by Alvin Reid
Being a parent is one of the most exciting, frightening, inspiring, upsetting, amazing, routine, joyful, and, at times, sorrowful experiences in life. Many young people today do not have a close relationship with their parents. Many rarely see a family that loves one another. Marriages end in divorce, with fatherless children, and mothers who struggle to get by.
How can we avoid this path? How can we cultivate a Christ-centered home? In Deuteronomy 6, Moses addresses parents and other adults saying: “Listen, Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is One. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Jesus called this the Greatest Commandment. Surely, it should be central in any Christian home!
In your decisions as a family, do you seek first to listen to God? Does your family put following what God says above all else? If so, does a passion for the lost have a central part in your home? Sometimes, we miss the centrality of loving God above all when we tell our children to get a good education and a good job, but fail to place as much emphasis on hearing and loving God. If God really is this lovely and worthy of our affection and devotion, then do we inspire our children to share the good news about Him, to know and enjoy Him through Jesus?
We bought our current home with these things in mind. We picked a home that was: (1) in a neighborhood of folks not actively churched (and we have great neighbors!) (2) designed to help us focus on being together; it had a large great room with TV and computer. Growing up, our children spent very little time in their rooms because we shared a home, not just a house. Parents who model love for God and family use their years together to not only love one another but also to welcome in the lost. A Christ-centered home is an evangelistic home.
The passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 actually provides a great outline for parenting:
These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
The notion that spiritual training of children in general is primarily the job of the church and in particular with teens the responsibility of a student pastor is not taught in the Bible. Moses puts the responsibility for the spiritual training of a child squarely on the shoulders of parents. We are to instruct them (literally “sharpen the knife”) and live truth before them. What does this look like? While it certainly involves active participation in a gospel-centered church, it also includes imparting a longing for the salvation of the neighbors and the nations.
Allow me to breakdown the passage in six practical ways:
- “These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.” Our children should see us spending time in God’s word, sharing our faith, and demonstrating Christ-like character. They should be aware that the gospel has changed me and is continuing to change me. That includes family worship, family discussions, and family participation in the local church.
- “Repeat them to your children.”I should be instructing my children, particularly when they are young, about the things of God. I should help them see how to live out a biblical worldview, making decisions in all arenas of life from a biblical perspective. I should not raise them to be faithful citizens in a religious subculture, but to see all of creation with biblical eyes.
- “Talk about them when you sit in your house.”We do not talk about Jesus to others because we do not talk about Him much in our homes. Family mealtime provides a great avenue for talking about Jesus and teaching everything from civility to life lessons. Shared activities with children provide further opportunities for instruction. Research has shown the significant impact of regular family meals. Eat together and invite others to your table.
- “When you walk along the road.”The church and the home are not the only places to learn how to live and share Christ. Our activities, from talking to the waitress at the restaurant to being courteous at the mall, help show how to live out our faith rather than compartmentalizing it in the confines of our house and the church building. Simply talking to our neighbors about things that matter help children see the world through missionary eyes. Talk about Jesus in everyday life.
- “When you lie down and when you get up.”Bedtime, especially for younger children, provides a great time for prayer and instruction in spiritual things. Sit at the end of the bed just a little longer to remind them of spiritual things. Prayer together is important. One Lifeway study showed that 88% of Christian families never prayed together regularly. We can hardly complain about prayer being taken from the public schools if we are not praying in our Christian homes. Pray morning and evening with your kids.
- “Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” I suppose this could include Christian symbols and expressions in our homes, but more importantly, it is vital we incorporate the gospel into the fabric of the family. Is the gospel alive in how we discipline, make family purchases, and respond to suffering? Do our interactions with our neighbors communicate Christ?
Take a moment to consider what role the Great Commission has in your home. How can you and your spouse make changes to cultivate a more Christ-centered home that not only evangelizes your children, but also your neighbors? The greatest missionary force in America today sleeps in our bedrooms. May we lead, teach, and equip them well.
Alvin L. Reid (@alvinreid) is professor of evangelism and student ministry and Bailey Smith chair of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is author of As You Go: Creating a Missional Culture of Gospel-Centered Students. He loves encouraging the younger generation to live for Jesus. Learn more: www.alvinreid.com