Christian Parents are Disciple Makers
I’ve called myself a Christian for most of my life. Presently, I’ve come to understand that I am much more than that. I am a disciple. When Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund mentioned in a recent message the word “disciple” is referenced 269 times in the New Testament, while “Christian” is only referenced 3 times, I was inspired to study this word extensively. What I soon discovered directly impacted my mission and vision as a parent: Christian parents are disciple-makers!
I concluded from my study that disciples can be defined by five active attributes. Christ-following disciples, when empowered by the Holy Spirit, have faith to follow Jesus, obey His Word, love one another, and accept His appointment and authority. Most importantly, disciples make disciples. Without a doubt, followers of Christ are disciple-makers! That means that Christian parents are disciples who can make disciples. But what in the world does that look like here and now?
1. Disciples are Followers of Jesus by Faith
As disciples we have a God who uses signs and miracles to invite us, by faith, to follow Him with whole-hearted devotion. We see an example of this in John 2:11 through the response of Jesus’ first disciples. Our children, like Jesus’ disciples, will not be convinced until they are encouraged to “come and see.” Our God is a God of invitation; this is evidenced when Jesus invites His disciples in John 1:39 to follow Him as He started His earthly mission. As we read the stories of Jesus with our children and we talk about how He miraculously multiplied loaves of bread and a few fish to feed a hungry crowd; we are in turn inviting them to “come and see” Him for who He is. We get to marvel together when we read about Jesus healing the blind man’s eyes or the lame man’s legs.
As discipling parents, we get to remember with our children the power Jesus used to walk out of the tomb on Easter morning - by so doing overcoming death to give us eternal, abundant life! All these signs and wonders are convincing evidence, which builds a life of faith in the family.
2. Disciples Obey God’s Word
Disciples learn together to obey God’s Word. Discipling parents don’t need to understand it all before we can teach our children. Learn with them! Read passages of the Bible as a family and talk about what it teaches you about God and what He has done for us through Jesus. Work as a family to memorize entire Psalms. Recite them at mealtimes together until you’ve all mastered the passage together.
My family memorized Deuteronomy 5 when our children were preschoolers by simply reading it aloud daily for months until we all could recite it completely from memory. During that time, we also talked about what it looked like to obey God’s 10 commandments in day-to-day life. We then committed ourselves to the final verse of Deuteronomy 5: “Walk in all the way that the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (v. 33) and we believed in His promises for our family.
3. Disciples Love One Another
Loving one another shows the world Christian families are His disciples. In John 13:35, Jesus tells us “the world will know Him by our love for one another.” When my children were young, I would often remind them before we went out into public together that we get to show Jesus to our community by how we loved each other in the grocery store, the library, and at the park. Of course, there were times when we failed to love one another well, so those became opportunities for me to discipline my children, for discipling parents have been granted the authority by Christ to train our children in the way they should go.
People were watching a mother with five children, and only with the help of His Spirit, could we love and serve each other in a way that became a light of life for a dark world to see. It’s counter-cultural for siblings to love each other, so people will notice the presence of Christ in a family of disciples.
4. Disciples Accept Appointment and Authority of Christ
We are appointed by Christ to disciple our children, and He alone gives us the authority to accomplish this mission. Paul David Tripp tells parents to “go beyond enforcing your authority and point to His authority and go beyond pointing to His authority to pointing your children to His grace” in his book: Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family.
He explains how we can disciple our children by focusing mostly on the grace we’ve been given from God. He says, “No one gives grace better than a parent who humbly admits that he desperately needs it himself.” Again, we see a picture of God’s plan for His people: disciples making disciples. We are grace-dependent followers of Jesus giving grace to the ones we are training, teaching, and nurturing to follow Him (Titus 2:1-8). Parents, are you willing to accept this divine appointment from God?
5. Disciples Make Disciples
Clearly, disciples are commissioned by Christ to make disciples. We learn that from the final words of Jesus before His earthly mission was complete. He told His disciples to make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to obey His commands as recorded in the final verses of Matthew’s Gospel. There is no greater joy for a discipling parent than to know that their children have become fellow disciples.
In my family, we’ve had the privilege of participating in each baptism of our 5 children. Cory and I have accepted, very seriously, the appointment to disciple them so they know Jesus and are able to make Him known to the world. That being said, some of our children are following Christ faithfully while others are going their own way. We don’t get to control the outcome of our discipleship training. Ultimately, God makes disciples who are wholeheartedly devoted to Him. We are simply called to participate with Him in the context of our families. We follow Him by faith, we obey His word, we love one another, and we accept that we are appointed and authorized to make disciples.
As a result of this conviction of taking on the disciple identity, I am making the commitment to be whole-heartedly devoted to disciple-making in my home. By so doing, I am hoping we will continue to find and follow Jesus together in new ways. I am teaching God’s Word by learning it with them. We are committed to hearing our Shepherd’s voice and obeying Him together. With the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we will love one another as He has loved us. We choose to live by the authority of Christ and prayerfully extend grace to one another as He lavishly pours out grace on us every day. This is what I’ve learned it means to be a disciple. Lord, help me be a parent who is making disciples in my home!
Emily DeAngelo joined the Orchard Hill Church Adult Ministry Team in August 2018 as Co-director of Women’s Ministry. She felt welcomed by the Orchard Hill family immediately upon moving to the Pittsburgh area in January after 21 years of living in Carlisle, PA.
Emily has 25 years of experience as an educator and is devoted to knowing God and making Him known to others. Most recently she served as Director of Creativity and Curriculum for Children’s Ministry at Carlisle Evangelical Free Church, where she equipped and prepared volunteers for children's ministry. Prior to this she served in various roles as a teacher in homeschooling, private and public sectors. Emily holds an Education Degree from North Central College, Naperville, IL, and has received theological training from Evangelical Theological Seminary, Myerstown, PA.
She and her husband, Cory, have three children in college and careers. They now live in Marshall Township with their youngest two children, Kat and Micah.