If you are a father, do you remember the first time you laid eyes on your child? Even the toughest men are moved to tears when they hold their newborn for the first time. You had created a life! And now this little one was here—totally dependent on you.
For many men, this is a transformative moment. You grow up some. You work a little harder, cry a little more easily, and learn to hold an infant tenderly. This new life creates a desire to be the best father you can be.
What does it mean to be the best father? Where should I be aiming?
An Eternal Soul
God didn’t just give me a baby. He gave me an eternal soul that will last forever. As a result, the best legacy I can leave this little one is a spiritual legacy.
God’s plan is that I do all I can to raise this little one to love and follow Jesus.
Jesus gave us this mandate in the Great Commission: He told his followers to “Go and make disciples of all nations.” In this statement is a command to make disciples in other nations, in our communities, and in our families.
A Disciple-Making Dad
The most important legacy you can leave your children this Father’s Day is to be a Disciple-Making Father.
Maybe your immediate response to that is, “I can’t do that. I don’t know how to talk to my children about spiritual things. The reason we picked our church is because of its children’s ministry. They can do it so much better than I could!”
Certainly, there is a place for youth and children’s ministries. But these volunteers only have your children for 50 -100 hours a year. You have them for over 3000 and that’s why, over and over in Scripture, God puts this joyful responsibility on—YOU. You are God’s most effective shepherd.
How Do I Do This?
You might be wondering what exactly you should do and say?
The well-known passage in Deuteronomy 6 gives guidance for every God-fearing man.
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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
The context makes it clear, that while including the whole community, God is specifically addressing us as men. What are His commands?
A Living Faith
- You will disciple the next generation by having a vital walk with God yourself. When you travel on an airplane with children, the flight attendant gives you some unusual instructions: “Put your oxygen masks on first, then assist others.” Similarly, to be of the most help to our children, God commands us to look to ourselves first.
You are commanded to love God with all your heart. Verse 5 commands us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your might.” Example is always the greatest teacher. Your children and grandchildren are looking to your example first. Your love for the Lord will impact them.
In addition, you are commanded to keep the Word in your heart. Verse 6 says, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” The words of Scripture are to be in on our minds and hearts.
No matter what we say, our children pick up on what really excites us. They are imitation machines. My own children love the same college football team that I love even though I never told them they had to. They just picked it up. It’s a true saying that “More is caught than taught.”
We will pass on a great spiritual legacy to our children if we love God with all our hearts and we love His Word with all our hearts as well.
A Nourishing Faith
- You will disciple the next generation by nourishing your children with the Word of God. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). God’s heart for parents is not only to provide physical nourishment for our children but also spiritual nourishment.
Men, God commands us to teach, talk about, and remind ourselves of the Word of God throughout our day.
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. Deuteronomy 6:7
Yes, God intends you, the dad, to take the lead in supplying your children with spiritual nutrition throughout your day—when we tuck them in, when we get up, when we sit for a meal, and when we drive along the road.
Leaving a Legacy
It does not matter whether your child is 5, 15, or 25. Nor does it matter whether he or she is adopted or fostered. If you are a father (or a grandfather), you have an awesome responsibility. God has assigned you an eternal soul to influence. It is a glorious calling to be a Disciple-Making Man.
Chap Bettis is the author of The Disciple Making Parent, and the founder of The Apollos Project, a ministry in New England teaching families about discipleship, apologetics, and evangelism.
Be sure to listen to the broadcast where Adam interviews Chap about his book an June 13-18.
Chap will be leading a breakout session at this year’s Songtime: Definitions Conference. Find out more about how you can register for this conference on Cape Cod, September 8-10 by visiting our conference page. Bring your questions and discover what it really means to be a disciple-making parent (or grandparent).