Is the Church Missing the Boat When it Comes to Discipleship?

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Many Christians view discipleship as a class for new believers to learn the foundational doctrines of the faith. True discipleship is not simply learning biblical truths, but becoming a student of Jesus, having the will to obey Him in all areas of our life, including in our family. Though many evangelical churches embrace the Great Commission, the condition of families within the body of Christ reflects the reality that few Christians have been adequately trained or discipled in marriage or parenting.

Today the divorce rate within the church is out of proportion to His Word, power and promises. Children from Christian homes are using drugs and abusing alcohol, having sex and committing crimes almost as much as their secular counterparts. It has become difficult to differentiate the non-church kids from those who profess to believe. Statistics tell us that over 65 percent of children being raised in Christian homes -- and that have spent over 10 years in some kind of church youth group -- are walking away from their faith after leaving their homes at the age of 18. Rebellion and disrespect toward parents and authority is now considered common adolescent behavior, even in the church. It's not an exaggeration to say that "the family" is in serious trouble.

We are quick to place blame for this condition on the television programs our children watch, the video games they play, the schools they attend, the influence of the kid next door, or other external influences. I believe that the real problem is not so much what is affecting our children from outside our homes, but from within.

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I believe the biggest problem in Christian homes – besides the effects of parents who have a nominal walk with God – is the lack of understanding on how to parent according to God's Word. Many of our churches are full, but what practical help is available to struggling families who fill the pews week after week? I do not believe that the church is intentionally ignoring the problem, but is preoccupied with a myriad of other issues and not properly equipped with tangible answers and biblical solutions for the family.

Why should the family be a priority?

As recorded in the first two chapters of the Bible, the family is the first institution that God created. Both the Old and New Testaments begin with family stories. The first mention of the word "love" in the Scriptures is found in Genesis 22:2, where we learn of Abraham's love for his son. The nation of Israel grew from one family unit. In Deuteronomy 6:1-9 the Lord made it clear that in order for Israel to survive as a nation, parents must disciple and train their children, raising them according to His instructions. Our Savior came into this world through a family and performed His first miracle at a wedding. The sanctity of marriage is illustrated in Ephesians 5:25 where God compares His love for the church to a husband's love for his wife.

In the last 30 years the church has recognized that our children and youth are in trouble and have responded by hiring youth pastors and developing a host of youth groups and youth activities. In reality, sometimes the church is trying to do the parents job instead of equipping parents to fulfill God's calling in their own families. The solution to this dilemma within the church is simply to do what God asked us to do -- disciple His people. Why aren't we hiring Family Pastor's in the church whose ministry is to train, support, and exhort parents to do their God-ordained job?

The Bible is the best marriage and parenting manual ever written. I believe if our churches were equipped to provide answers and solutions to marriage and parenting struggles, we would see families -- both believing and non-believing -- knocking down our doors for help.

Do our churches REALLY need to address the issue of the family?
Ask yourself these questions:

  • Why are so many Christian families hurting or in trouble?
  • Has the church lowered its standards of what constitutes a healthy family?
  • Has the church lowered it standards of what constitutes a successful church?
  • Can our churches be successful when a large percentage of our families are hurting and out of order?
  • Can our churches be successful when a large percentage of its people are disregarding God's design and instructions for marriage and parenting?
  • Do our churches recognize that conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit and discipleship is the responsibility of the church (which includes marriage and parenting)?

It is my prayer that the Lord will raise up many disciples who are willing to learn and teach others in the area of marriage and parenting – and that the church will be the place God's people can come to receive God's instructions on being a husband, wife and parent.

Craig Caster is the Founder and Director of Family Discipleship Ministries. He has developed biblically- based marriage and parenting tools and taught thousands through seminars hosted in churches around the country and abroad. Family Discipleship Ministries' new website provides discipleship programs online that can be facilitated by churches or by individuals.

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