On Discipling Our Kids: Six Things Young Parents Need From Our Church

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The other day, I came across a podcast entitled “Does my son know you?” I was intrigued by the title. I didn’t know what it mean. “Does my son know you?” It ended up being an interview with a guy named Jonathan Tjarks.
This guy, Jonathan Tjarks, is 33 years old. He’s an accomplished sports writer for The Ringer. He also has terminal cancer. This cancer that he has is so rare that your odds of developing it are one in 25 million. He was the one. He’s married and has a son. And he’s got anywhere from five months to five years to live. The doctors just don’t know this cancer well enough to be more precise.
So the title of the article, “Does my son know you?”, comes out of his terminal cancer diagnosis. If I’m not going to be around, he argues, I need there to be men in my son’s life who will step in for me.
Most of us have health insurance and life insurance to prepare for this kind of thing. But there’s something else he says we need that most of us don’t have: relational insurance. Who will be there for my wife and son when I’m gone? Where are the men who will step in and read the Bible with my son, and talk to my son about how a Christian man treats women? Where are the guys who will walk with my son as he grows up? Where are the relationships that will survive my death and carry on in my place for my family? That’s what he means when he asks “does my son know you?” [https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/podcasts/gospelbound/does-my-son-know-you/, accessed July 29, 2022]
This question is worth considering, parents, even if you’re in excellent health. Because the reality is, moms and dads, that we need the help of other Christians in raising our children. We are called to be the primary spiritual teachers of our children. Their discipleship and their growth in Christ is not the church’s responsibility; it is ours. And while it is rewarding, it is also hard.
Which is why, moms and dads, we need older believers — besides our own parents — who will come around us and alongside us and encourage us. Which is why, older believers, we need our kids to know you and for you to know our kids. We need you to come around us and alongside us and encourage us. There is much we need from you.
Today I’m just going to focus on six things we need you to remind us of — six things we are prone to forget as parents, seven things we need from you older saints who have raised their children.
Today’s take-away:
To disciple our kids, young parents need constant reminders of basic Christian truths. Church, we need you to take this responsibility.
The first thing we need you to remind us of, church, is the supreme importance of discipling our kids.

#1: We need to be reminded of the supreme importance of discipling our kids

I’ve often said your checkbook tells a story about what is most important to us. What about your schedule?
Moms and dads [LOOK], there is a never ending array of possibilities for how your kids can spend their free time. There’s no shortage of extracurricular activities. I’m grateful there are so many opportunities for our kids to develop themselves. My kids have extracurricular activities. They’ve done horseback riding and robotics and such.
But you want to know something about those activities? Actually you already know this. Two things:
Number one: those activities are in competition with you. They want your money, sure, but most importantly they want your time, your attention, your allegiance, your loyalty.
Number two: None of those activities are substitutes for spiritual conversations with our kids. None of those activities are substitutes for corporate worship on Sunday morning or Sunday School on Sunday morning, or youth group on Sunday or Wednesday nights.
We don’t want to have regrets. We don’t want to make the mistake of waiting until our children are grown and have kids of their own, and we’re wondering why we can’t get them to make church a priority for them or for their families, only to have the realization that we didn’t make it a priority for us — they learned it from us.
And church family, we need you to remind us of this. Remind us that there is no substitute for discipleship. Football is great, but it won’t make your son more like Christ. STEM group is fun, but it won’t encourage your daughter to draw near to God. Church family, every other force in the world is conspiring together to draw our attention as parents away from what matters for our children. You must remind us that as important as athletic ability is, as important as college readiness is, the salvation and then the spiritual growth of our children must come first. If it has to be Jesus or football, it’s Jesus.
Church family, remind us of these things, because we are so prone to forget. We need you. We need you to remind us of the supreme importance of discipling our kids. We also need you to remind us to mingle discipline with mercy in our parenting.

