Helping Our Kids Interact With Hostile Opponents Winsomely

WinsomeI call them Foxnews republicans. They are the ones who say a lot of the things I agree with but with such cold indifference for anyone who would disagree that I find myself almost wishing I didn’t agree with them and often looking for reasons to disagree. The gospel is so counter intuitive to everything our sinful nature has lead us to believe and pursue that it can be no wonder why so many vehemently oppose the foundational beliefs we hold dear as well as the implications of those beliefs. As that old man holds on I’ve often found it difficult not to respond in the exact same way toward those who disagree with me. However, a clear understanding of the gospel should inform how we interact with those who disagree with us, especially those who do so as a direct result of our allegiance to Christ. Paul helps us in 2 Timothy 2:24-26 to relate to those who disagree with us in a way that honors Christ and may lead our opponent to repentance.

Five ways to speak truth winsomely

  1. Don’t go looking for an argument. We are convinced that we have the right idea on many issues. There are some issues that are so black and white (abortion, same-sex marriage, gender, etc…) it’s hard to understand how people can’t see the truth. Paul reminds us, “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome.
  2. Be nice. Disagreement is no reason to mistreat another person. This includes the way you look, speak, and act toward an individual while in their presence or behind their back. This doesn’t mean you can’t discuss the policies or beliefs held by this person and why you think they are wrong, but a Christian should be characterized by kindness whether or not they’ll be challenged. Paul says, “be kind to everyone.” We need to be able to disagree with people and still be kind.
  3. Believe what you say you believe. In order to actually believe what you say you believe you must study it out for yourself. Paul tells us to be “able to teach.” We can only teach what we know and we can only know what we’ve investigated and if you teach something you’ve investigated but don’t believe then you’re a hypocrite and the Bible has lots to say to you. So, don’t just repeat what you’ve heard from your favorite Bible teacher or talking head on TV. Be a Berean and dig through the Scripture working hard to develop your own convictions.
  4. Don’t expect them to play nice. We lose our patience often when we receive something we didn’t want unexpectedly. When we plan 10 minutes for a shower, 5 to brush my teeth/hair/get dressed, 5 to get the kids around, 2 to eat breakfast, we have to leave by 8:00AM so I can wake up at 7:38 and then when we’re late we tend to lose patience. However, if we plan to leave at 8:00 get up at 6 because we know it always takes longer than we think and begin getting around at 7 leaving by 7:55 we don’t generally lose our patience. We should expect those who don’t follow Christ, who don’t play by the same rules, who don’t have to Holy Spirit to mistreat us. If we expect it we can be “patiently enduring evil” like Paul encourages us.
  5. Don’t clobber people you debate. When we debate people even on cut and dry, black and white issues we should have a reputation as one “correcting his opponents with gentleness.” This means we give them time to speak, we listen when they speak, we ask questions, we talk in a conversational tone, and we explain truth in a winsome way. When we win a debate in a heartless way we lost.

Three motivations for winsome truthfulness

  1. They might get saved. God is sovereign over salvation but He uses human means to accomplish His purpose. More often than not he uses argumentative and harsh Christians to harden unbelievers in their sin rather than win them to Christ. Paul presents winsomeness as a means God uses to draw people to Christ and lead them to repentance and truth.
  2. They might become rational. Sin is irrational. When sin is all we wanted we were by nature irrational rejecting the one who is Truth. Everyone rejecting Jesus Christ is off their rocker. Paul says by your winsome conduct God might bring them to their senses.
  3. They might be freed. If we can just understand that everyone who rejects Christ is trapped and ensnared I think it would change how we relate to them. They are in the devil’s snare, for the purpose of doing his will. By our winsome interactions we may be agents of God used to break them out.

Every true Christian cringes when they see religious nuts protesting funerals, screaming as families pass that they’re all going to hell, and the list could go on. However, as the election year rolls around may we be reminded how our Lord commands us to act toward those who disagree with us and often who don’t like us much if at all. May He see fit to use us and our winsome truth telling to draw many to Christ breaking them free from the devil’s snare. Let’s model and instruct our kids to hold to the truth with this kind of winsomeness.

