I talk about the need for family discipleship often. My doctoral focus was on equipping parents to evangelize their children. My current job expects me to equip homes to be the primary discipleship environment for our families. My most frequent requests to speak center around family discipleship.
I champion family discipleship regularly. I love seeing when it is happening in the lives of others.
Family discipleship takes on a whole new meaning when it happens within my own home.
For all my rallying cries made to others, I still question if I am intentional enough with my own children. I take steps and I make strides, but am I doing enough?
Monday, I was reminded that God uses the seeds I sow and supplies water where I lack.
Monday morning I woke up to a quiet home to spend time with Jesus. Lately, my time in prayer and in the Word has been growing and it has been wonderful. I wrote down some Bible verses concerning specific prayers I wanted to pray for each member of my family.
When it came to my first son, Obadiah, I wrote down Ephesians 1:18:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
I prayed that God would continue to open his heart to the gospel and save him.
Later, when I went upstairs to get the children ready for the day, Obadiah said, “Dad, you remember that you said we could talk about baptism over Sunday lunch? Well, since I ate with my grandparents, we didn’t get to talk about it. Do you think we could talk today about me becoming a Christian and getting baptized?”
I whispered to him an offer: “How would you like me to pick you up at lunch and we go talk about it – just you and me? You pick where we eat and we can talk more about the gospel.”
He was elated.
When he got in the truck at noon, he said he wanted to go to Captain D’s (a perfect environment for gospel conversations). As we got the food and set up the table, I pulled my Bible out and started to begin our talk.
Before I could begin, Obadiah pulled out a piece of paper he had made into a pouch of sorts. “Dad, in this pouch is a treasure. I have kept it in my secret stash. Not even Eli knows about this stash.”
I figured he was about to tell me one of his philosophical analogies or share some brainstorm of an idea with me, but instead he began to unfold the piece of paper.
“Dad, I’ve held on to this since the day you gave it to me. Do you remember?”
“Yeah, buddy, I do remember. Where have you kept this?”
You must understand that in his 6-year-old state, he loses many things. He is normally trying to find something he placed somewhere. I had written this on a piece of paper months ago. He was about to spend the night at his grandparents’ house and we had been talking about the gospel, and I wrote this down and told him to think over it as he went to sleep that night.
“I told you, Dad. I have kept it hidden in my secret stash. It’s my
pillowcase. But don’t tell anybody. I get it out and look over it a bunch. Some of those words are big and hard for me to remember, but those things on the side helped me remember about grace. It all starts with God, but everybody has sinned and disobeyed him. But Jesus came and died on the cross so I wouldn’t have to. And then as I want to go my own way, it’s almost like God stops me and turns me around to go his way. And because of that, I can live in heaven forever with him.”
Speechless. And that is saying a lot for me.
“And Dad, I put this rock inside the paper because it’s a lot like me.” As he placed his hand over the rock in his other hand, he said, “Sin makes my heart go dark, but Jesus is making it shine again for him,” and he removed his hand so that the color comes through.
My presentation had been halted in its steps. For all the good I have done and all the good I haven’t done, I was reminded that the gospel is the power.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. -Romans 1:16
As we continued to talk that day, I was talking at a normal volume, but Obadiah would get louder as he would answer my questions. He would use his hands and get very animated (I have no idea where he gets that from). He wasn’t aware that it is socially taboo to talk of such things in public areas at such a eavesdrop-able volume. Instead of telling him to talk softer, I just let the boy preach and let those around him quiet their conversations to listen.
“And Dad, Jesus didn’t have to die, but he wanted to! He loves me that much! Sometimes it makes we want to cry when I think that he actually died on the cross. But then I think about he did it because he loves me that much!”
“Dad, you said being a disciple of Jesus is someone who learns what Jesus taught and someone who wants to live for him. Well, then, I’m a disciple! I do want to live for Jesus! I really do!”
“And Dad, if I am a disciple, I’ve got to tell Eli and Gloria the gospel. I’ve got to help them become a disciple!”
“Some people may say that Jesus didn’t really die and got up from the grave, but he did! He’s alive!”
For all the research I’ve done, and for all the sermons I have preached, there is no joy like watching your child deliver the gospel back to you.
I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth. -3 John 1:4
Let’s Make Sure
Obadiah knows all the right answers, but that is not enough for salvation. The demons believe and shudder (James 2:19). Knowledge of the gospel does not mean transformation by the gospel. The ability to regurgitate the gospel does not mean you have been redeemed by the gospel.
So while I was extremely floored by his desire and responses, we are still talking about it daily. He is working through some Bible verses and questions. Amanda and I keep talking about it with him.
On the ride home, I said, “Obadiah, I believe that Jesus has saved you. It is not anything you have done. It’s a gift that has been given, but I want us to make absolutely sure that Jesus has saved you before I baptize you. I want you to really make sure Jesus has changed you on the inside. Unless he does, you won’t be able to live for him.”
Looking in the rearview mirror, he wrapped his arms around the workbook I had given him. He turned his precious face to stare out the window and said the words, “I can’t believe it – I’m a Christian now!”
He wrapped up his stone back into the piece of paper and placed it securely in his pocket. When he got home, he returned it to his secret stash. I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ words:
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” -Matt. 13:44
I am pretty confident Jesus has saved my son. Oh, how I am grateful that Jesus wants to save!
I want to make sure because I want Obadiah to be sure. Before he is baptized, I want him to count the cost of following Jesus (Luke 14:28). This is not a finish line, it is a starting line. Discipleship begins. We start pushing the gas – not letting up on it.
Let’s Get Started
If you are a parent, I want to help you see the value of sharing the gospel with your children. You don’t have to have all the answers, but be willing to find them. If you want to invest the gospel into the lives of your family, here are some things to remember:
- Pray. Our conversations started by God answering my prayer.
- Sow the Seed. Talk about Jesus. Read the Bible. Share your testimony. Explain the gospel.
- Water the Seed. Let them be a part of a church family that talks about Jesus. Reads the Bible. Shares testimonies. Explains the gospel.
- Watch God Grow It. Trust God to do the saving – not your presentation and not their regurgitation. Salvation belongs to God (Rev. 7:10).
- Test It. Make sure to evaluate if someone has been saved or not (2 Cor. 13:5). You aren’t God and can’t know for sure, but a tree is known by its fruit (Matt. 12:33).
So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. -1 Corinthians 3:7-8
When we are as confident as we can be, we are going to throw a party to join with the party going on in heaven (Luke 15:10)!
And by the way, when the day comes for his baptism, you are all invited!
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.