ask them. It’s this really cool milestone moment that baptism is, and we want to come alongside of you and help you.
One of my favorites that we have done every summer for the last four or five years, because we know it’s here… We have live on our website right now the summer activity guide for families. So right now, if you went and gave money to Lewisville and you registered to serve on July 30 and then you downloaded this book, we’ve got you. You don’t need to read this book. You can just use this book.
As summer is coming along, if you’re going on vacation, table of contents: vacation. If you’re flying, we’ve got you. If you’re driving, we’ve got you. How to turn that aspect of vacation into conversations about the Lord, dropping a stake in the ground. We have fun family activities for you; hence, Summer Family Activity Book. Going on hikes. Going on walks. Watching a movie outside. All sorts of things. We just want to give it to you so you can drop stakes in the ground with your children.
If you have middle school and high school students, what we do every two years is a series on sex and sexuality followed by a Commitment Service. The next one will be May of 2017. We’re doing that every two years with our students. Then lastly, when your child turns 16, they are now eligible (eligible is a strange word, but I don’t know another word to use there) to become covenant members of the church.
The reason we like 16 is they’re able at 16 to serve the local body in a way that they’re more mindful of and knowledgeable of what they’re doing. So at 16, they can sit through Covenant Membership Class, become covenant members, and then begin to serve the church. That’s a huge deal. That’s a huge milestone to celebrate, that they belong to the local body in a way where they’re working out the “one anothers” in a given local context. That’s a great opportunity.
So these are ways we’re just trying to set you up to win, Mom and Dad. Josh Patterson, who’s one of the lead pastors (we have three lead pastors here) and an elder, does this great talk on the philosophy of ministry for The Village Church. If you’ve been in our membership class, you’ve heard it. If you haven’t, you probably haven’t, but eventually I’ll have him do it on a weekend.
We looked at the landscape of where we were. There are multiple ways to do family discipleship. There’s not a wrong way. You have to choose the way you want to do it. Josh’s illustration is if you watch football, there’s the 4-3 defense and the 3-4 defense. It’s not right or wrong. It’s you have to pick one to run. If you try to run both, you’re going to have the wrong personnel and you’re probably going to get scored on a lot. You have to pick your defense. You have to hire according to that scheme, and then you have to execute correctly.
There are two ways to do family discipleship. One is a highly programmatic approach. What that means is that the church would hire staff and build out robust programs, where you drop your kid off and we teach them the Bible, and then you drop your kid off and we teach them how to sing songs, and then you drop your kid off and we teach them how to pray, and then you drop your kid off and we teach them about global missions, and then you drop your kid off and we… Right?
There’s nothing wrong with that. There are churches right by God, pleasing to the Lord, doing that all around us. We think it’s awesome, yet at the end of the day, they’re going home with you, and regardless of what we build in regard to programming, we will never have the influence you will in your time with them. So what our philosophy of ministry is on family discipleship is we have things for them to come to and to learn about and to teach them, but what we want to do more and more and more is just put everything in your hands and be your biggest fans.
We want to say, “Mom and Dad, you can do this. Mom and Dad, you’re going to crush this. Here, all you have to do is read these sentences on the way home. All you have to do is find…” Again, I’ll say we’re a month into this. Fifteen minutes a week makes you “Mom and Dad of the Year.” I don’t care what you do in here; you have 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes to look at the calendar, to intentionally think about how you want to apply, and then to execute.
It’s going to be imperfect. It’s going to be messy. Americans want things fast, big, and famous, but that’s not how discipleship works. Discipleship is slow. It’s inefficient. It’s a moment at a time for a lifetime. Moms and dads, you can do this. If you’re here and you’re like, “Oh my gosh! I don’t even know where to start,” no, you know exactly where to start.
We’ll be done in 10 minutes, and you’re going to just pick this up. You’re going to say, “Hey, today you learned about someone being the way, the truth, and the life. Who could that be?” You might even get, “I don’t know.” Jesus. “Was it Jesus, buddy?”
“Well, how is he the way? How does he get us to God?”
“I don’t know.”
“Man, I don’t either, but you know what? We’re going to find out together.”
Here’s something I want by the grace of God to knock out of your head. For whatever reason, in our minds we think success is walking up to one of our kids and going, “Hey, I just noticed you seem a little bit agitated lately. You seem like something is off. Are you okay? Is everything all right in your world?”
The only way that can possibly be successful is if then in that moment they start to cry and go, “You know what? No. I’ve just really been struggling. Will you teach me what to do? Will you lead me?” I’m telling you, Mom and Dad, stop that. The win is the question itself. The win says, “I see you. I care about you. I’m here for you.” Gosh, they might not know what’s going on in their own hearts. Think of how often you don’t know what’s going on in yours. The win is not them being able to verbally vomit all over you what’s going on.
Occasionally that will happen, and that’s an awesome gift from God, but your job, parents, isn’t to extract that from them like they’re prisoners with information you need to have. It’s to let them know you’re here, that you love them and that you see them. It’s, “Are you okay? Is everything going all right? How are things with your friends? How has school been? Everything all right out at the barn? I’ve just noticed.”
It’s not, “You’d better tell me what’s going on at the barn. I’ll call her mom. You think I won’t call her mom? You think I won’t call up the school and get to the bottom of this? You’d better tell me what’s…” That’s not saying, “I love you. I care for you.” That’s, “You’re a liar, and I don’t believe you, and I’m going to manage your life for you.”
Our job is not to manage their lives. Our job is to love, to lead, to set boundaries, to grow them in responsibilities, and to turn their eyes toward Jesus. Mom and Dad, you can do this. You’re going to crush it. I’m already proud of you, and we haven’t even gotten out of here yet.
I thought we would end our series the way we started our series, and that’s by reading out loud together boldly Psalm 145, verses 1-9. We’re going to boldly read this out loud, and we’re going to fill this auditorium and the other auditoriums with the Word of God, talking about the greatness of God and commending the greatness of God to the next generation. Do me a favor. Will you stand as we read this together? I’m going to start, and then I’m going to bail out a little bit, because you tend to read better when I’m not reading with you. So let’s start this together.
“I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I will declare your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.” Amen.
Father, we thank you. We bless your name. Would you, in your mercy, encourage our hearts, strengthen our hands? I pray that we might in small ways nurture and cherish the souls you have entrusted to us. It’s for your beautiful name we pray, amen.