After my son Caleb was born, I began to reconsider the meaning of discipleship in my parenthood journey. I started observing our daily lives – Whenever I spoke to family members in an impatient tone or shouted loudly, my infant boy would stare at me with a confused or fearful expression, he seemed to be asking me, “Did I do something wrong, daddy? Why are you so angry with me?” He would sometimes even start to sob. I realised that Caleb thought I was expressing all my negative emotions towards him. I also realised how I was acting unloving during my communication with others.
It led to deep confession of my sinful behaviours, because when I communicate with my loved ones, I tend to lose my patience easily. I also recognized that parenting starts from the parent, not the child. If making my son a disciple of Jesus and leading him to Christ is what I aim to achieve in his life, I wonder how that will end up if I, the teacher, behave differently from what I hope to teach.
1. Discipleship is to be like the teacher
Jesus spoke to His disciples in Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (ESV) So when we say we’re Jesus’s disciples, we are to be like Jesus in our daily lives. But am I there?
As I intentionally disciple my son, he will naturally end up like me. I do not wish to see Caleb communicating with his mother and wife similar to how I sometimes do now. And the future him telling me, “But Dad, that is how you speak to your mom and wife!”. That would be horrible, and a family tragedy! Change begins with me, with God’s empowerment.
2. Discipleship is a church thing
Knowing my limitations and sinful nature, I cannot be the only influence on my child. Thankfully, Caleb has a loving mother who balances my parenting skills in many ways. As we are good at different things, it will benefit Caleb. And I believe that there will be many more teachers along the way in a young believer’s discipleship journey.
Just as Paul spoke in Ephesians 4:11-16, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
The testimonies of many brothers and sisters in YCKC always proves the effectiveness of discipleship in church. For example, I often hear members of the Charis group express thanksgivings toward multiple mentors who invested in the mentee’s lives or journeyed with the mentees in different seasons and ways. It was so heartwarming and fulfils the Bible’s teachings. As believers, we all have a role to play in discipleship.
3. Discipleship starts with love
Our teaching is worthless without love. In “Multiply”, Francis Chan says, “Most of us have to work hard to keep love at the forefront”. I think I need to work even harder, but not by my strength. “We need to be transformed by the Gospel, let God enter our lives, and we are changed from inside out.” Francis Chan summarises it this way “our power to transform hearts and change lives comes from the Holy Spirit (John 6:63), through the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17) and prayer (James 5:16-20).”
It is a training process for both the teacher and the student (parent and child). Our final goal is to end up like Christ. Along the way, God provides and will lead us to accomplish the task. May we all be like the loving Father.
By Brother Simon Zhang (YCKC Bulletin 27 September 2020)