Discipleship In The Home | Pt. 1

by Matt Capps

the Lord said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’
-Deuteronomy 4:10

Editor: this post was adapted with permission from Matt Capps Blog.

For the first time in its history, Western civilization is confronted with the need to define the meaning and purpose of the word family. We as Christians recognize that the family is not merely a sociological development, nor a product of human evolutionary progress, but God’s good design for human living–the family is the most basic unit of human society, and the primary context of discipleship. Biblically speaking, the family is grounded upon the integrity of biblical marriage, as one man and one woman who are of like faith and both seeking to know and love God. This is lived out in front of our children. Moreover, the family is the context in which children are seen as gifts from God to be raised, educated, spiritually trained, and disciplined for their well-being. It is within these contexts that you and I, and our children, face the most intimate and consistent challenges of our faith.

When it comes to cultural wars and politics we do have a lot to say about the family, and we should seek to uphold God’s good design for the home. But let me propose to you that the primary battlefield for the family is the context of our homes. In other words, the battle for family is not primarily fought in the public square or even in the voting booth, but in our family lives, at the dinner table. And I think most of us would agree that it is in the context of the home that we become most weary from the battle. It is in the laboratory of the home that one’s character becomes refined. It is within the family that one is confronted with the ugly reality of our selfish sinful nature and our need to believe and apply the gospel most often. This is the essence of discipleship.

A disciple is a student of Jesus who is learning to believe and apply the gospel to all of life. And in the context of the home we are most tested and refined.

Discipleship is a Parental Responsibility

Formal and Informal

For many American Christians, discipleship of children is equivalent to dropping them off at church. Similarly, for adults, discipleship is often equivalent with attending a class at church or walking through a study with other believers. Let me share with you a startling statistic.

According to researchers within the Southern Baptist Convention, 88 [The actual attrition figure is closer to 70% with about half returning within a few years] percent of children in evangelical homes leave the church at the age of eighteen. [1]

Why is it that almost 9 out of every 10 children walk away from the church when they leave the home? There can be many reasons. Now, some may be tempted to think: we need better youth and children’s programs. But I don’t think this is the most important answer.

On average, pastors and church workers may have your children under their spiritual care for an hour or two a week. This means that the other 70+ hours of your children’s discipleship is left under your guidance. Consider the context of discipleship in the book of Deuteronomy 6:4-7:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

This kind of discipleship requires relationship, time, and gospel intentionality. Consider the formal and informal context of discipleship here for ancient Israel:


The words “You shall teach them diligently to your children” have the connotation of repeating and impressing spiritual truths with the aim of sharpening. As many of you parents know, teaching involves constant repetition, especially when it comes to the faith. God’s people are a people who are called to pass on the story and doctrines of the faith. The family unit is the primary school room for life and faith. All throughout Church history there has been a focus on formal instruction within the family known as catechesis.

Catechesis is an organized system of grounding and growing God’s people in the gospel and its implications for all of life. Think of it like this, your goal as a parent is to instruct, teach, nurture, and form the spiritual lives of your children. Catechisms follow the format of question and answer. Here is an example from a Catechism:

Question: What is the chief end of man?
Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

In other words, your goal in life is to display God as glorious to the world around you. To live in such a way that others see that he is your treasure. The point is this: parents, you are charged to teach your children the ways of God. To proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to your children.


Consider that “Jesus himself taught primarily through dialogue, sayings, and stories. He occasionally taught in synagogues, but more often he taught in homes, along the road, and in open air.” (emphasis mine) [2] Most of Jesus’ teaching happened in informal contexts as he was sharing life with his followers – as they walked and talked, day to day, moment by moment. You can imagine Jesus speaking with Nicodemus during a gusty Middle Eastern wind storm, explaining that the Spirit moves like the wind (Jn. 3:8). Or Jesus telling the parable of the fig tree as he stops alongside the road to examine the fruit of a fig tree as he and his disciples are on their way to the next town (Lk. 13:6-9).

This is teaching genius at its finest. In fact modern educational theorists will tell you that people who learn by hearing, being shown, along with experience retain 65 percent – as opposed to the 10 percent retention rate of those who learn by hearing alone. This type of holistic discipleship happens in the everyday situations of life. The assumption here is that the most effective discipleship takes place not through programmed teaching or training courses but in unplanned conversations – living and talking about life – when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and rise.

Redeem every opportunity to point your children, and your spouse to the glories of God’s grace. It is in the context of everyday life that one learns to believe and apply the gospel. The adage, “discipleship is caught more than it is taught” is instructive here. So in the moments between your waking and laying down, use every opportunity to speak of the creator God, the Savior Jesus, and the Spirit.

…There’s more, but you’ll have to wait for part 2

[1] Report of the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life, 2002.
[2] Tim Chester and Steve Timmis, Total Church, 114.

Matt Capps

Matt Capps (D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; M.Div., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Senior Pastor of Fairview Baptist Church in Apex, North Carolina. 
Matt has written one book, Hebrews: A 12-Week Study and numerous articles. He and his wife Laura have three children, Solomon, Ruby, and Abby. Connect with Matt on TwitterFacebook, or check out his personal blog.

[Photo Credit: KevPBur Flickr via Compfight cc]

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