The Great Commission Within Our Homes
As we make disciples and reach across the oceans, are we also reaching across the dinner table? On FamilyLife Today, join hosts Dave and Ann Wilson as they talk with Chap Bettis (BETT-iss), author of the book "The Disciple-Making Parent," on fulfilling the Great Commission through our own children.
About the Guest
- Find out more from Chap Bettis's book The Disciple-Making Parent. http://thedisciplemakingparent.com
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The Disciple-Making Parent, The Donut Date Journal, Parenting with Patience: Overcoming Anger in the Home and numerous other resources for the family. He is passionate about helping parents disciple their childr...more
As we make disciples and reach across the oceans, are we also reaching across the dinner table? Chap Bettis talks about fulfilling the Great Commission through our own children.
The Great Commission Within Our Homes
Bob: Chap Bettis’ spiritual journey is a journey that he has learned, over the years, is not atypical.
Chap: For me, I would say I came to faith as a young child; but I became convinced in my college years. When I do seminars, I’ll ask people to “Raise your hand if you professed Christ at a young age; you grew up in a Christian home”; then, “Now, keep your hands up if you’d say, ‘I had a later time when my faith became my own.’” Ninety-eight percent of the hands stay up.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, January 11th. Our hosts are Dave and Ann Wilson; I'm Bob Lepine. You can find us online at FamilyLifeToday.com. How can we, as parents, help our children on their journey as they move from a commitment to Christ to being convinced of the gospel? We’ll talk more with Chap Bettis about that today. Stay with us.
Bob: And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You guys have a new book coming out pretty quickly on parenting; right?
Ann: We do.
Dave: Coming out.
Bob: What’s it called?
Dave: No Perfect Parents.
Bob: And they picked you?
Dave: I don’t know why the publisher—
Bob: —picked you to write that one?
Ann: We didn’t have that title until the publisher read the manuscript. [Laughter]
Dave: It was sort of funny; it was going to be Vertical Parenting—
Bob: —like Vertical Marriage.
Dave: —the sequel to Vertical Marriage. Then they read it and said, “You know, you guys keep talking about how you’re not very perfect; so we think it’s No Perfect Parents.” Actually, that was about Ann; because I was perfect—everybody knows that. [Laughter]
Bob: When you were working on the book, did you stop and think, “Is there a verse that is kind of the parenting verse?” I know most people, when you think, “What’s the parenting verse?” they think Deuteronomy 6 is where you go for parenting; and that’s a great parenting verse.
Ann: That’s the one I usually use.
Bob: Is that the one you pick?
Dave: It’s in there, of course, because it’s really a great vision and very practical. But really, it was based on the idea that most of us, as parents, never decide what we’re shooting for: “What are we trying to raise?” It was Psalm 127—arrows that we launch with a mission—the big idea of the book is: “What’s your bullseye?”
Ann: We just copied it from the Art of Parenting®. [Laughter]
Bob: You saw the movie, Like Arrows, and you said, “There we go.”
Dave: Exactly, exactly.
Bob: We have got a friend joining us on FamilyLife Today, Chap Bettis. Chap, welcome.
Chap: Thank you very much for having me.
Bob: Chap is the author of a book called The Disciple-Making Parent. We’re having this conversation, in part, because as I read your book—you say the north star for parenting is a verse that I was very familiar with—I thought, “I don’t know if I’ve every thought of that as a parenting verse.” But sure enough, it is! What’s the verse?
Chap: Matthew 28:18-20, the Great Commission, that we’re to go and make disciples.
Dave: That’s the one we meant, Bob.
Ann: Chap, when we read that, that’s what I told Dave when we were reading your books and your material; I said, “We should’ve used that verse! That is the verse!”
Dave: Actually, Chap, I already mentioned this to you—she said that over and over and over—“Why didn’t we put this in our book? Why didn’t we…” Seriously, very great job. It was excellent and very helpful, and I’m excited to talk about it.
Bob: Help parents get a picture of the—some people don’t know what the Great Commission is—so explain that, and why is that a parenting passage?
Chap: I think every parent remembers when they saw their first child. The day your first child is born, you hold him or her in your arms—
Dave: By the way, I know you’re going to keep going—but don’t miss this moment—because you wrote about it in your book. When you were driving home, I think—talk about that.
