Being a Disciple-Making Parent

AaronGospel, LifeLeave a Comment

All Christians know Christ’s parting command to “go and make disciples of all nations.” Hearing this brings to mind far flung and exotic locations—it is easy to imagine preaching to inhabitants of remote islands that have never heard the Gospel. But we need not travel to the far reaches of the earth to find ignorant pagans, they are all around us. I am not here referring to the wiccan down the road or the atheist in his ivory tower, but rather to people far more closely related to us—our children. 

As every parent knows, children don’t naturally discover the Gospel. No young child learning his multiplication tables ever says “Dad as I was studying I came to realize that the universe is ordered, which means there must be a Creator. I don’t think I’ve lived up to His expectations, but I imagine that He somehow made a way for me to be redeemed from my errors and reconciled to Him.” Knowledge of the Gospel is not innate—it must be proclaimed, it must be taught. 

Parents bear the primary responsibility of training up children. Parents are told to “bring up [their children] in the training and instruction of the LORD” (Ephesians 6:4). At a minimum this instruction requires parents to tell their children about God’s plan for salvation. But it requires far more than that. One can simply “tell” something to someone and be done, but to instruct requires much work over an extended period of time. The same is true of training. Every athlete and musician knows that proficiency, not to mention mastery, requires long hours of hard work and dedication over a span of years. 

This is what God calls us to with our children! Not a mere telling of the truth and how to live, but instruction and training, day in and day out, over years. A lot of parents hesitate to embrace this role thinking it should be left to pastors and elders, i.e. to the “experts”. This is a false belief. 

First off, if you as a parent wish you were more mature in Christ, you can be! “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life” (II Peter 1). If you aren’t the type of role model you wish you were, you can become more like Christ—in fact, this is His desire for you! And showing your children that Christ and His Holiness are worth pursuing is one of the best things you can ever model to your children! 

Second, your failures and your successes alike can be models to your children. I would love to consistently model patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control to my children, but I don’t. But when I fail to model these things I have the opportunity to model humble repentance and the asking of forgiveness and they get the opportunity to practice forgiving others. The wisdom and power of God was demonstrated most clearly on the cross when God took the evil actions of men, the unjust killing of their Creator, and used this great sin as a means of bringing about His redemption of the world. In the same way God can and does use even our sins for good if we repent of them and trust in Him. Obviously we should strive to avoid and overcome sin, but we must also remember that God’s grace is greater than our greatest sins. Our moral failures should not prevent us from carrying out God’s call on our lives to disciple our children. 

Finally, many of us parents don’t think we have enough wisdom to guide our children well. This too should motivate us to grow in wisdom, but most of us have more wisdom than we realize. 

I have studied and taught history for a number of years. The future is unknown as are the particular problems that our children and grandchildren will face. However, one thing I firmly believe is that the best way to face the unknown problems of the future is to see how others have faced and either overcome or failed to overcome the problems of the past. One great way to do this is through the study of history. But when it comes to instructing our children a more practical way is to reflect deeply on our lives. 

Your young children don’t know what it is like to start school, but you do. They don’t know how cliques in middle school feel, but you do. They can’t understand the peer pressure and the desire to fit in that high school students go through, but you do. They can’t anticipate the anxiety of being in over their heads at a new job, but you know what that is like. Whether your younger years were good or bad, full of success or full of failure, you have years of experience that your children lack and as a result you have the wisdom that they need. What is more, you know them better and love them more than anyone else. Not only are you commanded to disciple them, but no one is better positioned to do so. 

The alternative to seriously embracing the call to disciple our children is bleak. Our children are not naturally good and they won’t naturally become mature and godly men and women. If we as parents fail to disciple them there are a number of other people and forces eager to form them—athletes, entertainers, pop music, Netflix, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, etc. Our children aren’t going to remain as they are; they are all becoming something different. The question is: who do you want to form them, what do you want them to become like? 

Discipling our children is the heaviest and often scariest task that many of us will ever face. But it is a task that God has placed on us. The world is a dangerous and unpredictable place. Our children will be tossed about in the winds and waves of its stormy seas. To fail to disciple them is to send them forth into the world’s storms without first teaching them how to swim and sail. They are not going to naturally pick up what they need; they need us to instruct and train them. 

—Monte Knetter

Monte grew up in the Madison area. He is acting Headmaster of Charis Classical Academy, a Christian University-Model school that meets on Madison’s east side. He lives with his wife and five children in Sun Prairie. They enjoy reading, playing board games, and hiking. 

Women’s Brunch

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Join us on Saturday, February 29th from 9-11 am for a brunch at the Red Village Church building! This event is open to women of all ages! Please feel free to invite your friends to join us and bring a brunch item if you want!

