It's the final command Jesus gives. The most familiar version, probably, is in Matthew's gospel. Translating the Greek verbs carefully, you come up with something like this:
"As you are going, make disciples of all peoples by means of baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and by teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you."
The command is to "make disciples." It's the only imperative verb (command) in the whole sentence.
Central's mission statement is "Making disciples of Jesus." How do we do this? In churches, in families, how do we do this? Look around you -- bringing kids to worship is obviously not an adequate response, though it's certainly important.
I recently read an article about why kids growing up in the church choose to remain Christian. It was a mildly interesting article and I forwarded it to a few friends and coworkers. I also forwarded it to a couple former kids of my acquaintance and asked for their comments.
The article lists three main reasons why kids remain committed to Christ:
- They have been truly converted by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- They have been equipped through their church, not entertained.
- Their parents have "preached the gospel" to them.
I think these three are good answers, for what they're worth. But I don't think they go quite deep enough. So, like I said, I asked for some expert opinions from those who up until recently have been kids, who are committed to Christ. Here are Eric's comments:
For me, this article doesn't particularly hit home; it feels a little like swinging a ping pong paddle while trying to hit a home run.The themes of "authentic relationships" and "honest struggles" and "transparency" are huge here. Parents, take note. It's not enough to tell your kids what to do -- you have to live faith in front of them, share your struggles with them, and don't be afraid to wrestle with the hard issues.
While I certainly won't argue AGAINST what the author included, I also don't think those three traits are the most important (other than, of course, being a 'truly converted Christian,' although such language makes me wary).
If I were to list the three most important factors in my own life for having 'survived' my college years as a Christian, I'd emphasize the following:
-I was introduced to a faith that was more than an idea; a faith with power for personal and societal change, based upon a solid historical basis, the testimony of others throughout the ages, and my own personal experience.
-I learned from with those who wrestle deeply with facts, theories, and experiences that (appear to) cause many others to lose their faith - while remaining active Christians who neither dismiss these challenges nor crumble in their presence. I have seen robust, informed, and active faith.
-I was and am surrounded by a community of others who testify to God's love and faithfulness, who seek truth wherever it may be found, who press on to know the Lord, who walk with integrity, and who love as Christ loved. I know them and they know me; we support each other; they know my doubts and failings, my testimonies and triumphs. Without these people, I would not be who I am and I would perhaps not be a Christian anymore.
Some of Erica's comments take us farther down this road:
Seeing more mature Christians live out a rough and bumpy faith while still holding onto (and learning to apply) God's promises of beauty and purpose has been more encouraging to me than any youth program curriculum or week-long-mission-trip experience.Parents, do you have a "rough and bumpy faith"? Do you have a sense of God's promise of beauty in your life? (This phrase intrigues me and I want to think and write more about it. I think it's vitally connected to what Jesus called "the kingdom of God" which was the whole theme of his ministry.) Do you have a sense of God's promise of purpose in your own life?
If you have a sense of beauty and purpose rooted in God's promises to you, I can just about guarantee that you have struggled with this. How can you hold to a sense of beauty in the face of sex trafficking or famine or chemical weapons? How can you hold to a sense of purpose in the face of a mid-life crisis or a cancer diagnosis or chronic depression? Can you wrestle, as Eric says above, with the hard questions and doubts?
If you can fight through these battles (notice I said "fight" and not "conquer") in a way that appropriately lets your kids into your real relationship -- the good and the bad and the ugly -- with Jesus, you are beginning to fulfill your role as a parent.
To put it differently, if you want your kids to stay committed to Jesus through thick and thin, let them into the ways you stay committed to Jesus through thick and thin. Keep growing in your own journey as a disciple -- in the intellectual challenges of Christianity's history, into the meat of apologetics, into the hard-edged compassion it takes to make a real difference in the world, into the gritty reality of dying to yourself and giving your life away for the sake of someone else.
That's how we make disciples of all peoples, including our kids.