If you had the choice to have a Bible study with three people or preach the gospel to thousands, which would you choose? The large crowd, right? Thousands of people would hear about Jesus and potentially respond in repentance and faith. It seems like such a no brainer. The three Bible study participants can tag along!
But what if the three people included members of your family? Should we prioritize discipling our own families in the mandate to make disciples of all nations? (Mt. 28:18-20). I believe the answer is yes. I want us to consider four reasons from the Bible why we need to prioritize our own family as our first mission field.
1. God gave them to you.
James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
God makes no mistakes. The spouse and children you have are direct gifts from God. He created them to glorify himself and draw them to see his glorious self. As a means to that end, he has given them to you for a period of time. You have the gift of a small group of human souls to mold, impress, and direct towards the Son of God.
In his recent blog post, Pastor Wesley talks about God renewing the Great Commission for our homes (Dt. 6:4-9). We also see in home discipleship emphasized in other passages. For one, “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct” (1 Pet. 3:1-2). If a woman turns to Christ and is currently married to an unbeliever, she is required by God to joyfully submit and love that unbeliever in order to show him Christ. Even if he is blind to his own spiritual condition, God is not blind and did not commit an error in bringing them together. How much more should we love our spouse if he or she is a member of the body of Christ!
Perhaps no better example can be found than our Lord Jesus. In Luke 2:41-52, we see an amazing account of Jesus’ humility towards his family. When he was twelve, his family traveled from Nazareth to Jerusalem for the Passover. After the feast, Joseph and Mary and their many relatives traveled home. Jesus stayed in the temple worshiping and asking questions of the teachers for three days. When Joseph and Mary realized that they lost the Son of God (whoops!) they high tailed it back to Jerusalem and search for him.
When they found him, they unloaded some stress and scolded Jesus. He responded meekly with a question ““Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49). Rather than argue with Joseph and Mary and stay in the temple where Jesus could do a lot of good for others, “he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them” (Lk. 2:51). Jesus would not begin his public ministry for another 18 years.
Eighteen years of obedience was no waste. Because of his obedience, God received the glory “and his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Lk. 2:51-52).
Jesus joyfully submitted to his family even when he was in the right and they were confused. You might not like your roommate at the moment but God makes no mistakes. When you honor God by prioritizing discipling those in your home, He is glorified, disciples are made, and you become more like Jesus.
2. As it goes in the home, it goes in the church.
The church is made of many families. Healthy families make healthy churches. We cannot bypass God’s created order and attempt to go around our families to make disciples. Even pastors and deacons are not exempt from this order. In fact, a pastor or deacon whose household is in disarray is disqualified from ministry.
“He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?” (1 Tim. 3:4-5).
Paul shows that the home is the first mission field. That’s not second rate ministry. It is the most important ministry. Even the appearance of a successful Sunday school class or active church involvement will be hindered if the family is in spiritual chaos behind the scenes.
More than ever, when we literally wear masks to church or watch worship online, how we prioritize Jesus in the home speaks volumes. It’s so easy to fake a healthy home! By taking the small moments to read our Bibles together, speak kindly, pray before bedtime, and sing praise songs in the car, God can establish a healthy gospel culture in our home that will bear fruit in all areas of our lives.
3. You get to determine where the arrows fly.
Psalm 127:4-5 says, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
Arrows are a curious weapon. A skilled marksman (Legolas from Lord of the Rings is the man) can take deadly aim and let an arrow fly so that it will achieve its purpose. A poor marksman might feel really special as he shoots his arrow but it will have little effect on the outcome of the battle.
The Bible tells us that parents are blessed with children. We want to make each arrow count for eternity. God wants us to raise our children up in “the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). We are raising up a generation that can declare the goodness of our God to the lost and hurt around us.
We don’t want to be dull or make dull arrows because we are too busy with work or making money or American comforts. We want to turn this world upside down for Christ. We want to march in front of our enemies with our heads held high because our Jesus is our King and our family is equipped for the spiritual warfare right alongside us.
May God help us point our children towards Jesus and make them effective in hitting the mark of Christlikeness!
4. You get a front row seat to God’s handiwork
“I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 1:4). If you have no kids, this verse should be a huge encouragement to you. The Apostle John is not talking about his children but of his spiritual children.
We have no greater joy than having a front row seat t0 God’s saving and transforming work in our own lives and those around us.
I cannot imagine how joyful it would be to see my own children live fully devoted as children of God. And to see their children fully devote themselves to Christ. And if I’m still alive, to see my children’s grandchildren walk with God.
To think about the future is to put the present into perspective. The part I play in the grand narrative of redemption is very small. Seriously, every time we read a genealogy in Scripture we tend to skim ahead, don’t we?
The value of my life is making much of Jesus and declaring his goodness to others. We see tremendous impact when we live out the gospel in our homes and point others to the truth. When we do that, we are still reaching the nations for Christ. Now, we get to reach the nations with our kids and grandkids.
You want to reach thousands for Christ? Awesome. Start sharpening your arrows for Christ in your home.
If you’re like me, you might feel a little discouraged after rethinking our family priorities. I spend too many moments with my kids wishing for bedtime to come. I don’t give thanks for messy play areas like I should. I wish our “arrows” sat a little more quietly in worship and weren’t all over the place.
Speaking of that, my wife and I had a couple in our church come up to us on Sunday morning and say they’re so glad when they hear our kids talk during the service, so their family is not the only one making noise. We’re happy to help with that!
Honestly, we’re so thankful for the warm, welcoming presence of Jesus who wants us to come with our messes, stresses, and noise.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30).
Let’s make disciples by his grace today. And parents, go ahead, bring your kids with you to church.
Talk about the worship on the way home and keep growing through the week.
After all, a healthy family helps lead to a healthy church.