Parents, we want you!

we-want-youI pastor youth and children’s ministry. I’m aware of the statistics that say what I’m doing is all but futile. I’m aware of the many voices calling for the parents to take their kids out of these ministries. I hear their statements asserting the priority of the family in training children and agree. I concur as they site Deut 6 and Eph 5 making a case for the primacy of dad to disciple children in the Lord. That is exactly what biblical and effective children and youth ministry will do.

Equip moms and dads to disciple and instruct their kids

I’m convinced that the majority of moms and dads want to skillfully discipline and instruct their children in the ways of Jesus Christ. I’m also convinced that the many moms and dads are not skillfully disciplining or instructing their children in the ways of Jesus Christ. However, I’m also convinced that the majority of moms and dads are willing to learn and be equipped to skillfully discipline and instruct their children in the ways of Jesus Christ. As far as I can tell youth ministry has deservedly received a bad rap precisely because they have failed to understand the primacy of parents in training children in the ways of Christ. In replacing the parent’s primary role they have undermined the very thing they were trying to accomplish, namely, develop disciples of Christ. They have discouraged the parents from getting involved and encouraged an observer mentality in parents when it comes to the spiritual development of their child.

A biblical youth and children’s ministry is committed to encouraging and equipping parents to skillfully engage in the spiritual development of their children. This requires a godly/wise/knowledgeable staff developing close relationships with parents able to offer resources, biblical counsel, and compassionate encouragement as they walk with families partnering with parents to impact their children for Christ. This can also be achieved through parenting classes which lean on helpful and excellent resources written and recorded on aspects of parenting/family life. Since the Bible puts the primary responsibility on dads it is essential that a biblical youth and children’s ministry pour into dads through discipleship relationships, classes, resources, and encouraging accountability to help him faithfully execute his God designed responsibility in the home.

Partner in the growth and evangelization of their children

There are a number of helpful ways these ministries serve parents in their responsibility to disciple their children. First, by providing a time where the parent can be fed on Sunday morning free of distraction of little ones, we assist in developing and growing the parent spiritually which translates into godlier parenting. At the same time by choosing biblical gospel centered material to teach children and ensuring a safe environment for them to learn we earn the confidence needed for them to rest assured while entrusting their children to our care.

Second, by adding to the voices saying the same thing about Biblical truth we help confirm in their child’s mind the truth being taught in the home. By developing a staff committed to cultivating close relationships with parents as well as students the rivalry for the child’s ear is removed and a partnership for the spiritual good of the child is established.

Finally, both staff and parent working together are able to reach the child in different ways. Staff is able to gain different insight to help the parent and the parent is able to share insight to help staff more effectively minister to the student and family. The partnership helps both parties grow in understanding and ability to disciple the child to be more like Christ.

Parenting and ministry is driven by the same thing

Both parenting and ministry are primarily driven by a desire to Glorify God through gospel transformation. Both must be gospel centered in order to be effective or faithful. Parenting for primarily behavioral modification creates a Pharisee farm. Youth and children’s ministry primarily calling children to be better simply encourages well behaved sinners destined to hell paving their way with good intentions. Both must be gospel centered, motivating through a love and devotion to Christ because of what he has done on the cross taking our place, purchasing our souls to serve him and walk in good works. If our homes and ministries don’t emphasize the fact that we are all terrible wicked sinners but Jesus is a wonderful amazing Savior then students will continue to walk away after high school and our ministry both in the church and in the home will be futile. However, a gospel centered partnership between parents and staff emphasizing the glory of Jesus Christ will be enduringly fruitful.  

Thinking Organically Purposefully

lightstock_106044_medium_user_4832116The best relationships often happen organically. You make a connection with someone either through personality compatibility, common likes/dislikes (I love anyone who hates the Giants), and/or common acquaintance, and that relationship develops and grows into a close friendship in which you both learn and grow as a direct result of the other. These are often the most rewarding and beneficial discipleship relationships. I would also suggest that there are many opportunities in life that we guys especially don’t take advantage of because we don’t think of it, or because we are “too manly” and so we assume asking for help admits we can’t do it.

