I had the privilege of preaching the Sunday morning service last Sunday as a part of a series that we are doing about the mission and vision for our church. The topic for my sermon was one that is very near and dear to my heart- the discipleship of the next generation. Unlike many stories pastors have about their call, mine is different. I was not called to ministry the same way many pastors are. In fact, my calling happened long before I ever felt led to become a pastor. My calling has and always will be teenagers. Now, I realize that God’s plan for my life is a mystery and a time may come where He transitions me into another role; but the best I can tell at this point in my life, teenagers are my mission field. I get them, I understand them, and I love the idea of God using me to reach them before culture corrupts their view of this world. God has fulfilled this calling in me in a variety of ways. I spent 20 years in the classroom as a high school history teacher. That opened the door for me to become a high school baseball coach. Ultimately, God’s plan was to move me into ministry- first bi-vocationally and now, into my present place as a full-time, Associate Pastor of student and families in Missouri.
Today, I wanted to share a portion of that message as both a challenge and an encouragement to parents everywhere currently raising the next generation- a boat of which I am in with you. Parents: we are the primary disciple maker in our kid’s lives. Now, when I say parents- I am referring to ANYONE who fulfills that role in a child’s life. I realize all too well that we live in a world where biological parents can be non-existent, where grandparents are on round two of child rearing, and where step-parents, aunts, uncles, and even siblings are in the role of “parent.”
In this message, I used a couple of visuals to demonstrate the importance and the urgency we should have as parents when it comes to discipling our kids. Both illustrations come from author Reggie Joiner, who has written dozens of books and conducts many training sessions with parents across the country in how to disciple their children well. He was giving advice to his adult daughter. She had ben married a few years and she and her husband were expecting their first child. She asked him if he had any advice to give her in preparation for the child. Joiner said, “yes, put a suitcase in the nursery and keep it there. From the time that baby is born, you are packing their bag to leave. What you pack, they will carry with them the rest of their life.” That is a sobering thought. Being the father of a 15 year old, I immediately began wondering what I had put in my son’s suitcase so far. While I was taking inventory of that, I realized the great thing about packing- I can pull things out and I can help my son let go of things that are in there that he doesn’t need. I am also adding new things to the suitcase that needed to be there, but weren’t there before. When it comes to discipling our kids, it really does begin with us and what we pack in their bag. Our children will value what we value. If we value being at church and being involved, so will they. If we value our quiet time and personal bible study, they will too.
The other illustration serves as both a wake up call and sense of perspective for parents in terms of the limited amount of time we have with our children. On the stage, I had a jar of 1000 marbles. It drove a lot of people crazy trying to figure out the significance. What those marbles represent is this: from the time our children are born til the time they graduate and go to college, we have approximately 1000 weeks with our kids. 1000 weeks to pack their bag with everything they need to make good decisions on their own. 1000 weeks for us to make our children into disciples who make disciples. Each week another marble leaves the jar. Marble by marble. Week by week. Month by month. That first year of their life goes quickly. They are learning how to feed themselves, how to crawl, how to walk, and how to talk…52 marbles gone. The next thing you know, they are starting Kindergarten, learning letters and numbers and how to tie their shoes and play sports….260 marbles gone. The next thing you know, they are starting high school. When our children reach their freshman year, we now only have approximately 200 marbles LEFT!!! Just 200 weeks to teach them to drive, make good decisions on their own as they become more and more independent. While we are doing that, we must also consider what we are doing to disciple them. Have we been intentional to share the gospel with them? If they have placed their faith in Jesus, have we been intentional about raising them to value church and independent bible study, to be plugged in the local church and to serve others. Have we instilled in them the importance of sharing their faith with those who do not have the same hope of salvation that they do? As of writing this, I did the math, and I have 135 marbles left before my 15 year old graduates. My job’s not finished but it has certainly been eye opening & humbling to realize how little time I have left. Reggie Joiner said it best I think when he said:
“When you see how much time you have left, you tend to get serious about the time you have now.”Reggie Joiner
Parents, as soon as they got here, we started packing their bags to leave. What we pack in those bags they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. I’ll leave you with this story that sums up well the importance, the urgency, and the desperate need to disciple the next generation of believers: The English poet Samuel Coleridge talked with a man who did not believe that children should be given any religious instruction at all.This man claimed that the child’s mind should not be prejudiced in any direction, and when he became older he should be permitted to choose his religious opinions for himself.Coleridge said nothing; but after a while he asked his visitor if he would like to see his garden. The man said he would, and Coleridge took him out into the garden, where only weeds were growing. The man looked at Coleridge in surprise, and said, “Why this is not a garden! There is nothing but weeds here!” “Well, you see,” answered Coleridge, “I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way, I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself and to choose its own production.”
In Christ Alone,
Rev Bro. Coach.