You may have heard a sermon or read an article based on Deuteronomy 6:4-9. This familiar “go to” passage for family ministry is an important one for both church leaders and parents. It is a beautiful, albeit challenging, set of instructions for parents, and it is a great model for which parents to strive. Specifically referring to the family, this passage sets up an expectation that older generations are to train up younger generations. As we read through the Bible, we see that this generational disciple-making relationship is not limited to parents and children.
To help our conversation, let’s set out a working definition of generational discipleship. Generational discipleship is happening when a follower of Jesus who has reached certain spiritual, physical, and chronological mile markers in life intentionally helps others follow Jesus where they are to reach their next spiritual mile marker. In other words, someone who has “ been there, done that” helping others who haven’t.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why Christians should be strategically involved in generational discipleship.
- Discipling others reveals the object of our worship. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)
From Deuteronomy 6, the first few verses are statements of worship. There is only one God and He alone is to be worshiped (Deut. 6:4), and we worship Him by loving Him with everything we are: heart, soul, and strength (Deut. 6:5). Of course this isn’t limited to the Old Testament. When Jesus was asked “Which command of the law is the greatest?” in Matthew 22:34-40, He quotes these verses from Deuteronomy reemphasizing that we need to be “all in” as we worship and follow Jesus.
- Discipling others reveals obedience to our mission. (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 28:19, Acts 1:8)
You are probably familiar with Matthew 28:18-20 in which Jesus gives a commission to His disciples: Go and make … disciples. That’s right! To be obedient to our mission as followers of Jesus, we must be active in disciple-making. God requires us to be faithful managers of the gospel (1 Corinthians 4:2). To be found faithful, we must not leave the gospel sitting on a shelf. We must share it’s power for salvation.
God has chosen the people of God, empowered by the Spirit of God and equipped with the Word of God, to be about the mission of God. Those in younger generations are desperate for older generations to authentically show them the way. This is your mission, do you choose to accept it?
- Discipling others reveals our ongoing hope for God’s church to outlive us. (Psalm 78:2-8, Judges 2:6-11)
All of us who are actively serving the church, particularly in Kids Ministry, are doing so with the hope that God is raising up a future generation to continue His work long into the future. For many of us, it is this hope that compels us to work tirelessly to serve kids, students, and their families. Discipling relationships are the key for our own personal contribution to this future.
The Old Testament gives us two pictures of the outcome when the people of God either did or did not take their mission seriously.
In Psalm 78:2-8, we see an example of when the people of God DID take their mission seriously. Take a moment to read those verses, taking special note of verses 6 and 7. The psalmist gives us two “so that” statements:
“so that a future generation—children yet to be born—might know”
“so that they might put their confidence in God”
Verse 6 challenges us that our investment in younger generations should not be limited to the children in our lives. Yes, we should invest in them, but as we invest in this group of kids and teenagers, let’s pray for their children and grandchildren … “children yet to be born.” And verse 7 reminds us that the goal is for younger generations to “put their confidence in God.”
We see the second picture back in Judges 2:6-11. Here we read some of the most devastating, heart-wrenching verses in the entire Bible: another generation rose up who did not know the Lord or the works He had done for Israel. The Israelites did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.
So how can we be involved in generational discipleship? We’ll have to save that for another time …
Here is a prayer I pray often: God, grant me wisdom to learn from those who have gone before me and intentionally invest often in those that follow.
Jeremy Carroll is the team leader for The Gospel Project for Kids. Before coming to LifeWay, he has been active in local church ministry for nearly 20 years in TN, TX, and AL. Jeremy earned a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A Middle Tennessee native, he and his family live in Murfreesboro, TN.