#2: We need to be reminded to mingle discipline with mercy in our parenting

One summer many years ago, the police department in South Windsor, CT started a new initiative. They were going to start encourage as much as they confronted. No more of this business of only writing tickets to punish violations of the law; they pulled people over and writing them a ticket for obeying the law.
One woman said she saw the blue light behind her and imme4diately started looking for a place to pull over, and doing what we’ve all done: what did I do? Did I run a redlight? Was I speeding? Did I not come to a full stop and roll back at the stop sign? Dad always told me roll back! If only I had listened. To her surprise, the officer walks up to her, hands her a ticket which was really a thank you note and $2. The policeman said, “You didn’t do anything wrong. You’re driving was great — and we appreciate it.” [Larson p137]
My reaction when I heard that was, man this is weird to the point of being creepy. Maybe it’s because I’ve never experienced a police officer thanking me for good driving. But while we’re on the subject, let’s take a quick poll:
How many of you are quicker to criticize than to encourage?
Let’s just be honest, okay? We’ve all got our stuff. Maybe for you, some of you parents are quicker to criticize than to encourage. Anybody?
How about the reverse: how many of you are quicker to encourage than to criticize? Confrontation is not your thing. Encouragement is.
See, we all tend to fall to one side or the other.
Now, how many of you think it’s important for a parent to be able to do both? There’s hope for us, then. Because God excels at both.
Is God a loving God or is a wrathful God? The answer is yes. He’s both. God is love. He is a loving, patient, tender-hearted God. He encourages us. Yet the same God is also holy. He is just. He must and will punish wrongdoing. He is a loving God but He will call us out too. He is both. He would cease to be perfect if He were to edge one centimeter in one direction or the other. The apostle Paul wrote “Note, then, the kindness and severity of God” (Rom 11:22 ESV). God is both a loving God and a wrathful God.
Same with Jesus. He is both the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God that was slain for our sins. He is the perfect example of meekness and humility, and He also made a whip and drove moneychangers out of the temple. God the Father, in other words, and God the Son, mingle mercy with discipline in their dealings with us. They will teach us to do the same, and they will enable us to do the same.
Some of us are harder on our kids than we should be. Then again some of us can give encouragement and affirmation to our kids but we struggle to be firm with them. Church family, we need your help here. Remind us that God deals with us with both mercy and discipline.
Remind us of this, church family. Remind us to mingle discipline with mercy in our parenting. We also need to be reminded that it is our job to disciple our kids more than it is anybody else’s job.

#3: We need to be reminded that it is our job more than anybody’s else’s

So, my son will be 14 in a few weeks. As he gets older, I’ve been thinking about the prospect of my kids driving. And as I’m thinking about this, I’m remembering when I first got my learner’s permit in 1995. I remember my driver’s ed teacher. This guy was legitimately the meanest man I have ever known. His name was Wilton Daves. He was so bad I remember telling my dad about him and telling him his name and even my dad said, “Wilton Daves? He’s really kind of a jerk! (He had been my dad’s teacher when he was in high school.)
This guy was not only mean; he was quirky. He had us run his errands during the on-the-road portion. The first time we were behind the wheel of the car, where did we go? We went to Boone. So my first day on the road involved driving up 321 from Lenoir to Blowing Rock. I thought it was fun, but I think I was the only one. And you really didn’t want to run a stop sign with this guy. He’d make you get out of the car, walk up to the stop sign, apologize to the stop sign for disobeying its clear command, and then get back in the car. There was even a rumor that this guy had made a guy kiss a stop sign. This guy was so mean and he made you feel so small that when you got home at the end of the day all you wanted to do was crawl under a rock and hide until it was all over.
I remember my dad riding with me when I was 15. I remember him saying, “Now son, don’t go thinking that you’re gonna drive every time we get in the car.” Even so, my dad was a much better teacher than Wilton Daves. I also remember pulling out in front of someone and almost getting in a wreck. This happened a couple of times with my dad. I remember his left foot trying to press down on an imaginary brake pedal when I wasn’t stopping fast enough. I also remember being told to pull into the grocery store parking lot and park while he balled me out pretty good. I needed to have the fear of the road put in me, you know?
Here’s the point: There was a reason for the learner’s permit: driver’s ed was just the first step. That was the school’s part. The school taught me the mechanics of driving, the rules of driving. The school put me behind the wheel for two full days. But it was my parents’ job to teach me how to drive.
Moms and dads: the church is here to give you a boost. Shawn and I are here to get you on the right track. But it is your job to disciple your kids. It is your job, more than it is anybody else’s, to teach your kids what it looks like to follow Christ. It is your job to do this. The church’s role is to come alongside you, to encourage and equip you. But it is your job and yours alone.
Here’s the thing: and moms and dads, I want you to take this with you today if you don’t take anything else with you:
You are the best possible person to disciple your kids, because God who is all knowing and all good has entrusted them to you.
I repeat: You are the best possible person to disciple your kids, because God who is all knowing and all good has entrusted them to you. You can do it. God will help you. You can do it. You’re the best one to do it.
And husbands, please hear this: do not outsource your spiritual leadership role to your wives. I repeat: do not outsource your spiritual leadership role to your wives. They will do it if you don’t. Don’t make them do it.
And church family, remind us of this. Remind us that we must step up to the plate and take responsibility for our children. Remind us that it is our job more than it is anybody else’s. But we also need to be reminded that the time if short.

