The Christian home is a godly indoctrination camp.
God has ordained the home to be the primary worldview shaper of the next generation. Stated another way, it has always been the intention of God that a father and mother would purposefully disciple the kids within their four walls to know who God is and know the truth found in His Word.
This high call upon parents is continually emphasized in the Scriptures. Timothy Paul Jones summarizes this emphasis well when he writes,
“As I examine Scripture, I find woven throughout its pages an expectation that neither the temple nor the synagogue nor ministers in the church bore the sole responsibility for training children to be followers of God. The home was divinely formed as a context for discipleship, and parents were expected to serve as disciple-makers in their children’s lives.”
Let’s take some time to look at Scripture ourselves, beginning with some key Old Testament passages.
Old Testament Emphasis on Family Discipleship
From the earliest Old Testament instructions, we see an emphasis upon parents imparting biblical truth to the next generation.
After the worldwide flood, which, by God’s grace Noah and his family survived, the first act they participated in once they left the ark was family worship unto God (Gen. 8:15-22).
Once the world was repopulated, God chose to move His plan of salvation forward through Abraham (Gen. 3:15;12). God gave Abraham what I would call the first “explicit directive” for family discipleship. We read in Genesis 18:19, “For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”
God’s intentional instruction to Abraham to intentionally instruct his household would set the stage for the next generation to know and follow their God.
As the Old Testament storyline continues onward, God provides more clarity and direction to the Israelites about family discipleship through instructions regarding worship. We see this in how Moses gave instructions for the yearly observance of Passover (Exodus 12:26-27) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 13). The reasonable expectation was that curious children would ask what it was they were witnessing. For example, in the case of Passover, Moses writes,
“And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and your children forever. When you enter the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall observe this rite. And when your children say to you, ‘What does this rite mean to you?’ You shall say, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord who passed over the houses of the sons of Israel in Egypt when He smote the Egyptians but spared our homes.’” (Exodus 12:24-27).
As God’s miraculous work in the past was repetitiously remembered, the parents of the next generation were to use this as an opportunity to teach about God.
In the book of Deuteronomy, the last book of the Pentateuch (which means the first five books of the Bible), God’s emphasis on family discipleship is at the forefront again. In Deuteronomy 6:4-9, we read what is probably the most quoted passage regarding family discipleship.
This passage is known as the “Shema.” This is because “Shema” is the Hebrew translation of the imperative verb “Hear” at the beginning of verse 4. The verb carries the force of a command. Thus, in this text, Israel is being called to hear and follow the truth that they are about to be made aware of. And what is it that they are made aware of? Well, part of what they were made aware of was their responsibility to pass on the faith through their personal and vibrant devotion to God (Deut. 6:7).
Deuteronomy shows us that family discipleship is much more than teaching our kids facts about God. Family Discipleship is undergirded by parents having a genuine relationship with God. As parents genuinely love God (v.4-5) and His Word (v.6), their love is to overflow to their children through the daily rhythms of life (v.7-9).
When Moses dies, he passes the baton of leadership in Israel to Joshua. Joshua, like Moses, instructs the people of God to memorialize the miraculous work of God. This time through an altar of 12 stones. As children would see the twelve stones, this memorial was to serve as a reminder of “God’s miraculous work in stopping up the Jordan River for the nation of Israel to cross.” Once again, we see that parents were to point their children to God’s works to put before them the greatness of God.
The book of Proverbs serves as a great example of emphasis upon family discipleship. Solomon repeatedly addressed his son (Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1; 3:1; 5:1; 6:1: 7:1) to instruct him so that he and others might learn to fear the LORD (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). The book of Proverbs, in many ways, illustrates a father in the O.T. taking the commandment of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 seriously.
This brief survey of the Old Testament teaching on family discipleship is enough to showcase God’s heart and purpose for it in the home. But are God’s intentions equally true for New Testament Christians today?
Let’s take a deeper look.
New Testament Emphasis on Family Discipleship
When we come to the New Testament, we learn that the goal of every faithful Christian is to be a disciple-maker (Matthew 28:16-20). Whether you’re a parent or not, Jesus’ job description for you as a Christian is simple: make disciples!
Now, to be a disciple-maker, we must have disciples. Like Paul, people to whom we can say “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Finding someone to disciple can happen in many ways. For example, you could lead someone to Christ and then very naturally become the main Christian influence in their life. You could prayerfully select someone younger in the faith to spend intentional time with. Finding and identifying someone to disciple is the first step to discipling.
As a Christian parent, God has already placed your disciples within your four walls!
Paul knew this to be true, which is why he provides clarity regarding the Christian parent’s responsibility to disciple their child(ren). In what is often referred to as the Household Codes, we read the instructions for parents to disciple their children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21). For example, Paul writes to the church at Ephesus, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Notice the emphasis that Paul places upon the fathers. This is the reason why a primary qualification for men who serve as elders and deacons is that they manage their household well (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:6). This qualification for men in church leadership is necessary so that church leaders can model what God desires every father to be doing.
Does this mean that mom has no role to play? Absolutely not. Moms have a very important role as well! Paul indicates that Timothy’s grandmother and mother played a key role in his discipleship (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:14-15). This means that while fathers are primarily responsible to lead by example, both parents are to be actively and intentionally engaged in bringing their children up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.
Parents are Primary Disciple-Makers
In both the Old and New Testament (Deut. 6:4; Eph. 6:4), the Bible presents an overwhelming case that parents are called to be the most active, intentional, and influential teachers of biblical truth in their children’s lives.
Being faithful to this calling as a parent has always been important. But if there is ever a time for us to double down in our calling, it is now. With the societal push to standardize godless ideologies, we must indoctrinate our children with the truth of God’s Word.
God has ordained that your home be a godly indoctrination camp of biblical truth for the next generation. May we as parents take seriously this call and strive by the grace of God to launch young men and women into the world who stand for truth and live for the Glory of God!