As I watch my children grow up in the life of the church, I often find myself having conversations with them in order to prepare them for “real life” (as if they’re not already experiencing it). That’s the role of parents in this life. We teach, instruct, and prepare our children to live life for the glory of God. This time of preparation involves having awkward conversations with our children, honest conversations, and at times—serious conversations that will help them navigate the journey before them.
Why do we prepare our children for adversity on the basketball court, intense opponents on the soccer field, and difficult battles on the football field, but we fail to teach our children to deal with conflict and disappointment in the church? Maybe that’s why so many young children are growing up to be really good ball players—but not very good church members.
It’s essential to prepare your children for disappointments in the church. Your children need to know that people will disappoint them in the life of the church. It happens. It will happen. It’s just a matter of time before it happens again. The cycle of life involves both encouragement and disappointment, but all of life in the church is not “vanity of vanities.” I don’t want my children to learn about life at the ball field, in the school lunchroom, or on social media. I want my children to learn about life and experience life through the church. This involves both encouragement and disappointment, but they must be prepared for both the highs and lows.
Disappointments and conflict in the church can produce:
- Opportunities for learning.
- Opportunities to learn how to handle conflict.
- Opportunities to see the fruit of real repentance.
- Opportunities to see good examples of faithfulness to God.
- Opportunities, perhaps, to see bad examples of unfaithfulness, compromise, and sin.
- Opportunities to see the true value of church membership.
- Opportunities to see the functionality and value of biblical church discipline.
As a father and pastor, I wear both hats for my children. I always want my children to love the church and to grow up and have their lives rooted and grounded in the local church. This Sunday evening, as we were riding home from church, I had an honest conversation with my children. I told them that I wanted them to always love the local church. I also warned them of the disappointments that will come their way at times. They need to know that people will fail them. People will disappoint them.
Why was I having this conversation? We had just shared a meal with our church family and held a member’s meeting to discuss the state of the church and goals for 2017. There was no public church discipline discussed in the member’s meeting. It was a good night, but as I reflected and thought about my children growing up so quickly, I wanted to encourage them and warn them at the same time. In short, I was seeking to prepare my children for real church life.
Hiding the disappointments from your children in the life of the church is like changing the story line of Bambi to avoid dealing with death. Your children shouldn’t grow up thinking that the church is perfect. Children need to be taught that all churches are made up of sinners—imperfect people who must learn daily to cling to Christ. Paul Daivd Tripp writes:
The goal of parenting is to work yourself out of a job. The goal of parenting is to send young adults out into the world who are prepared to live as God’s children and as salt and light in a corrupt and broken world. 
When you hear of disagreements or experience them head-on in the life of the church, take such opportunities to shepherd your child’s heart. Depending on the ages of your children, you may want to withhold such information. You certainly don’t want to demonize a fellow church member in the life of the church. However, if your children are able to think clearly and with maturity, you would do well to point out the disagreement or situation of controversy in order to use it as an opportunity to disciple them in righteousness. Alexander Strauch writes:
There is nothing wrong with Christian disagreeing with one another or trying to persuade another of the rightness of a particular position. What is wrong, however, is loveless conflict that ends in hate and bitterness. 
Each week in the life of the church, the children are watching us. They’re listening to our conversations. They’re watching us interact in person, in private, and in the pixelated world of social media. It’s vital that we deal with conflict in a biblical manner. Sadly, many 8 year olds watch their parents behave like 8 year olds when dealing with conflict in the church. Children need more than lessons from Jesus’ preaching in the Sermon on the Mount. They need to see their mother and father living out that doctrine that was taught in the Sermon on the Mount.
- Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1997), 192-193.
- Alexander Strauch, Leading With Love, (Colorado Springs, CO: Lewis and Roth, 2006), 166.
This past week my family and I had the privilege to spend a week on the beach in North Carolina – a special place we’ve been visiting for many years. As you know, when you sit on the beach and play in the sand with your children, you often notice other people around you and what they’re doing. My children usually end up playing with random children around us building sand castles and splashing in the water.