Family Worship

AaronCommunity, Gospel, LifeLeave a Comment

In a recent sermon I encouraged our families to have some kind of devotion time that they do together.  If you were like me and didn’t grow up doing something like that you might not know where to start, so I thought I could share with you what was shared with me in my spiritual disciplines class in seminary.  My class was taught by Don Whitney, who is passionate about family worship.  There are three simple components to family worship that he recommends:

Read—Depending on the age of your children you might read from a children’s Bible or if your kids are older you can simply read Scripture.  Our family might read a passage or two each night, and we take a bit of time to talk through what we have read.

Pray— There are obviously many things you can pray for.  What our family does is pray back to God the passage that we just read.  We also rotate through a list of ministry areas at RVC, a missionary, one of our neighbors, and this year we kept all of our Christmas cards to pray for everyone who gave us a card this past year.

Sing—Neither Tia nor I are musicians, so we keep this pretty simple—all we do each time is sing the doxology.  If you are more musically inclined, I would encourage you to add instruments as you sing!

In addition to these 3 components our family works on Scripture memory together.  We use the Desiring God Foundation Verses.

From start to finish this might take us anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. For our family we found that this works best for us around the dinner table although when our kids were younger we did our family worship right before they went to bed.  There is a lot of freedom on how this might look for your family, but I think what is important is keeping things simple and doing them consistently!  

If you have not had family worship as part of your family life I would encourage you to start!  Please let me know if you want to sit in sometime with us to see first hand what we do!

Blessings,

Pastor Aaron

Follow THIS LINK to find some helpful articles from Don Whitney

https://www.crossway.org/articles/author/donald-s-whitney/

Praying for Your Waitress?

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Praying for Your Waitress?

I’ll never forget the day, two years ago, when I was at lunch with some church buddies at a Tex-Mex joint in Austin. One of my friends, Tina, asked our waitress if there was any way that Tina could pray for her as she came to take our order. So many thoughts and emotions flooded my mind all at once: Did she really just ask that? You can do that? That’s so easy! Why haven’t I ever done that before?

I had been following Jesus for more than 20 years at the time. A deep desire to share Jesus with anyone who didn’t know him had been with me every one of those 20 years. But, so often, even though the desire was there, I didn’t end up sharing with those I wanted to. Why not?

“Once our food comes out we’re going to thank God for our meal. Is there anything going on in your life today that we could also ask God to help with? Any miracle he could do in your life right now?”

The question my friend asked was so simple, so natural, and yet so genuine and caring. She really wanted to know how she could pray for her waitress. I hadn’t ever seen an evangelistic approach that (in mymind, at least) found a good balance between the two most common extremes–one that was both intentional and caring. The approaches with which I was most familiar always seemed to fall either to the side of being awkwardly direct, or of being socare-focused that you never actually get around to sharing the gospel at all but just spend a lot of time “building the relationship.” 

What Was Missing

Perhaps these are anxieties especially suited to an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs. Either way, I had lived in and out of both approaches most of my life without ever being fully satisfied with either one. And to be completely honest, I saw very little fruit, if any, in all those years with eitherapproach. I know now that there are multiple reasons for this–perhaps the biggest one being that at the end of the day (or month, or year) I just wasn’t really sharing the gospel that often. But that’s not what I’m going to talk about here. I don’t think the average American Christian primarily just needs more reminders to “go and share.” I also don’t think there’s a silver bullet– a perfect approach to evangelism. The best we can do is to follow the example of Jesus and his disciples, which filters down into several guiding principles and truths.

That being said, looking back at my struggles, I can see now that what I was deeply missing over those 20 years was not any knowledge of the gospel. Nor was it a desire to share the gospel. Nor was it lack of sermons, books, and conversations encouraging me to share the gospel. The Holy Spirit had put the desire there, and had continued to prompt me to do it my entire life.

What I was lacking and very much needing to mature in obedience and faithfulness in proclaiming was someone who could model for me what it looked like to share the gospel in everyday life–not in a “share the gospel, and when necessary, use words” sense–but in a way where the gospel was regularly coming out of my mouth, even in the everyday moments of life, and in a way that was also helpful to the listener. In short, regular, simple, and helpful.

I hadn’t experienced the kind of lifestyle Tina was demonstrating, in such close proximity, in 20 years of following Jesus. The more time I spent with Tina and her husband Austin, the more I saw that they did this everywhere they went: at the grocery store, in their driveway when other neighbors happened to be out in the yard, with their barista. You get the picture. (Yes, they still did planned evangelistic outreaches with friends and with their church, and so do I. We should.  But Austin and Tina didn’t live as though evangelism was a separate ministry in their life to which they gave some time in their schedule alongside family time, Bible study, fellowship, work, and hobbies. For them it was an on-the-go lifestyle in a way that I hadn’t witnessed before.)