Lawn work is a great opportunity to invite teens over to help and have a time of getting to know each other, teach on work ethic, instruct on useful homeowner skills, etc… Once the work is done lunch or just sitting around with a cold drink is a good opportunity to have some good conversation.

Exercise provides a unique means of developing a relationship. D-ing up someone in a game of basketball, giving them an excellent pass for an easy layup, riding around in a golf cart, or spotting them for their last rep is a great means of establishing a relationship that can open doors for discipleship.

Sporting events are a fun way of getting to know other men. The car ride there, if it’s baseball the conversation throughout the game, if it’s hockey the high fiving or cheering together after a big hit all help plant seeds of friendship. These friendships can be watered and become beneficial discipleship relationships in which we become more like Christ as a direct result of God using the men in our life to sanctify and motivate us.

As dads these are prime opportunities to connect with our sons or daughters. I remember 6AM rides to the rink to play pickup hockey with my dad and his buddies. The best conversations I’ve had with my dad have been on rides to Ottawa to catch a hockey game together. There is a strange connection men feel when they get together and do stuff. I’m not knocking the early morning meeting to study Scripture. I have found those profoundly beneficial in my own growth. But for maturity and sharpening we must not neglect the everyday opportunities God gives to build into others.

I think about the discipleship I’d like to be doing but look at my schedule think it’s impossible. Then I look at the things I need to do and the potential of using those time suckers to become relationship cultivators. May we increasingly think creatively how we might pour into faithful men who will be able to teach others also.

Daddies Date Your Daughters

DaddyDaughterDateDepending on your family convictions you may only have 14 years. Then your baby girl will be choosing the young man she’ll/you’ll allow to take her out. That means you have very limited time to demonstrate for her the kind of young man she should look for. There are a number of characteristics you should demonstrate for your precious young lady.

  1. Chivalry – I want my baby girl to fall in love with a man who understands the importance of tenderness and gentlemanly care in the little things like opening her door, walking her on the side away from traffic, showing her honor in public and in private. If this is what I want, and it is, then I need to help her get used to being treated like that so she’ll be turned off by young men who don’t. As she grows up in my home accustomed to the respect she deserves my prayer is that she’ll expect nothing less from her potential husband.
  2. Selflessness – This is perhaps the hardest to demonstrate and for young men to exemplify since it scrapes against our fleshly nature. It will be my job and privilege to demonstrate to my daughter through years of daddy daughter dates initiative that seeks to serve her rather than myself. This may mean silly dress up dates and pretend picnics rather than a ball game or golf outing. This may mean a night at the playground pushing her in the swing rather than a day in the woods shooting paint balls. I want to train her to search for a young man who is mature enough to take initiative yet selfless enough to serve her rather than himself in that initiative.
  3. Purity – At the appropriate time this is not just a discussion for moms to have with their daughters. Dads have a unique perspective they’re able to offer on this subject. How certain dress attracts uninvited attention, how certain touch provokes unintended desires are both topics dads can disciple and give wisdom to their daughters in ways different than moms are able. It is essential for us to help our daughters see the way men process external appearance and touch and perhaps how different it is from the way women intend.
  4. Affection – God has wired our daughters to seek affection. Sadly many daughters seek it in wrong places because they never received it from daddy. These are great opportunities to show how you love them, respect them, think they are pretty, care for them, and desire to serve them. As their young wells of affection are filled to overflowing our prayer is that it encourages patience and discernment in the dating process.
  5. Devotion – Not to our daughters but to Christ. The previous four could be met and we still weep over our daughter’s choice if this final one doesn’t motivate them all. Ultimately our desire to love and serve our daughters flows from our devotion to the one who loves her more, Jesus Christ. Dates with our daughters provide excellent opportunities to sow seeds of the gospel and regularly bring them the refreshing life giving water they need as we talk about the glory of Christ and show the love of Christ by how we serve them.

