by Gene Stockton
Has anyone ever told you or a family member that they’re being outsourced? Obviously, our American corporate culture is heavily dependent on outsourcing. Outsourcing means contracting portions of a company’s operations to other businesses. For instance, call centers are a popular area of outsourcing for a number of companies. Oddly enough, in a similar way, parents are outsourcing their children’s spiritual development by shifting their responsibility to others. The church is certainly a vital partner in spiritual development. However, the church is a partner not the primary or sole source of your child’s spiritual enrichment.
The “Great Commission” for all Christians is to “go and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20).” This is a personal responsibility that can’t be shifted. Where does this begin? It begins at home. I can’t imagine telling my neighbors, co-workers and friends about Jesus and encouraging them to follow Him but overlooking my children and grandchildren. Can you? As well, I can’t imagine shifting the privilege of training my children to become disciples to someone else. Can you?
Let’s go to the “Shema” for instruction on teaching our children in the home environment. Shema, pronounced Sh’mAH with the accent on the ah, means “Hear” or “Listen.” We find this in Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.
DT 6:4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 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. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
At the core of the Shema is two primary principles: “there is one God” and the “Greatest Commandment.” The rest of the Shema instructs us on how to teach these principles. The Shema begins with “Listen” or “hear,” which in Hebrew is akin to a call to obey. In other words, to hear God without putting the command into action is not to hear him at all.
There is One God
DT 6:4 “Listen, Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.
The Lord is uniquely one. We speak of God as the triune God. He is one God in three simultaneous expressions. God manifests himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Additionally, as we recognize God for who He is, it demands our obedience to Him. JN 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commands. Because of who and what he is, the Lord rightly demands our love which proves itself in obedience.
The Greatest Commandment
Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
As Jesus was confronted about the Greatest commandment, He reaches back to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6.
MT 22:37 He said to him, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and most important command. 39 The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. 40 All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”
But how do you obey such a command? It is daunting to think about loving God with all of our being. However, it demands profession with total obedience. Likewise, how do we love God? Love in this context explains our respect and complete obedience to God. Man has heart, soul, reason, emotion, will, energy. This command means there is no division in our being. Every part of our being is in alignment. If our heart is going one way, and the conscience in another, it is impossible to obey God.
The Teaching System
6 These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. 7 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. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them be a symbol on your forehead. 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
How do we teach these principles of faith? Teaching begins with parents in the home. The parents are to have these words in their heart. As the parent learns, they pour into their children through repetition. I’ve noticed that a couple of my grandchildren have some of their books memorized. They can’t read, but they’ve memorized these stories because their parents read to them repetitiously. We teach our children about God, to love God and to obey God the same way.
I also want to remind fathers of their role. We go to the New Testament for insight on this. Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Fathers are the head of household and the family’s spiritual leader. I think you’d agree that father’s need to “step up.”
Now getting back to the teaching method, how do parents establish the key principles of the Shema in their household? Parents actively demonstrate their love for God and saturate their children with the truths of God. The family’s identify is closely coupled with love for God. Further, Biblical teaching is a focus in the home. Allow me to elaborate:
1. The home is where truth and godliness are modeled and taught
2. In the home, the parent develop the child’s character and love for God
3. The parent trains their child toward God. The child learns to receive God’s Word.
All in all, the parent must impress the words of faith into the thinking of his children through inscribing them with indelible sharpness and precision. The mental picture here is an engraver inscribing lettering into granite.
In conclusion, discipleship starts at home because God has uniquely assigned the privilege to parents. As parents, we
permeate the mind of our child with the word of God, pour the love and knowledge of God into our child and establish the practice of loving God as the central theme in the home. I must add that this can’t be outsourced. Even though the church has a vital role and vested interest, parents are God’s primary option for teaching children spiritual truths.
Pastor Gene Stockton
Heartland Baptist Church, Sioux City