Reproducing a Disciple-Making Lifestyle

Austin and Tina didn’t just wake up one day, full of conviction and the Holy Spirit, and start doing this. It turned out that they had seen their friends Chris and Becca do the same thing. So they asked Chris and Becca if they could learn from them and spend time with them. And Chris and Becca had learned from mentors of theirs, who had also been discipled in a similar lifestyle. Each believer in the chain was faithfully learning, living, and reproducing what they were living into other disciples, not just by instructing them, but by living it out in front of them and with them.

That last part was so important for me. The way I learn by seeing and doing is so much more powerful than what I learn in a classroom, in a podcast, or in a book. What I was missing most to grow in the ways the Holy Spirit had been prompting me to grow was someone to model for me what an evangelistic lifestyle actually looks like: a way that was simple, helpful, reproducing, and fruit-bearing.

The prayer conversations I witnessed above were not just asks for prayer. Austin and Tina had a comfortable rhythm of connecting with anyone and everyone which turned into sharing the gospel by means of a few simple questions, a 15-second testimony of how Jesus had personally changed their life, and a simple gospel illustration. Prayer was just the entry into care and into opening up a spiritual conversation in the otherwise mundane moments of life with family, friends, and strangers.

I needed to see that. I needed to see that regularly. It built up my confidence quickly and encouraged me. This is easy! Why had I made it so complicated? I couldn’t get enough. I also couldn’t stop trying to help my friends learn how to do the same after floundering for so many years in my own attempts. I wanted to save others from the kind of angst of feeling like you’ve been trying to use a hammer your whole life when a screwdriver would have been much easier and more effective.

The Wrong Focus

It’s no coincidence, I think, that around the same time God used one of the most familiar passages in my Bible to gently rebuke me and draw out a lesson for me that I had not noticed before. The passage is Matthew 28:18-20.

Go and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

Something hit me, and it hit me hard. Jesus didn’t just say “go and make converts.” He said “make disciples.” I realized that after more than 20 years of following Jesus, I couldn’t say with any certainty that I had made even a single disciple in my entire life. I just stared and stared at that passage as I meditated on the words… make disciples.

I had invited others to church. I had shared the gospel (occasionally). I had led Bible studies and book studies. But I really couldn’t say that through any of that I’m sure it ever produced a disciple. (The emphasis here is intended to be less about any one person taking credit for when a disciple “is made”, and more about a deep and growing conviction from the Holy Spirit that I had gotten off track somewhere from what Jesus taught and modeled).

So now this passage is staring me in the face. I read it over again. And again.

…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.

What an interesting combination of words I hadn’t really noticed before in the Great Commission. 

What would be the difference in saying “teach them everything that I have commanded you,” and, “teach them to obey everything I have commanded you”? They sound very similar at first, but the difference is crucial. 

What is a disciple? Someone who learns, grows, and obeys Jesus.

Those two extra words, implying obedience and not just knowledge, jumped out at me like they never had before. As a disciple, how was I doing at obeying? Pretty well, I thought.What about all of Jesus’ commands? How was I doing at obeying the command to go and make disciples? Not so well, I realized. I had learned a lot about discipleship (gained head knowledge), had grown in maturity and in spiritual disciplines as a follower of Jesus over twenty years, but how was my obedience in disciple-making going?

And, going one step farther, how was I doing at teaching others to obey Jesus’ command to make disciples? That’s when a lot of the dots connected between Jesus’ discipleship command and my evangelism struggles. My aim for 20 years had been too small. Namely, my efforts had been primarily to impart right thinking or right doctrine, and my goal primarily to make a convert. I wasn’t really aiming for anything more than believer  when I really should have set my sights on faithful, reproducing disciple, like Jesus did.

Jesus’ Discipleship Model

Jesus’ ministry wasn’t just a lot of preaching and teaching behind closed doors, followed by commands to his disciples to “go and do it.” It did include all of those things. But as Jesus preached, and taught, he also went and did exactly what he spoke about, with his disciples literally following him around everywhere he went. He was modeling. They watched. They listened. They observed. They practiced on their own with Jesus present to guide and then eventually without Jesus being physically present (Luke 9 and 10). He was showing them, every step of the way, how to live out all of the things he was teaching. He was modeling for them how to preach (share) the gospel and how to make faithful, reproducing disciples.

This leads me to imagine that, after three years of ministry with Jesus, as he leaves them with final instructions to “go, and make disciples of all nations,” not one of his disciples had to call a team huddle to debrief Jesus’ command. I don’t think any of them were scratching their heads about just what it was he meant by “disciples,” and what their role in the process was. All of them knew exactly what making disciples looked like because they had actually been doing it with Jesus for three years. He had taught and then modeled for them what it looked like in an everyday, day-by-day mentorship. I didn’t realize how much I needed that kind of life-on-life mentorship of practical obedience, how much I needed to be taught to obey, not just taught. 