#4: We need to be reminded that the time is short

It’s interesting in the Bible, in the NT, to see how certain the apostles were that Jesus’ return was imminent. Jesus Himself said this. Watch your screen and read along with me.
Revelation 3:11 ESV
I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.
Revelation 22:7 ESV
“And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Revelation 22:12 ESV
“Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.
Revelation 22:20 ESV
He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
“Come Lord Jesus” was the prayer of the early church. Maranatha, they would say — that’s Come, Oh Lord, in Aramaic.
The time is short. Daylight is waning. Our bodies are wearing out, no matter how young we may be. Do you notice, moms and dads, how every year seems to pass quicker than the one before?
My 20s seemed to last forever. My 30s flew by and I don’t know where they went. I’ll neverr forget one Saturday morning my dad and I and Noah went out for breakfast. Noah was little, maybe two or three. Dad looked at Noah and said, “Son, he’s growing up.” Those words pierced me heart. When the kids were little, every day seemed to last a really long time. Maybe you feel like the days and nights are long, moms and dads. But the years themselves will race past.
Moms and dads, your babies are growing up. You will turn your head away for what seems like a few minutes, and your baby is turning 5. 10 comes exponentially faster. I don’t say this to make you uncomfortable. I say this to pierce your heart and awaken you to the reality that the time is short.
Church family, this is probably a reminder we need more than any of the others. When you see us frustrated and tired, smile at us, put your arm around us and say, “The time is short.”
We also need to be reminded that heaven and hell are real.

#5: We need to be reminded that heaven and hell are real

Heaven and hell are real.
Hell isn’t a popular topic these days. Heaven might be, but hell is not. You won’t make any friends, chances are, by saying you believe hell is real. But heaven and hell aren’t metaphors. Jesus was not exaggerating when he spoke of them. They are real places. And we cannot allow our culture’s distaste for the reality of hell to cause us to think less seriously of where we will spend eternity.
The reality is: Not everyone will be saved. Jesus spoke of the wide path and narrow gate. “For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life,” Jesus said, “and those who find it are few.” The fact that few people will find it ought to drive us toward the arms of the Savior who has promised us that He will abandon no one to hell who comes to Him in faith. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish”, Jesus says, “and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28 ESV). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV).
They are born out of relationship with God, they are born alienated from God. You don’t have to teach a baby or a child to sin. Our children are not born saved. And yet Jesus loves our children, far more than we ourselves are able to love them. And He invites our children to Himself.
Let’s take another poll: how many of you here who are believers today made a profession of faith and were baptized before you turned 12? How about before the age of 16? How about after the age of 16?
It almost needs no explanation. Experience shows that the older our kids get, the less likely it is that they will become Christians. Now listen, church: God can do anything — God can save the most hardened 25 year old or 55 year old just as easily as the 10 year old. Salvation and conversion are always miracles. But it is an established fact that most people who become believers in Jesus Christ do so when they are children or teenagers.
So, start when your kids are young talking about Jesus and hell and heaven and salvation with your kids. Avoid baptizing them early, before you can discern whether the Lord is truly at work. Help them understand instead things like sin and conversion and repentance. Teach them that God loves them despite their sin. Teach them that salvation is not automatic. They must make a conscious choice, on a level appropriate to their age, to follow Jesus and trust in Him for salvation for themselves. How many
Church family, remind us of this. Don’t worry about making us uncomfortable. It is good for us to feel uncomfortable. Remind us that heaven and hell are real.
Lastly, we need you to remind us that every moment matters.

#6: We need to be reminded that every moment matters

Every moment matters.
Moms, maybe you feel like the mother of three preschool age kids. When asked whether she would have three kids again if given the choice, she said, “Sure, just not the same three.” [Swindoll p75]
Sometimes parents can have this letdown experience after you have your first child. You imagined it differently. You ask yourself, “I thought this was supposed to be this incredible experience of constant joy. And it isn’t always an experience of joy.” You need to know those feelings are normal. And you need to know that what you are doing as a mom, as a dad, is precious to God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
Colossians 3:17 ESV
And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Every moment matters because God sees you, moms and dads. Every moment matters because every moment can point to God; every moment can be lived for His glory. Especially your moments of weakness and tiredness — “My grace is sufficient for you,” the Bible says, “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor. 12:9 ESV).
Church family, remind us of the importance of discipling our children. Remind us to mingle mercy with justice in our parenting. Remind us that this is our job more than it is anybody else’s. Remind us that the time is short. Remind us that heaven and hell are real. Church family, remind us that every moment matters for the glory of God. Remind us of these things. We need you.

Conclusion and call for response

One day Jonathan Tjarks gathered his friends together and said to all of them, “When I see you in heaven, there’s only one thing I’m going to ask — were you good to my son and my wife? Were you there for them? Does my son know you?”
Note that it’s not “do you know my son?” It’s “does my son know you?” Church family, you know who are kids are. Do they know you?
A famous politician wrote a book called It Takes A Village. This book argued it takes a village to raise a child. Let’s correct that statement: it takes a church to raise a child.
Speaking personally, I need you men who come alongside my son. Show them what it looks like for someone who’s not a pastor to follow Jesus. I need you women to come alongside my wife and my daughter. Church family, we need you here.
Moms and dads, today we are commissioning you as missionaries. This church, these people? This is your sending agency. Shawn and I, we’re your equippers and encouragers. The mission field is your house.
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