“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.”
The Great Commandment is based on Deuteronomy 6 in the context of the family. God uses the home to establish His Kingdom. Thus, fulfilling the Great Commission to make disciples begins with the family.
Effective disciples are not made through classroom teaching. Neither are they made by partaking of the platter of attractive church events and programmes. Discipleship takes way more than head knowledge. It is in the practice of what we have learnt as Christ’s followers that we become disciples. It lies in the behind-the-scenes and unseen devotion of journeying with another.
This leads me to two nagging questions: What is the state of the families in our churches? Why aren’t families in the church as strong as they should be?
There are of course a myriad of reasons contributing to the condition of the family today. It is common for many to struggle when entering a new life stage. The fact is, there are issues and challenges to grapple with in each life stage, whether as a youth, a single adult, a parent, an empty-nester or a retiree.
Whole Life is essentially a life-span approach to disciple families through life’s stages. As we seek to disciple families effectively, let us consider five pillars – those of Faith, Identity, Relationships, Sexuality and Values.
Faith: 24/7 Christianity
Busy parents tend to outsource the discipleship of their children to the children’s and youth ministries at church. Many teens also end up being “discipled” by YouTube and celebrity culture. It is little surprise that secondgeneration Christians are dropping out of their faith.
We need to establish the home as the primary place where faith is lived out and nurtured. We have to turn our faith into a 24/7 reality – beyond Sundays – in school, at work and at home.
Identity: Purpose and Calling
We are not defined by our achievements, our possessions or what others say about us. It is critical to establish a secure identity in Christ and fulfil God’s purpose for us as unique individuals, with our specific calling, abilities, gifts and experiences.
Life transitions are times in people’s lives when significant changes happen. Addressing associated issues that arise prepares and strengthens those who go through them. Rites of passage, for example, are significant in calling adolescents to maturity as the family prepares them for adulthood.
Relationships: Authenticity and Intimacy
We are made for companionship, not for isolation. Individuals’ relational health ultimately affects their marriage and parenting.
Families are central to Kingdom building. Having true intimacy and authenticity with significant loved ones determines the ability of the larger household of faith, comprising both couples and singles, to bear their crosses and help one another carry those heavy burdens.
God created us male and female. Our sexuality is manifested in every aspect of human existence, yet churches are largely silent on sexuality. So our young learn from pornography and equally misinformed peers.
The truth is, we can’t be healthy disciples if we are sexually broken. Hence, men and women (from the young to the elderly) need to be prepared to be engaged in their sexual development and desires while moving through the seasons of life.
Values: Biblical Worldview
Our worldview is the lens through which we see ourselves and interpret the world and life. It affects how we make decisions and the way we live.
A firm foundation for life and family values based on God’s Word has to be built consciously. Otherwise, the prevailing worldviews, for example relativistic pragmatism, will infiltrate and erode our Christian values.
When the issues and challenges relating to these five pillars are addressed in discipleship or mentoring relationships throughout the entire course of the changing seasons of life, we can begin to let God lay claim over all of life.
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Dinah Lee-Phua currently serves as Head of Family Networks with Focus on the Family and the Master Trainer for their Marriage Mentoring Training. She also teaches, mentors and conducts workshops regularly in the areas of marriage and parenting. Married to Ben for over 22 years now, they are parents of 19-year-old twins, Deborah and Daniel.