The days are evil. The young men our daughters will one day marry are inundated with images, thoughts, ideas, and advice that would appall us. While we humbly do our best to demonstrate in our marriage relationships the man they should choose and persistently set the example through regular daddy daughter dates it’s been said God doesn’t do a thing but by the prayers of his people. May we be just as persistent and bold as we lift this young man perhaps only weeks or years old at this point to the throne of grace, pleading on his behalf for God to develop and grow His love and devotion to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. May his parents prepare his little heart to one day passionately serve Christ as he passionately serve my baby girl.

Don’t Ram Your Religion Down Their Throat: Winning Your Children to Christ

KidReadingYou believe in a God who has good answers to the biggest questions and objections the people around you can and will pose. Therefore, in light of the great commission and the sovereignty of God in salvation we shouldn’t be afraid to give freedom to neighbors, even children, to think about and work through the truth of Scripture and how it applies to reality.

Be interested in people even when you can’t change them. The sovereignty of God in salvation should make us more friendly and interested people. Sometimes we arrogantly enter into relationships and more often only conversations to convince people they are wrong and we are right, in that order. Our goal is often not to win the person but the argument, often losing both.

As we should be interested in our neighbors we should be interested in our kids and learn about how they think and why they think how they think. If we’re going to win them to Christ they must be more than an argument and more than a project. We don’t think of them this way when they’re infants we shouldn’t begin to think of them this way when they develop the skill of thinking. Like we help them walk, talk, ride their bike, etc… we need to help them think and then give them the freedom to exercise their skill.

When we believe in the sovereignty of God it frees us to befriend people who believe differently than we do. It allows for conversation about world views without the competition of winning an argument but learning about a friend. This doesn’t exclude persuasion but paves the way for deepening and strengthening relationships beyond the argument. Winning the person is most important, the argument is secondary. We often forget the power is in the word. The gospel has power in itself. We often remove the power of the gospel by neglecting to enter relationships if we don’t win the initial argument.

The same application can be made in our homes. When I say “ram your religion down their throat” I mean failing to leave room for kids to think and process the truth. We tend to be intimidated by questions but we need to see the difference between questions and doubt. Questions break the dam allowing the flow of thought leading to knowledge and growth. Doubt is the dam which acts as a block to thinking, growing, and knowledge of the truth. Encourage questions even when you don’t have the answers. It will be ok when our kids realize we don’t have all the answers. Win your child to Christ through relational conversation about the truth of the gospel and Scripture. Don’t be afraid of questions, our God has the answers even when we don’t.

Redeeming the Mundane: Exalting Christ in Everyday Situations

lightstock_70438_medium_user_4832116In Deuteronomy 6 the word of God instructs us as parents to use the everyday situations that mark our lives to teach our kids about God. Paul echoes this sentiment by instructing the Corinthian church is 1 Corithians 10:31 to glorify God even in the mundane activities like eating and drinking. There are endless numbers of ways parents can take these passages and instruct their child’s heart through the common and mundane aspects and events of life. Here are ten general ones to help you get started.

Give thanks together. Meal times and grocery shopping provide very tangible ways to connect our necessities with God’s provision. Most of us will habitually give thanks to God for the food we’re about to eat but perhaps the next time you are in the grocery store give thanks to God with you kids for the food you are about to buy.

Retell stories of God’s faithfulness. When you go for a walk, ride in the car, or during bedtime recall a time in your life when God displayed his faithfulness to your family. Perhaps it was after you had prayed a long time for one of your kids to be born. Let them know how God answered your prayer. Remember that hard time God brought you through? Remember years before it ever happened, thinking if He ever did that you’d never be able to handle it? Do you see now looking on the other side how His faithful hand led you the whole time? Tell your kids that story.

Make use of analogy. When they are in the bathtub or brushing their teeth it is a great illustration of how Christ cleanses us from our sin. Naptime and bedtime provide an analogy to how Jesus tells us to rest in Him for our salvation. Meal preparation and cleaning the house can provide a good connection to the order and design of the things we see around us in nature, someone had to do that.

Encourage imitation. As children interact with their siblings, entertain guests with their parents, play with other children, this is a good time for them to imitate the character of Christ through what they do, say, and think. Help them to understand how Christ provides them an example of kindness, preferring others, selflessness, and sacrifice.

