Wednesday, May 2, 2007

How Discipling is Like Parenting

In his first letter to the believers in Thessalonica, Paul writes about his approach of evangelizing, teaching, and discipling them. He compares his methods to that of a mother and that of a father.

He makes the point that he & Timothy had not approached the Thessalonians for flattery, greed, or glory, but that they came instead gently,

"like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us."
Here we see a selflessness and commitment to one's disciples that is above just a friendly, casual relationship. Like a nursing mother to her child. As one who has nursed three children, this tells me that he was physically present, emotionally connected, and a virtual lifeline for those that he was discipling. That he knew the importance of sharing his "own self" with baby believers... all too often, these days, new believers get a pat on the back, a date for their dunk in the baptismal, and signed up for a class in a few weeks. Does any new American Christian get this kind of physical, emotional, and affectionate commitment that Paul describes?

But he doesn't stop there. He goes on to say,
"you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God."
This is the picture of a teaching father, one who knows each of his children, is familiar with their individual strengths and weaknesses, and gives a word when needed to challenge and shed light on how they should walk. This father is committed to encouraging his children to walk righteously. How many new believers get this kind of commitment from the church or from individual Christians? Virtually none.

The shame is on us. First off, we should be more diligent in sharing the gospel with those around us. Not just a lifestyle witness. But we should be telling people the reason for our hope, the reason for our joy, the reason for our love for one another. (Assuming we have all of those things- and if not, are we really believers?)

But secondly, we should be mothering and fathering those who are young in their faith. We should be committed to nurturing growth by careful, regular "feedings" of the Word, and exhorting them toward righteous living.

I can already tell that Paul's letters to the Thessalonian Christians are going to be rich and challenging. Perhaps you'll join me if you aren't already engaged in a Bible Study for the month of May?


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