According to an Amazon.com there are 119, 188 books on parenting. With such a wealth of experts on the subject, one can only guess that there are an equally numerous number of opinions about how to parent, the purpose of parenting and the goals to which parents should strive. In fact, the predominant view of most parenting resources is to shepherd our children into productive members of society by the time they reach emancipation. But is such a view, really the purpose of Christian parenting? Is that all we are called to as believers, or is there a greater goal than merely productivity?
I believe there is a greater goal!
As parents we are called to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I [Christ] have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19). Most of Christendom, since the 20th century, has read this as a purely evangelistic text, and this is definitely good. We need to be about reaching out with the gospel, but there is a host of wisdom if one reads this text and applies it to the family as Christian parents. This evangelistic command of Christ, sets as the main goal of all Christian parents to disciple our children to be obedient disciples of Jesus.
Such an overarching purpose would guide many aspects of parenting: quick and prompt obedience, discernment of the voice of God, wisdom in applying the Word of God to life’s myriad of circumstances and situations, an ability to defend the faith and articulate the gospel to others, a joyous serving heart for others, cultivating a stewardship attitude in our children that everything belongs to God, and the list could go on. These are but some of the natural outflows of obedience to Christ.
The purpose of Christian parenting isn’t to make good members of society, that is a byproduct of being a good disciple of Jesus. Good obedient disciples make good civic members, but not all good civic members are good, obedient disciples. The purpose of Christian parenting is to make disciples who obey Jesus Christ. This is the overarching truth, the fundamental principle which needs to be reclaimed by all Christian parents.
In future entries, I will discuss the following topics related to practically implementing this truth into our families. As I currently see it, there are a number of areas that need to be addressed if this fundamental truth is embraced:
- Parental pursuit of Christ
- Obedience in children
- Spiritual formation in the family
- What is a biblical worldview and how to defend it
- Training in stewardship
- Instilling a heart to serve
Note: For an excellent book that has helped to give words to many gut feelings I have had related to the challenges facing children in Christian families who lack a clear Christian purpose for parenting, see Voddie Baucham’s Family Driven Faith.