If you’ve kept up with the news, you’re aware that this year has been a unique season on the North Carolina coast with several shark attacks. In fact, as I watched the water and ventured out with my children to ride waves with them, I couldn’t help but notice that people were not venturing out nearly as far as they normally do in the water. After playing in the water for a while, I took my seat in the shade. I noticed that one father followed his children out into the water and stood about ankle deep with his hands on his hips and watched every move his children made in the ocean surf. As he stood there watching, I glanced to my left and noticed that he was standing a few yards from a lifeguard stand where a professional lifeguard was standing on his post, but he continued to stand there for the duration of the time that his children were in the water.
That scene made me think about the spiritual duty of a father. Although a child may be under the direct care of teachers and pastors in the life of the church, the one who is to take the lead in protecting and caring for that child spiritually is the father. A perpetual problem in the church is the mindset that many families have on the beach. They view the protection of the children as the job of the lifeguard on the stand, so they sit under the umbrella with a book while their children play in the water. In many ways, parents are consistently guilty of that same mindset spiritually. Unfortunately, many fathers believe it’s the duty of the youth pastor, children’s minister, and Sunday school teachers to disciple their children through the gospel. Like that father I saw standing ankle deep watching over his children merely yards from an occupied lifeguard stand – we as fathers need to do the same with our children spiritually.
Family worship may seem like a strange concept to many who have never practiced it, but as Matthew Henry once wrote, “Here the Reformation must begin.” Take time each week, each evening when possible, to read the Bible, pray, and sing with your family. Have you ever watched teenagers sneer at church life and worship as if it’s strange and uncool? Perhaps it’s strange because what they see the church doing is never practiced in the home. Voddie Baucham, in his excellent book, Family Driven Faith, shares that 70-88% of all students walk away from the faith of their parents by the end of their freshman year of college. If sharks swimming in the water will cause parents to focus more on their children while playing on the beach, shouldn’t we care about the massive numbers of children who are walking away from the church after they graduate? What’s more dangerous – sharks in the water or sharks in our culture?
With a flamboyant agenda, the culture is interested in discipling your child with a secular worldview. Are you prepared to do battle? Are you standing guard? Are you seeking to practice in the home what the church practices together in order to normalize worship in the life of your family? Take time to consider the high calling of the father and mother as the prime influencers in the lives of your children. Deuteronomy 6 gives us the key responsibilities regarding family discipleship. The children of Israel were commanded to teach their children the Word of God and to instruct them regarding the redemptive history and purposes of God. As believers positioned on the other side of the cross, we must do the same thing. God has redeemed us, not with silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ as of a lamb without blemish and spot (1 Peter 1:19). When your children ask you about the lamb imagery, you can take them back to the Exodus and explain the whole scene that was a foreshadow of Jesus as the Savior of the world.
Don Whitney – Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home
Joel Beeke – Family Worship
I have been blessed to have my Dad in town visiting this week, and it has provided for great company and conversation. One of our conversations led to a popular topic for folks his age (50 +) – retirement! As we discussed the idea of retirement, I asked him – “Do you think it is ever God’s will for a Christian to retire from their job and set out on a life of travel and site seeing until death?” This particular question sparked a great conversation which led to a sermon that I preached this previous week at Van Buren titled, “The High Cost of Discipleship.”Luke 14:25-33I. Life of Sacrifice (Vs. 25-26)
A. Christ Comes Before Family
Christ says that in order to be a follower of Him and be considered a disciple, one must hate his family! What does this mean? This text actually refers to the fact that all true disciples must be willing to sacrifice their family in order to put God first in their lives. Nothing else can be first priority in the life of a Christian!
