When you hear the word “discipleship,” what comes to your mind? If you are like most Christians you likely have a number of misconceptions about the activity of discipleship. There are a number of wrong-headed ideas about discipling our children even in the church. Some of these ideas are consciously overt; that is, people propagate them. Other ideas are held unconsciously in a sense and just flow from the way we’ve always done church or the way we live our lives in this culture. But, they are destructive nevertheless. Here are ten of them:
Misconception #10: Parents Must be Discipled First and Therefore Should Wait to Disciple their Children
Parents are concerned that they will teach in error, which is a legitimate concern. However, this may be one of the biggest misconceptions that results in children not being discipled like Jesus. Consider the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 11:1, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” Parents are to simultaneously be discipled by the Lord while they are discipling their children. No one teaches perfectly, even trained pastors. Ask the Holy Spirit to teach you while you teach your children.
Misconception #9: Discipleship is Limited to One to Five Hours per Week
This is the clearest indicator of a faulty discipleship process and the biggest misconception today about discipleship. For Jesus, making disciples was His calling; quantity time with His disciples was a way of life. Like the twelve disciples, your children need quantity time too.
Misconception #8: Young Children Don’t Need to be Discipled
Not only can young children be discipled, they must be discipled for Christ! They will be either discipled for Christ or for Satan. The earlier you start teaching them, the sweeter your fruit will be. That’s why it’s important to create that atmosphere of discipleship we talked about even before your child is born.
Misconception #7: It’s not Dangerous to Allow Children to be Indiscriminately Taught by Unbelievers
While it is true that Scripture points to a few exceptions when it comes to children being trained by unbelievers, that’s the point; they’re exceptions. And, that is not the way that Jesus made disciples. Jesus personally trained His disciples. It is true that Moses was raised from infancy by unbelievers and Daniel as a teenager was trained by unbelievers. In both cases their parents were forced to send them in that direction. God will always preserve a remnant. But the question that parents need to ask is this; “Is it worth the risk to send my child to be trained by unbelievers?” The fact is that your children will become like their teacher(s). Jesus said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Now if you don’t have an opportunity to remove your children from unbelieving teachers, don’t be discouraged. Ask the Lord for help and wisdom. He will show you how to be with your children more and how to wisely use the time that He has given you. You will need to pray diligently for your children, to warn them about false teachings and to “debrief” them daily.
Misconception #6: Discipleship Only Happens During Church Activities
When we examine the life of Jesus and His disciples, we see them attending the local synagogue meetings. However, these activities were a very small part of the discipleship approach that Jesus used; He was constantly making disciples. Church attendance is important but will not replace the training that your children will need.
Misconception #5: Discipleship Only Happens at Special Events
Many Christians view discipleship as something that happens at an event, such as one that has a special speaker. Some view discipleship as something that occurs in some weekly church or para-church activity. Others view it as a weekly breakfast or lunch meeting for accountability and prayer. When we examine the discipleship approach of Jesus, we see their involvement in regular events such as weekly worship or an annual religious feast. However Jesus didn’t rely on events to get his disciples trained. He made disciples all day, every day. Events can be useful but are only a small supplement to the frequent, daily training that is needed in making disciples like Jesus.
Misconception #4 Discipleship Should Wait Until After Conversion
If you study the calling of Jesus’ disciples, you will note that Jesus did not wait until they made a profession of faith to begin discipling them. He began to disciple them as soon as they began to follow Him. A common practice in that day was to follow a prophet. It was only after following Jesus for some time that the disciples confessed Him as Lord and Savior. Discipleship should be continuous and lifelong while evangelism is a part of the discipleship process.
Misconception #3: Discipleship is Only Done by Professionals
Some parents believe that they are not trained to make disciples, and therefore should give this responsibility to others. It is common in our culture to only view trained professionals as competent. However if we look at the disciples, we see them described as untrained and uneducated men. Consider the ability and qualifications of the disciples. We see a description of two of the most notable disciples in Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” You do not need to be educated or trained, but you do need to be with Jesus! Parents are called to make disciples of their children, and like the twelve disciples you can learn while you teach your children. The command to church leaders is to equip you so that you may make disciples.
Misconception #2: Reading the “Adult” Bible to Babies and Toddlers is a Waste of Time
Holy Scripture is powerful and sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). Reading scripture aloud to your young children will create huge benefits in your family! You will personally be impacted by the Holy Spirit when you read God’s word aloud. As you faithfully read God’s word over time you will become an excellent, experienced teacher. Your child will learn to love hearing the word of God as you read it; you will help create an appetite for the Living Bread! Finally, your child will learn to love hearing your voice and your teaching. That will serve you well as you teach your children for the rest of their lives, and will be especially important during the teen years.
Misconception #1: Your Child is not Being Discipled by the Environment
Your child is being discipled every waking moment, and so are you! The environment you choose: love versus strife, entertainment versus teaching, and secular versus godly will be the factors that shape your life and your child’s life.
Your choices will make disciples of Jesus or disciples of the devil. Look to Jesus in the way he made disciples. Choose the way of Jesus and experience the abundant life that He promised to those who are obedient!
By: Alan Melton Author of Disciple Like Jesus
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