If you’ve been a believer for any length of time, you’re familiar with the Great Commission—the call to reach the whole world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s the marching orders of the church, so to speak, and rightly receives a great deal of focus and emphasis in the body of Christ.
But has it ever occurred to you that we also have another call that’s equally important—and, if anything, even more specific when it comes to the who and how of the calling?
It’s the call to reach our own children.
Now, as I continue, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that the Great Commission is a second-tier priority. I’m simply pointing out that, as important as the call to reach the world is, God has also given us a clear and urgent priority to reach our children. And sadly, I’m afraid we’re failing at that calling all too often.
As a father of young children, I don’t presume to have all the answers, nor do I want to take a good outcome for my children for granted. Lord willing, all of my kids will grow up to know and love God and impact others for Him. But that’s still an unfolding process with far more ahead of us than behind us.
I’ll also say that, frankly, some of us (and I include myself here) find it easier to focus on our families and sometimes need a push to reach out beyond our four walls and make an impact on someone else. But by and large, I believe Christian parents have surrendered far too much ground when it comes to raising and training the next generation. We’re seeing the results in a mass migration of young people away from the faith.
Let’s get back to the Great Commission for a moment.
It’s interesting to note that there’s a sense in which our call to reach the world is general. God doesn’t tell me in the Bible exactly who I, Jonathan Lewis, should reach and how I should reach them. (Should I do prison ministry? Visit nursing homes? Serve as a missionary overseas? Run for a local political office?) On top of that, the call is shared with literally the entire body of Christ.
This open-ended quality of the Great Commission doesn’t make it any less significant; I’m simply pointing out that there are innumerable ways to play a part in fulfilling it.
But the call to reach the next generation? It’s as specific as the children I share the dinner table with each evening. God’s methodology is also clear: invest an enormous amount of time alongside our children, faithfully instructing them in the ways of God (see Deuteronomy 6:6-7). And it’s not really a shared calling. Beyond parents and grandparents, no one else is specifically given any responsibility for my children.
In other words, I can play a role in accomplishing the Great Commission in many ways and with varying degrees and types of involvement at different stages of life. But there’s literally only one way for me to fulfill God’s call on me as a parent. I only have one opportunity, one method, and one target.
These distinctions don’t make the Great Commission less significant. Indeed, reaching the world was important enough for Jesus to make it the subject of His final instructions to His disciples before ascending to Heaven.
Instead, I’m simply seeking to point out that the same God who told us to reach the world also gave us incredibly specific instructions to reach our children. And if God has given us two callings, I think we should heed both.
Clearly, we shouldn’t make our children our sole priority. But nor should we make the opposite mistake of being so occupied with reaching the world for Christ that we neglect what may be our closest, most specific calling short of nurturing our own personal walk with God—reaching our kids.
Of course, rather than either downplaying or overstating either of these God-given responsibilities, our aim should be a place of balance. We have two urgently important callings from God: reach the world, and reach our children. If we get out of balance in either direction, someone is going to suffer for it, and some of God’s greatest work on earth will remain undone.
My main concern is that the church has generally placed more emphasis on reaching the world, and less emphasis on reaching our children. And in the meantime, young people are walking away in droves. It’s become a full-blown crisis. Yet despite the amount that’s been said on the topic, I’m not sure we’ve really come to grips with the fact that until parents embrace their calling with passion and commitment—and until churches and pastors consistently equip and encourage parents in that direction—we’re unlikely to turn the tide.
Should we put the Great Commission on hold while we focus on the next generation? No. But nor should we put our children on hold while we reach the world. We ought to do the one, while not leaving the other undone.
Only then can we hope to accomplish all God has put us here to do.
‘s Annual Fall Banquet
This year we are pleased to be featuring George Barna to share his faith, political insights and his most recent polling work regarding faith-based statistics, leadership and upcoming elections in the United States. You will not want to miss this opportunity to hear directly from what many call “the most quoted person in the Christian Church today.”
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