The Vine and the Branches

The Old Testament was rich with teaching and examples which help us understand family discipleship. If you haven't yet read the Old Testament Roots for Family Discipleship, please do so before you read this one as much of what we glean from the New Testament is built upon OT foundations.

Moving into the NT, let us first consider the life of Jesus and His experience as part of a family.

Role of the Parent

The Boy Jesus

We do not have much concerning Jesus' childhood. His parents were godly people who loved the Lord and sought to be obedient to Him. For example, when Jesus was a baby, Mary and Joseph brought him to Jerusalem to be dedicated to the Lord according to what was written in the Law (Luke 2:23-24).  Luke also tells us that "Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival" (Luke 2:41).

In one such journey, when Jesus was 12, His parents lost him. One might fault His parents, but it appears to be due to some kind of miscommunication and an assumption on the parent's part rather than neglect.  

What is interesting in this story is that Luke highlights Jesus' obedience toward His parents (v.51). The eternal Son of God learned obedience as a son of man. On either side of this Text, Luke says:
  • v. 40: "The boy grew up and become (1) strong, (2) filled with wisdom, (3) and God's grace was on Him."
  • v.52: "And Jesus increased in (2) wisdom, (1) and stature, and (3) in favor with God and with people."

This is what is referred to as an inclusio: parallel statements that bracket off a Text. It is meant to emphasize what is in the middle and show its relation to what is being repeated. A good way to interpret this inclusio is to see that His parents' ministry is the means that God used for Jesus increasing in strength, wisdom, and favor. Jesus had to live a perfect life as a human in order to offer perfection to humans (Heb. 5:8).  And the telling this is that the primary means of Jesus learning this obedience  was through His parents.

May I say that you, parent, are an instrument of God in the forming of your child's character? Your role cannot be overemphasized, but how might it be defined? I submit that your role in the formation of your child is that of primary disciple-maker.

Jesus' Teaching on Discipleship

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- Matthew 28:18-20
Most believers are familiar with the Text above as it is the marching orders par excellence for the church. What I want you to do is to pay attention to the qualifying phrase associated with the command, "make disciples." The qualifying phrase is verse 20, which says, " teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

What does it mean to disciple someone? It means to teach one to obey Jesus.  Is this not what we have seen the role of the parent is? Your calling by God is one of a faith-trainer and disciple-maker. As Paul will teach,

"Fathers, don't stir up anger in your children, but bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord." - Ephesians 6:4

Role of the Church

What we have seen from Scripture is very different from common practice in church-going parents. Oftentimes, the church is seen as the central locus of discipleship and not the home. However, this is not how it has always been. What has been lost in society is a general consensus of the role and responsibility of parents to train their children.

That does not mean the church does not have a role. As we saw in the last post, a relationship is developed between parents and the leaders of God's people. The New Testament teaches this as well:
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
- Ephesians 4:11-14
The role of church leaders is not to bare the full burden of ministry (including the discipleship of children); rather, it is to equip church members for their respective ministries. This relationship can be seen in the figure below:
So far a brief survey of a few Texts in the OT and NT have established the roles of the parent and church, respectively. In the following posts, we will follow the church's history and see how this relationship took shape in different ages.