Enjoy this free excerpt from the Hope for the Prodigal from Baker Publishing
Adapted from Chapter 11, pages 249—257
Reaching the Next Generation
How do we disciple people now and care for the strays now, while also reaching the next generation? We need a reproducing type of discipleship. We need to be disciples who make other disciples. As parents we must love the Lord wholeheartedly and then impress a knowledge of God on our children. We need to focus on talking about Jesus as we sit, walk, lie down, and go about daily life. Rather than focusing on worldly success, we must get our children ready for eternal success.
We have been given three wonderful gifts—the Word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people of God—to help us in this battle. If we don’t use these gifts and get our kids ready to grasp and use these gifts, then we are just handing them over to the enemy. Our strategy for raising children to follow Jesus or winning back prodigals must be multifaceted and center on these three big components working together.
1. It takes the Word of the Lord.
How do we raise children to be disciples who are able to make other disciples? The Word of God must become our guide and our source of light and direction. We must read the Bible, teach the Bible, memorize the Bible, and pass the Bible along to the next generation. We must do this in such a way that our kids can apply it to their lives. They must understand not only the rules but the reason behind the rules—God’s love. We and our children don’t merely need to know about God; we need to know God in personal relationship.
When it comes to reproducing disciples, we must be in the Word of God ourselves, then teach our children to be in the Word of God. We must train up godly leaders who help the next generation love the Word of God and encounter God through it.
Some want the church to do it all, so they put their kids in youth group and Sunday school or a Christian school. This is all important, but you are the one who must orchestrate all of this. The church is there to support you, but you hold the God-given responsibility. It’s awesome to watch a parent smile as their kid serves the Lord. Make it your mission in life to be the person God calls you to be as a parent.
2. It takes the Spirit of God.
Do we want to become disciples who make other disciples? Along with the Word of God, it takes the Spirit of God. Paul in Romans 8:14 says, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.”
The Holy Spirit isn’t an “it” or a “force” or an impersonal being. The Holy Spirit is a Person, the third member of the Trinity. How do we know this? Because Jesus described the Holy Spirit this way. The Holy Spirit lives in us. The Holy Spirit is our advocate—One who supports us and champions our spiritual growth.
None of us can overcome our prodigal tendencies apart from the Spirit of God. We don’t have the power to transform our lives ourselves. Not fully. Romans 8:26–27 says,
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.
As parents, if we have prodigal children, we may have so much tension and distress in our lives that it becomes difficult to pray. All we can do is cry out to the Lord, “Help.” The Holy Spirit of God knows that what we are really praying is more like, “Restore us. Protect us. Transform us. Renew us.” The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with God the Father and translates our groans to God. So as we take in the Word of God, the Holy Spirit empowers us not only to remember it but to live it.
3. It takes the people of God.
If our aim is to be disciples who make other disciples, then we cannot depend on the Bible and the Spirit only. God also uses people to teach, support, correct, and encourage us. The family of God is to be a loving community who passes on the faith by teaching men and women to accurately handle the Word of God. We are the body of Christ, held together and directed by Christ our head. We need the people of God to help us grow to spiritual maturity. Hebrews 3:12 says, “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
Hebrews 3:12 makes it clear that the way we stop our hearts from becoming hardened is through relationships. We are to encourage one another. That word encourage means to inspire, to spur on, as we normally define it, but it also means to admonish, to confront in love. And we are to encourage
one another daily. We need to be reminded who we are daily, and we get this through our brothers and sisters in Christ. Life is meant to be lived together. All the fruit of the Spirit is relational by nature.
God gives us His Word as a manual for life. He then gives us the power source for living that life—His Spirit. He then gives us His people to help us when we fall and to encourage us when we do it right. We can do the mission the Lord has given us when we work together.