FIRST-PERSON: The evangelistic power of a family
WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP) -- The vital role of a father and mother (grandparents included) in conveying a missional life for their children cannot be too strongly emphasized.
Most children look up to, admire and follow in their parents' footsteps. What you value they will value. What you have a passion for they will have a passion for.
What can we do to embed the Great Commission into the DNA of our children that they may have a lifelong passion for that which is the passion of King Jesus?
1) Be incarnational in your parenting (2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-11).
Pioneer missionary David Livingston said, "This generation can only reach this generation. But will we raise our children to effectively impact their generation for Jesus Christ?"
The incarnation was a manifestation of God's redemptive love for His world. Our incarnational love for our children models God's love and communicates our love for them. To know and love them well, we have to be with them, working hard to see life as they see life. We have to invade their world like Jesus invaded ours.
2) Love well your mate (Ephesians 5:25; Titus 2:4).
Another pioneer missionary, Adoniram Judson, wrote in a letter to his wife Ann, "If such exquisite delights as we have enjoyed ... with one another [are] allowed to sinful creatures on earth, what must the joys of heaven be?" (Marvin J. Newell, ed., "Expect Great Things: Mission Quotes That Inform and Inspire, p. 92).
Children should learn about God's love for the nations by the way they see their parents love one another. They should see the Gospel and the atoning work of Christ put on glorious display in an Ephesians 5 kind of way.
3) Spend time with your children (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).
The parents of Hudson Taylor believed, "At no [other] time is there greater capacity for devotion, or more pure, uncalculating ambition in the service of God" (quoted in "The Mission-Minded Child" by Ann Dunagan, preface).
Apparently Hudson Taylor's parents took the time early in his life to instill such devotion in Hudson. At the tender age of 5, Hudson declared, "When I am a man, I mean to be a missionary to China" (Dunagan, Mission-Minded Child, preface). And, we all know the rest of the story!
Fathers, what kind of projection of the heavenly Father are you giving to your children through the time you invest in them?
4) Learn to listen to your children (James 1:19).
Ann Dunagan rightly notes, "Often an adult may ask a child, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' But as mission-minded parents and teachers, our typical question could have the potential of directing a child toward total obedience to God and complete surrender to His purposes. We should say, 'Oh, I wonder what exciting plans God has prepared for your life? When you grow up, will you do whatever God wants you to do?'" (Mission-Minded Child, p. 1).
Hearing your children's heart on this level may happen in regular, normal and casual conversations, but there should be nothing casual about your listening. You need to zoom in: eye to eye, ear to ear, heart to heart.
5) Read missionary biographies to your children (Hebrews 11).
There is power and inspiration in story. One of my sons named his son Judson after Adoniram Judson. Another named his son Micah Elliot, honoring the late missionary martyr Jim Elliot. Let your children draw inspiration from the heroes of the faith.
6) Expose your children to missionaries by having them in your home, sharing a meal with them, listening to their stories.
John Stam, missionary martyr in China, had parents who ran Star of Hope Mission in Paterson, N.J., while his wife Betty, also martyred, was born into a missionary family. Her four siblings all became missionaries. "All five of us children," Betty once wrote, "expected ... to return to China as missionaries. Our parents never urged it, but it seemed the natural and right thing to do" (Mrs. Howard Taylor, "To Die Is Gain: The Triumph of John and Betty Stam," p. 26).
Their story could be multiplied a thousand times over. Our lives are impacted by the people we get to know and grow to admire.
7) Model missional living as a life priority before your children (Matthew 28:18-20).
David Shibley, founder of Global Advance, well says, "God is not calling us to win the world and, in the process, lose our families. But I have known those who so enshrined family life and were so protective of 'quality time' that the children never saw in their parents the kind of consuming love that made their parents' faith attractive to them. Some have lost their children, not because they weren't at their soccer games or didn't take family vacations, but because they never transmitted a loyalty to Jesus that went deep enough to interrupt personal preferences" (Newell, Expect Great Things, p. 91).
Concluding questions to consider:
-- Are you a member of a Great Commission church?
-- How often do you participate in national and international missions experiences?
-- Do you pray that your children and grandchildren become overseas missionaries?
-- Do you personally give sacrificially to missions? Do you share this information with your children?
-- Do you have a Great Commission ministry in your will and estate planning so that you will continue to play a vital role in reaching the nations after you are dead and gone?
The Great Commission is not an option to consider. It is a command to obey. Let our obedience begin but not end with those closest and dearest to us. Let it begin in our homes.