Discipling The Next Generation
The discipleship of children and young people is a Biblical doctrine that must be restored to our pulpits. There is a resounding silence on the subject, yet the mandate is clear:
- “One generation is responsible for the next.” (Psalm 145)
- “Parents are responsible for their children.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)
Just two very simple commands throughout Scripture.
The command for parents to disciple their children is not just for when they are small; teenagers also need relational discipleship through the formative years of adolescence. There is a universal strong belief that teenage years are full of problems and relational struggles. Normal Christianity is unity in homes with faith for children to “grow in wisdom and stature and favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Like Samuel, who had a mother who had vision for him to follow his God all the days of his life (1 Samuel 1:11), Jesus, our role model, had a great relationship with His parents - honoring His mother even in His dying moments.
Jesus gave every child two parents to be the tangible image and expression of the Heavenly Father so that children would understand His character and know His heart. No one is anointed for the children like parents; no one can take their place. They, above everyone else, are uniquely and strategically positioned for this. Discipleship is a lifestyle on a day-to-day basis. It is not a class, a book, or a program. Only parents can disciple in this way through their own lives as well as through words (like Jesus with His disciples). They need to be part of a lifestyle commitment and passion for the Son of God.
Passionate parents raise passionate children. The question parents must ask themselves is, “What am I passionate about?” Without a passion for Jesus we will pass on legalism, conforming them to regulations of the law instead of the joy of relationship. When we do not pass onto them we rob them of what is rightfully theirs. It is time to bring relational values to bear in family so our children experience the presence of Jesus in their homes, and grow always knowing Jesus as another member of the family.
I dream of a church where parents no longer come asking what the church can do for their child or teenager, but instead ask what the church can do to better equip them as parents. Jesus commanded us to make disciples of all nations – it starts at home and goes to the nations.
They were born for such time as this.
There is a cry for the hearts of the fathers to be turned to the children in the spirit of Elijah (Malachi 4:5-6). I pray for a great awakening among leaders, among parents to take back their relational responsibility to this generation of young people and children who could walk through the most terrible (2 Timothy 3:1) and yet the most glorious days of this earth when the end time harvest will be gathered and the bride of Christ refined (Revelation 14:15).
Our children live in a time of terrorism, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, AIDS, increasing persecution, etc., creeping across the earth. Could they be living through the opening chapter of Matthew 24 – could they today be experiencing the birth pains of this earth? Read the newspaper through the eyes of the Bible and hear what the Spirit of God is saying about the days they will live through.
I hear many leaders across the world saying that they believe the birth pains are upon us (Matthew 24:7). A mother experiencing birth pains is prepared – if we are to disciple our children to walk through the rest of Matthew 24, we need to be very intentional about recognizing the times and preparing them. He knows how best to equip them – He chose parents. Sound the Alarm over this generation!
Sadly, in every nation I see parental ambitions bound up with education, financial gain, status, and security in terms of this world. His plans for our generation are not the same as for theirs – we cannot raise them with the same vision that we were raised for. The day is coming when the world’s systems will come falling – to really love our children and to really love Jesus is to prepare them, not for the few short years of this earth, but to go after eternity.
God’s Ambitions For This Generation
God has dreams and ambitions for them – sadly, most parents have no idea what they are. His plans are from generation to generation (Psalm 33:11). He plans generationally and in order to raise our children to “serve the purpose of God in their generation” (Acts 13:35), we must hear what He is saying and understand the time that they are born in, like the men of Issachar who “know the times but also what to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Jesus encouraged the pursuit of eternal reward – this surely must be the heart cry of every parent who wants to delight the heart of God and see their children reigning with Him. The ambitions of the Kingdom are very different from those of the world. It is Godly character, it is going after the poor, promoting justice, loosening the bonds of wickedness (Isaiah 58). It is ambition that will bring the scorn of others, will be misunderstood, but like Daniel, we must raise a generation to stand in the midst of an alien society, prepared to be different and have a different message. Like John the Baptist, as a forerunner generation they cry to the nations preparing the way for the Messiah.
Could it be that there are those who we consider having a “great ministry” will one day will look around and find their children are not spending eternity with them? They had their degrees, their homes, and their careers, but these had not been founded on the ambitions of God but on the temporal ambitions seen in the light of worldly acclaim.
In many nations young people are paying the price, standing for the sake of the gospel, speaking out, prepared to be counted. They are praying where they are told they can’t pray, speaking of Jesus where they are told to be silent.
The most precious ambition of a parent must surely be raising children to be sons and daughters of the King of kings, firm in their faith, standing like rocks in the storm, ready to change nations and living for the kingdom that will be eternal.
The spirit of God is calling forth a generation of Nazarenes who will be holy unto Him, who will stand in the midst of a wicked generation and bring the light of the gospel where darkness is reigning. This generation is called to missions. The great commission is their commission, too (Mark 16:15) - the world is open to them. It is up to us to prepare them to take their place in their generation so they are equipped to take the gospel to the most remote places on earth (Matthew 24:14). They need a passion for souls – we cannot raise them to have inward looking ambitions that care nothing for those who Jesus gave His life for.
The Father had one Son and He sent Him as a soul winner, as a missionary, as a servant of all, as one who knew how to respond in adversity, who went for those society had rejected and loved when He was hated. What greater model could a parent have than the model of the Father?
We need to leave a louder song of praise on this earth for Jesus, we are custodians of the plans (Psalm 33:11), salvation (Isaiah 51:8), and throne of God (Lamentations 5:19) being established in the next generation. We are warriors (Psalm 127:4), having been trusted by God with His arrows. Where are we firing them to? Let’s fire them, mobilized and equipped, to the darkest places and declaring “our God reigns,” making a highway for the King (Malachi 4).
They are wrestling (and increasingly will) against “principalities and powers, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12, Matthew 24:12). We need to ensure that they are surrounded by our prayer and support. God only knows what the coming years are going to hold as they live through the times when all nations could hate them (Matthew 24:9).
God has great plans for this generation. He trusts us to have His heart and ambitions for them, discipling them under the power of the Holy Spirit to live through the unfolding era of this earth.
Children, like David, may be out in the fields (our homes) and while on the hillsides, God is looking for their love songs to Him. He wants us to train them to fight the “bears and the wolves” (1 Samuel 16:10) so that when they are released they will bring down the Goliaths and be equipped as warriors and kings. We need a vision for them to be mighty while they are still young. Like Eli, we need to be awake and alert, even in the night times, to train this generation to hear His voice and then to hear what the Spirit of God is saying through them.
The sound of thunder echoes over cities and nations as this generation revolts against the kingdom of darkness, releasing a victory shout of an emerging army. This is the generation of our children and young people – if we don’t wake up to the challenge we will hand them over to others who will disciple them according to the world’s values: through the media, music, education systems, advertising, and peer pressure.
Could it be that this generation living today will herald the return of Jesus and cry out to prepare the way for the coming Messiah? God has great plans for this generation and He looked for a generation who would parent them according to His priorities and vision, whose hearts, under the spirit of Elijah (Malachi 4), would be turned to the children rising up on their behalf.
He chose our generation!