By Paul Watts, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Franklinton
This year will mark 13 years since I became a parent.
I have grown in my appreciation of the calling to raise Godly children and I’ve been humbled by my own ignorance in all areas related to the accomplishment of this task.
I believe with all my heart just as the Lord has given Christina and I three children, He has plans to receive glory through each of their lives. This is not something I gleaned from Scripture alone, but something I have seen modeled in the lives of my own parents throughout my lifetime.
When others find out I am a pastor and both of my sisters are missionaries, the questions that inevitably follow are, “Were your parents missionaries?” or, “Was your dad a pastor?” The answer to both is “no.” They are still serving the Lord faithfully through their church, but so are many others. God is the one who calls, but I certainly believe He used them to prepare us to answer that call. I want to share a few of their character traits I believe the Lord would have us pursue as parents seeking to raise children that will impact this world for Christ.
- Love Jesus: This is where it begins. This is foundational. Your children cannot emulate something fake or nonexistent. 2 Corinthians 5:14 states, “the love of Christ compels us.” If we really know the reality of our condition before Christ and the privileges of our present condition in Christ, how can we do anything other than serve Him? Loving Him means we seek Him daily in prayer and Bible study; we love His people because He resides within them. Those who love Him keep His commands and walk with Him. My mother was raised in a Christian home and came to faith at a relatively young age. My father lost his father in an auto accident when he was just an infant. He was not raised in church and lived most of his adolescence with his grandmother. He came to Christ in his early twenties. The transformation was stark. He never got over what Christ had done for him.
- Believe the Bible: Many people will read number two and say every Christian believes the Bible. I would then ask, “Do you believe Jesus is the only way to have our sins forgiven and have eternal life?” (yes) “Do you believe those who perish without trusting Jesus as their Savior will spend eternity separated from Him in literal place of suffering called hell?” (yes) “If you believe these things, you must have shared the plan of salvation with a number of people last week, last month or at least last year?” I think you can see where I am going with this line of reasoning. Those who truly believe the Bible take it personally. Its application is seen in their lives. They serve a huge miracle working God who made all that exists, is active in the world today, and will come again to judge this world. There is no activity of God recorded in His Word that He cannot still perform today, should He so choose.
- Serve in the Local Church: My parents are still faithful servants of the same rural church we attended when I was a child. Over the course of my life I have observed them serve as Sunday school teachers, Sunday school director, discipleship training teacher, discipleship training director, vacation Bible school teacher/director, choir members, outreach/visitation ministry team members, deacon, WMU member, mission team leaders, R.A. leader, G.A. leader, Acteens leader, workday volunteer, construction project volunteer, grass cutter, youth trip chaperone, members of various committees, etc… They use their resources and gifts for the glory of God through His local Body. Church attendance was never negotiable. Church service, even for us as their children, was not optional.
- Take the Great Commission Personally: I heard my parents pray for the lost by name as a small child. I witnessed my father share his faith with others many times as a young boy. Sometimes this happened in a formal way as part of a visitation/outreach effort (yes he took his 8 year old along) other times it was simply in the course of conversation at the gas station or the bank. During our family devotion time we would read the names of the missionaries with birthdays and pray for them. Mom and Dad went on mission trips, went to mission conferences, were involved in mission projects. They drug us to associational meetings. They gave sacrificially to mission offerings and the work of missionaries throughout the world.
- Expose your Kids to Missions: The earliest trip I can remember with detail was a mission trip our family went on with our church to Reno, Nevada. I believe I was six years old. We partnered with a small church in a community called Lemon Valley to help with outreach and vacation Bible school. I remember seeing a man baptized that week. He was probably in his forties, covered in tattoos and had long hair. I had not seen many folks like him, but I knew something awesome had happened in his life. This was the first of many mission trips/projects we were apart of as a family. My parents were not affluent. They made a decent living, but they would certainly be classified as blue-collar. Every trip involved sacrifice. They possibly could have done more had they left us with our grandparents. Later there were times we were compelled to serve against our own wishes. We might have missed a ball game or some other summer activity, but I cannot remember one thing worthwhile we missed. Had we stayed at home we would have missed seeing God at work.
I cannot remember either of my parents ever telling us they expected us to go into full time Christian ministry.
They did not ever indicate they would be disappointed if we chose a secular profession. Even during a time in my own life when they knew I was running from the call of the Lord, they did not apply pressure. They prayed and trusted the Lord.
Mom and Dad are a long way from perfect, but we always knew they were trying, with the Lord’s help, to glorify and honor the Lord. I am not saying all of our children will grow up to serve the Lord as foreign missionaries or full-time vocational ministers, nor should those who are called to serve in those capacities be held up as more pleasing to God.
I am saying the greatest calling we have as Christian parents is to raise children that will glorify God and be salt and light in their generation. May we demonstrate faithfulness and commitment to Christ in the few years we have with them.