It’s been a rich and joyful journey since encountering Austin and Tina, full of simple tools, lots of baby steps, even more mistakes, followed by more questions and learning and observation from those who are a step ahead of me, followed by even more practicing. Rinse and repeat, along the way, every day. Now I’m learning how to take others with me as I go–how to be a “Tina” to others. God continues to kindly teach me more about what it looks like to be obedient in disciple-making and what it looks like not just to teach others, but to teach them to obey

If any of this resonates with you, I love to help others where I’ve been helped. Please reach out!

Steven Prinsen

Steven.Prinsen@launchglobal.org

Celebrating 10 years of RVC–Hans Stennes-Spidahl

AaronUncategorized2 Comments

(This post is part of a series of blogs we will be doing throughout 2020 as we prepare for our 10 year anniversary at RVC that we will be celebrating on 12/5/20. Search under the tag “RVC 10 Years” to read other post in this series.)

The Early Days

I was first introduced to RVC around this time of year seven years ago by my good friend Alex. He and his roommate invited me over for a game night and the topic of churches came up. I had just started taking my faith more seriously but was not yet connected to a church in Madison and Alex was excited to connect me to the church he loved so dearly. Within my first several weeks at RVC, I could see why.

While meeting in a high school and singing worship music accompanied by guitar was a major shift from growing up sitting in pews and singing hymns accompanied by organ music, I also felt a sense of welcome early on. I also heard the Word of God taught in a way that challenged me to learn and to grow in my faith. I was at first an irregular attender, coming about twice per month and working other Sundays. When asked if I would consider becoming a member of the church, I remember telling one of the pastors that RVC was a good model for the church I would one day join, but that I felt my campus ministry was my church for the time being.

Deeper Involvement

Thankfully, my convictions shifted before long and I became a member in 2014. I continued to grow with the other members of RVC and took much joy in serving Christ by serving the church. Eventually, I decided to intern with Red Village and began in the late Spring of 2016. I was blessed to work alongside the leadership and congregation, to see how church life functioned, gaining a clearer perspective of both the highs and the lows. Pastor Aaron and others in the church provided great support as I prepared for two years of overseas missions work. I got as far as going to a conference where I was matched with three top choices for service destinations when the unexpected happened. 

Mania, the Fog, and the Journey Back to Normalcy 

I had a great deal of restlessness, excitement, and stress following the conference, which only snowballed from there. Nights with only 4-5 hours of sleep became sleepless nights, dreams were replaced with racing thoughts as I lay wide awake for hours each night. I thought that I was gaining increased clarity and insight and that my actions reflected my clarity of mind. I became convinced that Jesus would return within a matter of weeks and that I had a huge role to play in leading the world to prepare for His return. However, my roommates, church friends, family, and others were increasingly confused by my words, messages, and actions. Eventually, my family got me into a hospital where I was diagnosed with a manic episode and ended up spending 11 days. 

The journey back to normalcy was long and difficult. I spent several weeks with my parents, who were very patient and helpful as I took steps towards mental and spiritual health. The church and other friends in Madison were also very faithful, especially through their prayers. Pastor Aaron made the 2 ½ hour drive to La Crosse to provide support and encouragement, which I remember as a boost for me. Eventually I felt prepared to return to Madison and came back to a city which was much the same, but which was more difficult to navigate in the midst of continued recovery. The delusional thoughts of mania gradually gave way to a dense fog of depression. Through the fog, God remained my guiding light. I prayed when I did not know what to pray and often falling asleep in prayer. I understood that in the midst of hardship God sees, hears, and He knows (Exodus 2). When I felt it was impossible to get off the couch to make a sandwich, go for a walk, or go to work, God’s grace allowed me to. It was also God’s grace that gave me encouraging friends and family as fellow sojourners who would point me towards the light of Christ, to lift my head up when it was downcast. I am forever grateful for the ways that my friends at RVC listened to me, gently encouraged me, or simply sat in silence with me during that time. Psalm 18:19 is a scripture that rings true following that time: “He brought me out into a broad place he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” 

Moving on, but Always Grateful

As I came out of that season of depression, I was blessed with meeting Jen, the beautiful woman who would eventually become my fiancée. She is a wonderful person to journey life with and she consistently points me to Jesus in the highs and the lows. We recently decided that the best move for our family is to be part of a church body which Jen is already involved in and has a significant presence in the village of McFarland, where we will make our home together. In March I will have my last Sunday at RVC. I’m sad to be leaving, but am forever grateful for the people of Red Village Church and the ways God has graciously worked through RVC in my life and in the lives of many others. It has been an immense blessing to be part of seven of RVC’s 10 years as a church and I am confident that God will continue to use the church in powerful ways both in this city He loves so much and to the ends of the earth. May Red Village Church become even more faithful as a church “Where a Wooden Cross and an Empty Tomb Mean Everything.”