How many times have you heard of people using their own family as an excuse to skip out on the worship of God? God is not a clay toy that we can mold into whatever we want Him to be . . . and we must understand that He has true expectations upon His children and anything less is proof of no real discipleship.B. Christ Comes Before Self
II. Life of Suffering (Vs. 27)
Christ also says that a true disciple will hate his own life. Again, this is not a reference to hatred as is used in other places in Scripture. Christ would never contradict the God breathed Word. Therefore, we must understand this word hate as a direct reference to denial and sacrifice. This word is meaning to love in a lesser regard than one loves Christ.APPLICATION:How many times do we see people doing their own thing while others are worshiping or serving Christ? It could be in an easy chair, motorcycle, fishing boat, deer stand, shopping mall, or any other self focused thing – but the truth of the matter is clear – many people want the name of Christ so long as Christ does not interfere with their own personal agenda.Not only should our personal recreational agenda be surrendered to God, but our personal occupational agenda! How many times do you see people accepting positions at work or jobs that interfere with their ability to worship and serve Christ? Many times it is done with a decision based upon money alone and absolutely no consideration of whether or not they would have time and physical strength to serve Christ! Fulfilling our service to Christ is much more important than our positions in life and in our jobs!Jesus wants us all to know that He came to save us from our personal agenda! He came to save us out of our personal agenda! If a person is unwilling to serve and worship Christ above all other self focused things – it is proof positive that the individual is not a true follower of Christ.
A. Bearing the Cross = Suffering
The life of the Christian is a hard road! Christ had not yet gone to the cross, but He understood what bearing the cross was all about. The Roman crucifixion was a well known method of execution that the Romans had perfected, and part of that process involved bearing or carrying your own cross.
As Christians, we are called to bear our cross! We are called to carry the same cross of suffering, shame, rebuke, and hatred that Christ endured. That is the mark of a true disciple. If people hated Christ, they will hate us as His followers!Matt. 24:9 Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.Luke 21:17 And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.John 15:18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.B. Barrier of Discipleship
III. Life of Surrender (Vs. 28-33)
If a person is unwilling to suffer for Christ, the person is not a genuine disciple. Those who are unwilling to be marked out for suffering due to their relationship with Christ are those who are not truly saved. Suffering is part of the gospel package!APPLICATION:If our freedom was taken away, how many of us would still worship Him?If our Bibles were taken away, how many of us would still worship Him?If our lives were in danger for worshiping Christ, how many of us would still worship Him?
A. Example of a Builder
To start a building project in the days of Jesus and in that specific culture without the ability to complete the project was a very humiliating thing! The individual and his entire family would be the center of public criticism and ridicule. Therefore, it was vitally important for a person to sit down and consider all costs involved in the building project.POINT: The same thing is true with Christianity! Before a person can be a true disciple, he or she must be willing to surrender all to Him and make Him first priority!B. Example of a King
If a King took his soldiers off into battle without considering all of the risks and issues of the battle, he could be overtaken and made out to be a fool in the eyes of everyone throughout history! It was essential to consider every detail.POINT: The same thing is true with Christianity! Before someone turns to Christ as His disciple, he must realize all that is contained in that package.C. Essentials of Discipleship
Conclusion:Everyone wants to be considered a Christian in our day. However, Jesus taught a different view of discipleship. Discipleship is not easy and it is not something to be considered lightly. Those who claim the name of disciple must be willing to sacrifice, suffer, and surrender! Anything less will not be sufficient. If you are unwilling to surrender your all – you are not the real thing!It is clear that most of these multitudes were not true disciples because after the death of Christ only a hand full of true disciples were present. It was from the small hand full of genuine disciples that God built His church upon Jesus Christ – the chief cornerstone!Are you a true disciple or a superficial follower?Rev. Josh Buice
The essentials of discipleship involve that of complete surrender. Is everything you own and all of your priorities and your entire life surrendered to Christ? You say, that is for missionaries and preachers only! Christ was not talking to preachers here! He was talking to anyone who considered themselves a follower of Christ!APPLICATION:I personally believe that we have a very high percentage of people in the local church who are false disciples. They want the name Christian, but nothing else! They want the title Christian, but that is all! They are unwilling to surrender everything – including time, talents, and money to Christ!That is obvious in the following way:1. People could come to church, but they are more interested in doing other things that benefit them the best.2. People could give money, but they would rather save it or spend it on themselves.3. People could serve Christ, but they would rather spend their time doing something to benefit themselves.POINT: The Christian life is about Christ – not us! We don’t have the right to retire and play golf every day and forget about God. We don’t have the right to retire and move to the beach and serve the selfish ambitions of our own lives. We don’t have the right to retire and start traveling across the country for the purpose of sight seeing! We must serve Christ and Him alone – and whatever He wants us to do – that is what we should do!