Thoughts of a Country Preacher

The Monday morning ruminations of a pastor.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A Parental Theology

I started pastoring my current church about 4 months ago. In that time my congregation has generously embraced many of my quirks – like making up words and phrases that some times sounds like gibberish. I figure I should have some latitude in my use of the language – my undergraduate degree is in English after all – that makes me an authority if the field right?
One of the phrases I catch myself using quite a bit is the phrase "scary exciting". I use it to define a goal that is so big and lofty that the work, time, and luck required to make it a success is, well, scary. But at the same time the rewards of meeting that goal are so equally large that you can help but being excited about it. That’s scary exciting.
I had a scary exciting moment today with the birth of my first child.
As I looked at my boy I saw so much potential – potential that may be unlocked or squandered through my parenting.
As I looked at him, I couldn’t help but to ask myself, how on earth am I suppose to raise him? How should Christians parent their children?
This may seem like an elementary question to some, but for me this idea of being a Christian parent is a great quandary – mainly because I have never seen a consistent example of Christian parenting.
My father is a Christian man of the highest caliber. When he accepted Christ his life turned on a dime. Today he is an example godliness and dedication. The only problem with this is that he accepted Christ in 2000, while I was attending college 3 hours away from home and pastoring my first church. I accepted Christ nearly 15 years earlier and immediately became a Christian island in my community. Outside of my church that I attended for a few hours on Sundays, I never had any contact with another Christian. My family was lost; my neighbors were lost, as were my friends and their families as well. And so as I grew up, the only parenting that I ever saw was worldly parenting. Parents raising children based on principles that were family traditions or that "got them through life." Parents disciplining their children with punitive discipline done in anger as opposed to discipline that guides to righteousness.
As a teen I started to associate with other Christian families through my youth group. This gave me a chance to see some Christian parenting from a distance, but hardly enough to guide me now.
So now I ask myself, how should Christians raise their children? Below I list the 4 principles that I came up with. These principles are hardly exhaustive, but they should provide us with a foundation and a starting point to help us as we seed to become godly parents.

1 – Model the Christian life through your life.

Titus 2:7-8 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.

In my house the phrase "do what I say, not what I do" was almost a mantra. My parents realized that they had bad habits ingrained into their lives that they did not want to pass on to me. Accordingly, I was taught that such things were wrong. But I still did them. Why? Because I saw my parents doing them. The morals that we teach our children will have only a limited effect on their lives, but the morals we model for our children will be embraced and imitated by our children throughout their lives. We must model the Christian life for them through our life because ultimately more is caught than taught.

2 – Use every opportunity to teach your children the full counsel of God.

Deuteronomy 11:18-19 18 "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. 19 "You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.

When it comes to a child’s education, no one is more important than a child’s parents. This is even more true when it comes to a child’s spiritual education. God’s word and its implications are sometimes difficult to grasp, especially for small children. Therefore parents, especially fathers, should constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to teach their children about God in their day to day lives.

3 – Discipline your children as a means of teaching and restoring them.

Unfortunately, at some point in time in a child’s life, they will "color outside the lines" and do something that they know is wrong. At those times, we must discipline our children as a way of loving them. Proverbs 13:24 says he who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.
But what is the purpose of discipline? We disciple to correct. We discipline to teach boundaries. We discipline to bring our children willingly back into God given guidelines for living.
When the Bible speaks of discipline, it speaks of a restorative discipline. Speaking on church discipline, Matthew 18:15 says "If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. Equally in our families, if a child does something wrong, show him his fault & guide him out if it to righteousness.

4 – Realize that ultimately God is in full control of their lives.

Psalm 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.

A wise man once said; "You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink." In life there is so much that a person can do. We can teach our children about God, we can model faith to them, we can pray for them and put them on the path of righteousness, but we cannot force them to become Christians or follow after God. When we look in the lives of the Old Testament saints we see people who were put on the right path by their parents, but only became faithful men or women by seeking and following God. The best example of this is the life of Samuel. Samuel’s family dedicated him to the Lord – they set him on the right path, but it was God who led him.

Father God, tonight I pray that you would build me into a God honoring father. Help me to never forget that my son is both a gift from you and a gift to you. Please help me be a wise steward of his life as I guide him to you.


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