Chap: I’m getting teared up now, just thinking about that again; because there’s such a feeling of helplessness—God has given you this helpless baby—a responsibility that you have. You’re thinking, “Lord, how do I do this?” I remember driving home, and I think what happened was the clashing of the feelings of responsibility with what I know from the Scriptures.
Often, it seems like it’s easy to keep what we think of parenting and what we know about the Bible separate. But when you put that together, God has not just given you a baby; He’s given you an eternal soul to influence. You say, “Okay; what actually is best?” I think parenting raises those ultimate questions because good parents want to give their kids the best, but what is the best? That brings you back to: “It’s the gospel; this is an eternal soul.”
Does the Scripture have anything to say about that? Of course; yes, it does. Jesus tells us that we are/the Great Commission is to go and make disciples, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything that He’s commanded. That’s actually a fulfillment of, back in Genesis, where God’s desire is to fill the earth with glory-bearers. Rightly, our churches send missionaries across the oceans and churches reach out across the streets. But we also need to reach out across the dining room table; that’s really the most important thing—this person that God has blessed us with for a few years; and as parents of adult children, we know it’s very few—this is a great privilege.
Ann: I love what you said—you said, “You haven’t just created a baby, but a person, who will live forever in heaven or forever in hell.” That’s what we need to remember, but we get a little bit lost.
Dave: I was going to say the disciple-making mission of a parent—you’ve been a pastor; I’ve been a pastor; Bob’s a pastor—I’ve lost that sometimes. I had it in my mind as a pastor: “I’m making disciples at my church; that’s what I’m called to do.” I’d come home, and I’d forget: “I’m just a dad,” “I’m just a husband.” No, no, no; I’m supposed to make disciples. Did you ever lose that focus?
Chap: Oh, yes; you lose that all the time. That’s why I say it’s the north star, because you get off track. We all do; different winds and different forces push us off in our own heart. Fears—parents wrestling with fear—you’re raising your kids, and suddenly your friend’s child is taking dance or violin. You get this little catch in your stomach, like, “Oh, is my child falling behind?”
Certainly there’s nothing wrong—those are all good things—but I need to remember: “What am I focusing on?” Yes, you can get off track all the time; and God is gracious. It’s not about being the perfect parent [Laughter]—to go back to your book—but to say, “This is the north star. This is where my heart is; this is what I’m aiming for.”
Bob: There’s a great quote in your book; you say something like, “No one can be the perfect parent, but there are thousands of ways to be a good parent.”
Bob: I thought, “That’s exactly right.” If we could just focus on: “Okay; my goal today is to be a good parent in one of those thousands of ways,” rather than come under the crushing weight of being the perfect parent, which—as you guys say—there is no perfect parent.
Dave: —and no perfect kids.
Bob: Right; so this process of disciple-making, I think it’s important we say to parents, “You can’t make what you aren’t. You have to first be a disciple before you can make a disciple. You have to first be one of those committed to following the Lord before you can show others how to follow the Lord”; right?
Chap: It’s interesting that in the New Testament, the word, “Christian,” is only used 3 times; and “disciple” is used 269. Disciple was a much more common way for followers of Jesus to refer to themselves. A disciple is a learner: someone who is following a master, and following his teaching, following his way of life.
Paul says, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Our children are going to imitate us. Some modeling is actually really the most important key of any spiritual leadership. Our children, when they’re young, they’re imitating us. When they’re older, as you know, teenagers are evaluating us: “Are we [parents] living the faith?”—that’s the most important thing.
In fact, Paul was able to say to Timothy/talk about the faith that lived in his mother and grandmother, 2 Timothy 1:5. That should be encouraging; because we know, for those imperfect families—as all of ours are—Timothy’s father was not a believer. This was not a cookie-baking Little House on the Prairie home that Timothy is growing up in. Yet, he is walking with the Lord and used by the Lord as Paul’s son in the faith. That should encourage us. Do we have a living faith that our kids are seeing?—not playing church—but actually, we have a living walk with the Lord.