Pursue wisdom/knowledge/understanding. Encourage your family to read books. Help them to see the expanse of information, knowledge, and wisdom to be gained through great books. Include fiction, non-fiction, sports, children’s, and books to be read as a family. Enjoy the process of learning together. Bring them to the proverbs that help us to see the wisdom in gaining knowledge in order to honor our Lord with it. Shepherd their hearts in this process promoting humble attitudes eager to share and celebrate learning and growth, rather than boasting and condescending through comparison with others perceived less intelligent.

Observe instances of Grace. This would begin by sharing your story of redemption with your kids. Help your family to see God’s grace toward unbelievers through the good gifts they enjoy. Observe how patient God is toward us in our sin. Notice together the pleasantness of good food, nice weather, a cool breeze, a good game, laughter, etc… Connect these good gifts to God’s gracious character.

Include God in the conversation. Often we talk about God during the formal times of prayer before dinner or during family worship but forget about Him during the rest of our day. When you are contemplating a problem or thinking through a decision that needs to be made simply acknowledge the presents of God there by speaking to Him. Prayer does not require a formal time or somber tone of voice. We may entreat God at all times, in all situations, and in all places. Speak to God like you believe in His omnipresence.

Be theologically and doxologically consistent. When you have family worship praise God for his sovereignty in all things, teach your family how God controls every aspect of His creation and nothing happens, not even a toe touch of an insignificant bird without God’s foreknowledge. However, after that, don’t complain about the rain.

Put the Gospel central. Discipline using the truth of the gospel that sin can be forgiven past present and future through belief and repentance. Apply the gospel to your delicious steak and God’s requirement of OT sacrifice and Christ as the once for all sacrifice on our behalf. Recall the hope of future glory and resurrected bodies at the scraping of a knee and stubbing of a toe. Remind your family of the holiness of God and how we are counted as holy as Christ after a discipline issue is through.

Make pleasing Christ the supreme motivation for life. Be examples of this in your marriage. Husbands connect the love you have for your wife to the love Christ had for the church and the demonstration of it through the cross. Wives model the submission of the church to Christ through your submission to your Husband. Encourage your children’s obedience through tying it to their honor of Christ. Teach your kids to make their beds because Jesus sees it and is pleased with it. Remind them of His love for them displayed through the cross and call them to live worshipful lives in light of it.

Praise God for a new development of understanding and conviction on formal family worship. May we also engage daily in informal family worship by redeeming the everyday situations to bring honor and glory to our Savior.

Learning How This Parenting Thing Works

So you think you can blog?holding-hands1 No, I’m actually not sure I can. As I’ve thought about blogging and starting a blog I’ve considered many things. First, this is going to take a lot of time. Where am I going to get the time to do this consistently? Noticing however, men much busier than myself and their consistent supply of biblical wisdom to such a wide range of issues through this means I have concluded it’s not a matter of time but discipline.

Second, do I actually have something to offer that will be worthwhile for a human being to read. This blog is going to be primarily a reflection of the ministries I over see at Grace Bible Church. I am the Children’s and Youth Ministries pastor. So, I’ll primarily be writing on topics aimed at equipping parents and volunteers to minister the gospel to people between and including the womb to ~18 years of age. With that said, I have one daughter that is 19… months. That doesn’t add up to a lot of experience in the area of parenting. I come however, with the conviction that Scripture is sufficient for every Christian to be fully equipped for every good work, including parenting. So I have concluded, this blog will be as helpful as it is biblical as it regards issues of parenting babies through young adults.

Finally, and I’ve already touched on it a little bit, what am I going to write about? I read a great blog about blogging which said, among other things, if you are going to start a blog and be consistent it must be something you are passionate about. Well, parenting and equipping parents is something I am very passionate about, but there are many other things I am passionate about. So the content of this blog will primarily be about parenting. However, I will take the liberty to write on other things that I am passionate about when I feel the time is appropriate.

I trust this is going to be a learning experience for all of us. I’ll be writing as I learn and I pray that the things I write about will help you as you learn how this parenting thing works as well. May God bless you and your family as you apply gospel truth to your parenting methods.