THE MISSION OF THE FATHER
My wife Darlene and I became second-career missionaries to Uganda in 2006 after I pastored in the United States for thirty-four years. God had worked in us a heart for missions, and for Uganda in particular, over many years. The Lord entrusted to us five children who are now grown. What a thrill for us when, in 2007, God led our son Josh and his family to Peru as missionaries.
How do parents raise children to become servants of Christ no matter what vocation He leads them to choose? Here are some thoughts from an imperfect parent in the form of exhortations to young parents.
First, know your call to stewardship. Parenting is part of biblical stewardship. God has entrusted children to you. They are not really your children; they belong to Christ. You are accountable to your Lord for faithful, not necessarily “successful,” parenting. Parents are pastors and teachers to the church in their home. Children are your congregation. Pastor faithfully with a vision for stewardship.
Second, see your mission clearly. You are training the next generation of laborers, leaders, warriors, and servants for Christ’s bride and the kingdom of grace.
Third, keep the gospel central. Your privilege is to evangelize your children. You’ll have countless opportunities, over many years, even a lifetime. Your message is: “See God’s holy character, see the sin and corruption in your heart and in dad’s and mom’s hearts, and embrace Christ in the gospel, the only hope for sinners.” Keep preaching the gospel of grace to yourself and to your children. It’s the foundation and motivation for everything in life.
Fourth, pray for your child’s true conversion. Never be content with outward Christian conformity. Like you, your child needs radical grace to address radical corruption. Pray for the Spirit’s deep work in the new heart.
Fifth, model servanthood. Let your children see your submission to Christ, your devotion to prayer and reading the Word, your use of time and money, your marriage depending on grace, your commitment to your family and to worship, your love for the church, your hospitality, your passion for world missions, and your compassion for the alien, the poor, and the needy. Indelible learning comes by watching.
Sixth, anticipate many failures and capitalize on them to teach the gospel. Parents are imperfect disciples. Confessing your sins and failures to your children and humbly seeking their forgiveness models the gospel like few things you can ever do.
Seventh, expect great things from grace. God’s grace is greater than parental sins and child sins. God loves to display His grace and power through human weakness.
Eighth, keep praying for your kids after the nest is empty. God is still working. Keep trusting His transforming grace.
Finally, pray for the humanly impossible — the new heart from the Holy Spirit.
We exited the jalopy, paid the cabbie, hurried past the street vendors, and entered the antiquated performing arts center in downtown Trujillo. We found rickety seats toward the front and settled in (sort of) to enjoy Rachmaninov’s Concerto #3 for piano. The conductor took the stage, raised his baton, and the orchestra played a strong opening piece. Then, Abdiel Vazquez, a talented young pianist from Mexico, confidently took his place at the piano. As he played, the grungy walls were filled with weightiness and wonder. He passionately pounded every note, mesmerizing all. We were in a different world for that hour — a world of beauty, majesty, and awe. As we left the concert, we again made our way through the noisy streets and hailed another taxi. The Eagles’ “Desperado” played on the radio. No one listened, though. We were still captivated by Rachmaninov.
Our concert experience reminded us that we live in a world that is shaped by distinct and often disparate music. We are frequently hypnotized by the lyrics of acceptance, achievement, beauty, comfort, pleasure, power, or wealth. We desperately, but always unsuccessfully, try to find our identity and purpose in them. The only song able to contain and direct all our hopes, dreams, longings, and fears is the grand and glorious melody of the gospel. Through the good news of Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, we not only experience mercy and grace but also discover our mission.
That mission includes living out the future hope of our final redemption in the present. The ascended Christ gives each of us gifts for renewing and reshaping His world according to His resurrection. These gifts are not to be used selfishly or occasionally but purposefully and diligently as we take our place in the orchestra and play our part. We’re to play the song of God’s patient, tender, restorative love to a world in desperate need of repair. We’re to live out the wonder of our salvation in the midst of so much brokenness, suffering, and despair. We’re to be instruments of grace in every relationship and calling, whether it’s as a pastor in Peru, a doctor in India, a lawyer in California, or a student in Florida. Everyone has a role to play in embodying Christ’s love to Christ’s world.
As families, friends, neighbors, employers, and employees, don’t live out the thin, flat, boring ditties of our age. Don’t look to the size of your house, bank account, or waistline for ultimate meaning in life. Instead, find it in Christ and use the gifts He’s given you to play the melody of His amazing love — wherever He places you in His world.