Dave: And it is somewhat scary, too; because they’re going to copy us, good and bad. I remember one time I was sitting at a stoplight with three little boys—they’re all husbands and dads now—but they were/I think CJ, my oldest, might have been five; so five, three, and maybe one? We’re sitting there; I’ll never forget it—I don’t know why it’s so vivid, because it’s decades ago—CJ hits the power window button. He was in the front seat, and it goes down. He goes [sound of spitting] and he spits out the window; [Laughter] it goes back up—it’s just one of those things. I look over and go, “CJ, what are you doing? You don’t spit out the window!” He goes, “You do, Dad.” [Laughter] I go, “No, I don’t.” I look in the mirror; and both heads are going, “Yes, you do; yes, you do.”
I’m like, “Oh, my goodness! They are copying!”—hopefully the good as well as the bad—it hit me right then and there: “They’re going to do what I do, no matter what I say. I can say whatever I want. They’re going to walk the way I walk.” You talk about making disciples—it’s Bob’s question—“Am I a disciple worth walking behind?”
Bob: We were driving down the street one day. Our son, James, was in the car seat in the back. I think he was just learning to talk—a year-and-a-half or two years old. I’m driving; Mary Ann is in the passenger seat. I’m on the main street, and somebody pulls up on the side street like he’s going to come out. I didn’t know if they saw me, so I tapped the horn to let them know I was there, just a little beep, beep. From the back, I hear my almost two-year-old son say, “Jerk!” [Laughter]
Ann: Come on!
Bob: Seriously. I turned around and look at him, like, “Where did that…” He’s just smiling; he doesn’t know what he said. I look at Mary Ann, whose head is in her hands. I said, “Where’d he get that?” She said, “I said it once.” [Laughter] But that’s the point we’re making: our kids will obey what we tell them, but they’ll become who we are. If we’re going to be disciple-making parents, we have to be committed followers of Christ, which does not mean we have to be perfect.
This is one of the things I fell into; I thought, “Okay; I must always model perfection and righteousness, or I’m going to mess up my kids.” No, part of what you have to model is what you do when you blow it, and what repentance looks like; right?
Chap: Yes; and that’s grace. We need grace; that’s what our kids need to realize—that the Christian faith is not perfection. I thought that the hypocrisy/so hypocrisy—when they do studies and find out why young people walk away from the faith—it’s hypocrisy. But I don’t think hypocrisy is what you’re talking about—being an imperfect parent—it’s being an imperfect parent and not caring. You don’t care; you have this secret sin in the home. They know it—nobody else in the church knows it—and you’re not working on it. As opposed to—so your analogy with you saying, “jerk,” or whatever—you say, “I need to work on this. I need to grow in holiness so that my kids see a living faith, and they see me growing.”
Bob: And you say to your kids: “Daddy blew it,” “Mommy messed up,” and “I’ve asked Jesus to forgive me, and I need to ask you to forgive me,”—so that they get a picture of: “Here’s what happens when you blow it.”
Ann: I remember, when our kids were in our home, I would have this thought, like, “What am I thinking about all of the time in my head?” because what I’m thinking about is what’s going to come out of my mouth. It’s really: “What is discipling me? Am I watching stuff on TV? What’s filling my mind?” I realize—when I’m not in the Word; when I’m not in fellowship; when I’m not with my friends, talking about Jesus—that’s not on my mind! I became really adamant: “I need to fill my mind with God’s Word/with good things, because that’s what’s going to flow out of my mouth,”—it’s Scripture.
It was a good evaluation: “Have I talked about Jesus much today? Have I talked about what God’s doing in my life today?” It was this good check: “Goodness! I haven’t even talked about Him at all, for days!” And our kids—they see all of that. I like what you said about teenagers—“They’re evaluating us,”—isn’t that terrible? [Laughter]
Chap: I did the same. Did you two?
Ann: Yes! Yes, you start evaluating everything.
Bob: In fact, tell us a little of your journey. I think your spiritual story is probably pretty typical for church kids. The question is: “What do they do when they get into young adulthood?” Tell your story.
Chap: I grew up in a church-going home and faithful parents. We attended church and youth group. I believe I made a genuine profession of faith when I was around eight. I believe God changed my heart at that point. Having said that, though, I also had—in the high school years—had a number of questions. For me, they were intellectual questions: “How do I know God exists?” I distinctly remember sitting in the sanctuary of the church: “How do we know this is all true? How do you know you can trust the Scripture? How do we know they didn’t make it up? Is there evidence for Jesus outside of the Gospels?”
