My wife Darlene and I became second-career missionaries to Uganda in 2006 after I pastored in the United States for thirty-four years. God had worked in us a heart for missions, and for Uganda in particular, over many years. The Lord entrusted to us five children who are now grown. What a thrill for us when, in 2007, God led our son Josh and his family to Peru as missionaries.
How do parents raise children to become servants of Christ no matter what vocation He leads them to choose? Here are some thoughts from an imperfect parent in the form of exhortations to young parents.
First, know your call to stewardship. Parenting is part of biblical stewardship. God has entrusted children to you. They are not really your children; they belong to Christ. You are accountable to your Lord for faithful, not necessarily “successful,” parenting. Parents are pastors and teachers to the church in their home. Children are your congregation. Pastor faithfully with a vision for stewardship.
Second, see your mission clearly. You are training the next generation of laborers, leaders, warriors, and servants for Christ’s bride and the kingdom of grace.
Third, keep the gospel central. Your privilege is to evangelize your children. You’ll have countless opportunities, over many years, even a lifetime. Your message is: “See God’s holy character, see the sin and corruption in your heart and in dad’s and mom’s hearts, and embrace Christ in the gospel, the only hope for sinners.” Keep preaching the gospel of grace to yourself and to your children. It’s the foundation and motivation for everything in life.
Fourth, pray for your child’s true conversion. Never be content with outward Christian conformity. Like you, your child needs radical grace to address radical corruption. Pray for the Spirit’s deep work in the new heart.
Fifth, model servanthood. Let your children see your submission to Christ, your devotion to prayer and reading the Word, your use of time and money, your marriage depending on grace, your commitment to your family and to worship, your love for the church, your hospitality, your passion for world missions, and your compassion for the alien, the poor, and the needy. Indelible learning comes by watching.
Sixth, anticipate many failures and capitalize on them to teach the gospel. Parents are imperfect disciples. Confessing your sins and failures to your children and humbly seeking their forgiveness models the gospel like few things you can ever do.
Seventh, expect great things from grace. God’s grace is greater than parental sins and child sins. God loves to display His grace and power through human weakness.
Eighth, keep praying for your kids after the nest is empty. God is still working. Keep trusting His transforming grace.
Finally, pray for the humanly impossible — the new heart from the Holy Spirit.