It's All About Discipleship

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, April 27, 2011 0 comments

Early on in ministering to youth and their families, I had a decision to make. When a conflict would arise with a parent and their child about how or what I was teaching, how would I respond?

Those of us who are in youth ministry, teaching, or other occupations that involve the children of others have to make the same decision. I know every case can be different. Of course, if we are dealing with a parent/child relationship that is outside the bounds of a biblically-based parent/child relationship, such as physical or sexual abuse, obviously we need to take measures to protect the child. However, I’m not referring to that type of situation.

As both a Christ-follower and as fifteen-year veteran of working with students and their parents, I would contend that we need to let the parents be the parents of their child and realize that we are only there to enhance the instruction that the parents are already teaching their child.

No matter how much we as leaders think we love and care about these children, their parents love and care for them more. If you don’t think that’s the case in certain situations, try to equip the parents to love their child more than you do. Of course with so many divided families in our world today, this is quite a challenge. If they don’t want your help, step aside and let them raise their child. We cannot force anyone to be taught. If people are not open to correct teaching, let the Holy Spirit do His work. Only a willing person with an open heart will accept the truth.

Case in point: Early on in ministering to students, I was blessed to be part of a ministry with people who understood what it means to reach out to the masses, to the wavering believers and unbelievers. During one school year in particular, we saw growth almost every single week and new students were always coming through the door.

(I would like to thank the people of Trinity Evangelical UMC in Upper Sandusky, OH for the opportunity to be their youth minister for almost ten years. I learned so much from them and was challenged and encouraged weekly to try new things and to bring the ministry to people rather than stay in our meeting place. Thinking outside-of-the-box is a much-needed, amazing practice. Two pastors that changed my life are Derik Hines and Marc Quinter. I love those guys!)

I was confronted with the dilemma mentioned above with one student in particular along with his father. This student had an odd last name and got picked on a bit for it. He also had a nickname that ended up sticking, so we all called him that. He was in eighth grade when he first showed up in our small town. Having come from a larger city, this guy needed some friends. As we built up our friendship, we realized we had a lot in common. I also realized that he was hungry to learn and was confused about what truth really was. His world had been turned upside down not only by the divorce of his parents but also by the fact that his mother had remarried and brought him to our little community. He needed truth and stability.

We quickly became friends, and I gave him a ride home after every youth group meeting. Almost every week in his driveway, we would sit in my vehicle literally for hours on end, talking about anything—especially spiritual things and questions he had about life. He became one of my disciples, but I also learned a lot from him. I was honored that he would want me to sink into his life.

I try to live my life in obedience to the Bible and believe that all of Genesis 1–11 is literal history. (Yes, I can back it up with solid information from the science world as well as biblical evidence, but that is not the point here. Just ask me if you’d like to discuss it further. I love discussing the issue.) I teach these truths as much as I can.

After a few weeks of teaching about a literal Genesis in youth group, this young man asked me my advice. He was learning what I was teaching and was beginning to see its truth and logic. He told his father, whom I had never met since he lived elsewhere, about what I was teaching him. He was not a Christ-follower and this student and I had talked about their relationship quite a bit. Needless to say, his father was furious about my teaching!

This young man told me that his father had called me many nasty names and forbid him to continue going to our youth group. However, the boy’s mother, with whom he lived, was ecstatic about the growth she was seeing in her son—not only in Christ but also as a human being.

What to do?

I had a decision to make. This son wanted to tell his father to leave him alone, for he believed that his father was wrong and I was right.

However, I knew this was an unwise response. Even though his father and I did disagree so blatantly on many things, I knew that he should not undermine and dishonor his father.

So I told this young man, “Your father and I disagree, and I don’t think he is right. But he is your father. God gave you to him as his son. No one loves you more than Jesus Christ and your mom and dad. Not even me. This might be hard to hear, but it’s true. Long after you graduate, your dad will still be here, but I probably won’t be. You need to honor your mother and father. I believe this is what God would want you to do.”

After some discussion, the young man agreed to honor and obey his father and try harder with their relationship.

Fast Forward!

Two years later we brought in a scientist who is a Christian and believes in the biblical account of Genesis as history, to speak at the church. Guess who showed up to listen to the talk? This young man’s father! The one who totally believes that evolution is correct and my teachings about Genesis were crazy.

Afterward, he came up to me and said, “We don’t agree on this subject at all, but thank you for loving my son and respecting me as his father. You can hang out with him whenever you want to.”

We finished talking, shook hands, and went our separate ways. I went down to my small office, shut the door, and began to weep with joy. Until that evening, I honestly didn’t know if I had made the right decision! I praised the Lord for His Word, His love for us, and for the Holy Spirit.

That night I discovered that, no matter what, I needed to teach children and youth to honor and obey their parents—even if we disagree. God is big enough to handle it.

For further reading, check out Ephesians 6:1–4 and Exodus 20:12.