Dave: How old were you?
Chap: I was probably 10th grade—10/11th grade. It was when I went to college—believe it or not, secular college—that I started questioning and finding answers through a college fellowship and apologetic books. I ended up, along the way, really recommitting myself to the Lord. C.S. Lewis has a quote: “Christianity, if true, is of ultimate importance. If it’s not true, it’s of no importance. The only thing it’s not is moderately important,”—so either be in, or be out; but don’t just play the game and be lukewarm.
Since then, the Lord has shown me 2 Timothy 3:14—I believe this pattern is very typical for those who grow up in the Christian faith/2 Timothy 3:14—Paul says to Timothy, “As for you, continue in what you learned and became convinced of.” For me, I would say I learned the faith; I came to faith as a young child, but I became convinced in my college years.
When I’ll do seminars, I’ll ask people to: “Raise your hand if you professed Christ at a young age; you grew up in a Christian home”; then, “Now, keep your hands up if you’d say, ‘I had a later time when my faith became my own.’” Ninety-eight percent of the hands stay up.
I think, for me, as a disciple-maker, to realize, “I’m so excited that my seven-year-old made a profession of faith. I’m really excited about that.” But now the temptation is to say: “Okay; now, let’s go pursue all the/education and all these other things; we’ve got the Christian thing done.” To say, “No; actually, even as my good child is going to church,”—or whatever—“they’re going to have questions. There will come a time when they need to become convinced.” Sometimes, it’s through trials; sometimes it’s through intellectual questioning, where they’re saying, “Yes, I’m all in.”
Dave: Yes, I think what you’re saying is so true. I picked up a book when I was a young dad called The Dangers of Growing up in a Christian Home. I picked it up because I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but now I’m leading one. I thought, “Hmm; what are the dangers?” I don’t remember much from the book, but I do remember that point was you have to, as a parent, let go; their faith has to become theirs, not yours. It’s going to be their parents’ for quite awhile; at some point, they have to become convinced and make it theirs.
A couple weeks ago, we had this interesting incident take place in our home. I went to help my son, who trains receivers—he was a college and NFL receiver for a short time—he has this ministry, training high school kids. He has his dad come throw. I’m the thrower, because I was a quarterback back in the day; so I come and throw to these kids. We’re going to train this one kid at this certain school. I get a text from my son: “We’re going to be at a different school; there’s people on the thing.” I go to this other school. Ann calls me and says, “Hey, I’m going to bring Bryce,” my son’s son.
Ann: —who just happened to have spent that night on a whim; he just happened to have spent the night. I said, “Hey, Bryce would love to be on the football field. I’m going to bring him over.” He said, “We were here, but don’t go there; go here.” I get over there; and he says, “Don’t park in this parking lot; park in this other parking lot.”
Dave: —just to help her; it’s going to be a lot closer.
We’re telling you all the details, because they end up playing out in the story. Get done; get home. Ann beats me home; she goes, “I found a wallet in the parking lot where you had me park.”
Ann: In this wallet—it’s a college student, because we’re on a college campus.
Dave: By the way, she has all the money laying on our kitchen table. I’m like, “You went through this kid’s wallet?!”
Ann: I was going to leave the wallet, but then I thought, “There’s $250.” I thought, “I’ll find him on social media.” I did. I call him and I said, “Hey, are you looking for your wallet?” He goes, “Oh, man; yes! I’ve been looking all morning. Did you find it?” I give him our address; say, “Come and get it; we’ve got it.”
Dave: Next thing you know, ding dong! He’s at the front door. I’m in the family room, watching football. I hear him go, “Ann Wilson?!”
Ann: And then he says—
Ann and Dave: “—is Dave here?” [Laughter]
Dave: I’m like, “What?” I get up, and he’s in the kitchen.
Ann: He says, “Can I come in and talk to you guys?”
