When I moved my family to a very large metropolitan city in December of 1986 to plant churches and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was intentionally leading my family in a missional way of life. Over the next 32 years living in this city, planting churches, sharing Jesus with others, and serving the people God brought into our lives was a way of life for our entire family. It was my intentional plan to bring my children right along with me to serve in the mission God has given to all of us.
It was actually a continuation of the missional way of life that Kathy and I had been leading our family in during our years living in that trailer court back in Iowa. I understood that it was essential for my children to see in Kathy and me a passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ, and a passion and deliberate action of serving the lost people living around us. In very simple things like Kathy baking chocolate chip cookies and having our two small children walk that plate next door and give them to the young couple living together right next door to us. The kid’s precious smiles and that gift of cookies was a powerful way to engage our children and our family in the mission of Jesus Christ, to let our light shine to the world that people would see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
When my wife welcomed a little, neglected, impoverished neighbor girl into our trailer home to play with our children, and share some cookies, and give her much needed motherly attention, and we all got infected with lice she was carrying, it was a deliberate action to demonstrate to our children that we are all living as ambassadors for Jesus Christ.
Over the last almost 40 years our family has been on a mission. That mission was to make Christ attractive to the world: that the lost would want to know Him and the saved would want to follow Him. That as a result of being in contact with us, people either saved or lost, would want what we had.
Dads, you may never be led by God to become a pastor. You may never be led by God to become a missionary, moving across the world to live in a foreign country, to preach the gospel in a new language to a different culture. However, if you want to make a deep, lasting, spiritual impact on your children that captivates their hearts and minds, then you must become a missional family right where you are. It is imperative that you lead your children in the mission that Jesus Christ gave to each of us, to be salt and light to this broken, fallen, hurting, needy world.
Every single one of you can do something. I have had the privilege of watching all of my children grow up into adulthood, now with families of their own, each living uniquely a missional life. Each of them has their own unique expression of this missional family life.
One of my children and his wife, flew across the world to specifically adopt a child from another very poor nation of the world. They did so being moved by the very heart and nature of God revealed through the gospel of Jesus Christ who adopted us into his own family because of His great love and mercy. They chose to adopt a child who was a little older as these children often have the hardest time finding a home. They spent a great deal of money, time and tremendous effort to adopt her, motivated by the time, effort and great cost that God paid through His son Jesus Christ. They have since had the chance to lead that precious young girl to Jesus.
One of my children founded a ministry called The Salvage Project. He takes the gospel of Jesus Christ, through original music he writes, and along with that music, he shares the Gospel with thousands of inmates in prisons across the country and hundreds of men and women have accepted Jesus as their Savior. My son also takes his music into memory care facilities filled with old people who are often neglected and he brings his young son along with him. My son plays and sings songs older folks would have known when they were young. Often, older people who have not spoken in years, who can’t even remember their own names, suddenly begin to sing along. My son’s young son will go around giving hugs to older people who often have not had a hug in years. My son’s wife coaches little boys soccer, boys her son’s age as he is on the team also. They have been a tremendous light to those little boys and their families through the way she coaches and their kindness.
My daughter and her husband, have reached out to a neighbor whose boyfriend was put in prison. They would often have her over for dinner and let her hold there little girl. As a family, they went to see her boyfriend in prison to bring him a Bible and to give him some hope. While they were in the waiting room, a big guy in the room had his feet sticking way out in the pathway and my little granddaughter tripped over them and broke her front teeth! They paid a real price to be a missional family. It cost them. One afternoon, my daughter sensed something was wrong at her neighbor’s home. This woman had started drinking again. My daughter, with nothing more than the leading of the Spirit of God, went right over the check on this woman. She found her unconscious, turning white, and starting to die. She literally saved her life.
My other daughter and her husband and their children are heavily involved in the school where her husband teaches and coaches cross country and track. They show up at all the meets and enthusiastically cheer and cheer. All my grandkids know the names of the athletes, they give encouragement, they run-up and congratulate them for their great race. They smile, give hugs, and they are a living demonstration of kindness and enthusiastic support. My daughter and her husband have a Bible study for some of the athletes and their very lives and actions are a light to this world. My daughter’s husband has been a tremendous light and testimony to hundreds of kids on his team and to their families by the way he coaches, by the warmth and sacrificial involvement of his family. He does not have to coach. They decided to deliberately take on this extra work so as to bring their whole family into a missional way of life as they love on and influence these young people through their missional way of life.
I cannot overstate how important it is in imprinting your children and influencing their long term spiritual life and decisions when they grow up by living in a family that is on mission together.
I remember like it was yesterday, living in Muscatine, Iowa, in the early 60s and I invited the kids in my second-grade class to come to my house after school for my mom’s Good News Club and her famous chocolate chip cookies! That’s right, my mom, with 6 kids of her own, would host a once a week Good News Club in our small pink house which was a block from the school. My mom, who is now 84, still does Good News Clubs telling little children about Jesus and leading some to Christ.
I remember as a small boy, my father, and mother taking me with them to the skid row missions of Los Angeles, Ca. My mom would play the piano, my dad would get up and share the Gospel with these broken men, and I, all 3 and 4 years old of me, would often stand beside my dad as the music director, waving my hand as the men sang along to the songs my mom played on the piano and my dad would sing.
Men, find a way, make a way, to be a missional family. There is something each of you and your wives can do with your children. I recently got a letter from a young father I love dearly who takes his kids down to the local skate park. The dad brings his skateboard and the kids hand out treats to the kids at the park. They give some of their time to hang out with kids who often have a difficult home life or no real parent who invests relational time with their kids. This young father does and brings his kids with him.
It is absolutely critical to the long term, spiritual well being of your children that you live a missional life as a family.
Living a missional life as a family is the primary way your children will see and understand that you and their mom take your faith seriously and that following Jesus Christ really is the most important thing in the world! It will also allow your children to actually experience first hand the tremendous joy and fulfillment that comes from doing good, kind things for others.
Please give a listen to these series, as it will help you grasp in a greater way the truths in this article.