Dave: He goes, “I can’t believe I’m standing in your kitchen. I go to your church! I’ve been at your church since I was a baby. I’ve been there my entire life; my parents took me there. I’ve worked at Christian camps. I’ve had this great faith journey, and I’ve lost my faith.” He goes, “Six months ago, I said, ‘This is my parents’ faith; it’s not mine,’”—he literally used those words. He goes, “I just recently started praying, ‘God, I need a sign that You’re real, that You see me, that You care about me, that You’re real.”
Ann: “Otherwise, I’m checking out.”
Dave: He said, “I’m done.” He looks at us; he goes, “This is the sign; I’m all in! I’m going all in!” Of course, I’m looking at Ann, like, “She’s right; it was a God thing.”
Ann: I said, “I made you these cookies, because I felt like this could be a significant moment.” It was interesting—we laid hands on him; we prayed for him.
Dave: We social-distance laid hands on him, just to be careful. [Laughter]
Ann: Not really; he came in with a mask, though. As we were praying, it was sweet; because when we were done, I look over at Dave. We all have tears in our eyes. Dave, tell them what you said to him.
Dave: She looks at me; you [Bob] know my wife: “Look at you! You’re crying!” I don’t cry much. We’re standing at the door; he’s getting ready to leave. What hit me in that moment was, “Look what God did with a lost wallet.” He doesn’t know of all the situations of how she ended up in that parking spot at that school. It was supposed to be totally different. But it just hit me: “Look at what God did to bring a lost wallet and my wife together to touch a kid that’s a young man that needs to make his faith his own.”
When you said that—that was it—I watched it. Now, who knows where that’s going to go. But it was this moment, when somebody’s son—he texted us later, by the way, and said, “Hey, I don’t know if you remember this; but Dave, you married my parents twenty-seven years ago”; so I did their wedding. Here it was—it was that moment—where a twenty-year-old young man says, “It’s no longer my parents’ faith; I’ve got to own this.”
Bob: I’m thinking there may be some moms and dads, who are going to pray tonight that their child loses their wallet. [Laughter]
Ann: Yes, yes!
Bob: No, seriously; it’s not a bad prayer to pray, that God would do something dramatic in the life of a son or a daughter—who is questioning, who is wandering, who has lapsed—who is in that moment of doubt, or sometimes, in a moment, where the lure of the culture looks brighter and shinier than the gospel looks. Kids in high school and college, young adults, are drifting for a variety of reasons. As parents, prayer is one of the main things we can do; and just say, “God, would You do something amazing like that in my child’s life?”
Ann: And it’s so encouraging, Bob, that we’re not just discipling our kids alone—that God is walking alongside us—He’s cheering for our kids; He’s cheering for us. It’s a good reminder that we can always talk to Him about our kids, because He cares more than we do.
Bob: The goal is disciple-making; that’s what we’ve got to keep in front of us. Your job is to go, therefore, and make disciples of your children.
Ann: And first become a disciple.
Bob: That’s right; teach them to observe all that God has commanded.
Dave: And know that God’s going to do it for you, and with you, and through you.
Bob: Chap’s book is a book we think every parent ought to read. In fact, Chap is making available the audio book for FamilyLife Today listeners this week for free. If you like audio books, or if you want access for free to the content we’ve been talking about today, go to FamilyLifeToday.com. You’ll find information there on how you can download the audio book, The Disciple-Making Parent.
If you’d like to order the paper book, that’s available on our website as well. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. If you have any questions, call us at 1-800-FL-TODAY. While you’re on our website, check out the Art of Parenting video series. Information about the Art of Parenting can be found at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call if you have any questions: 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
I think all of us, as we look toward this new year, are looking with expectation/with hope. We’re looking for 2021 to be a better year than 2020 was for many of us. From all of us, here at FamilyLife®, we want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who, in the closing days of 2020, rallied and made contributions to help support the ongoing work of this ministry. We are grateful for your partnership with us in the gospel. You are making practical biblical help and hope for marriages and families available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the resources of FamilyLife every time you give. That’s what you’re helping to support. We appreciate you. Thanks for your support of the ministry. We look forward to 2021 and what God is going to do through your investment in this ministry this year.
We hope you can join us, again, tomorrow as we’re going to continue to talk about how we, as parents, make disciples of the next generation, particularly our own children. Chap Bettis will be back with us again. We hope you can be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our hosts, Dave and Ann Wilson, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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