A core component of my regular reading diet is books on parenting. As long as I am a parent, and especially a parent of tweens and teens (parenting babies and toddlers is straightforward by comparison!), I want to stay sharp, to be challenged, to be equipped. A good book helps me better understand the purpose of parenting and helps me better fulfill my God-given duties. Chap Bettis’s The Disciple-Making Parent is a good book, exactly the kind that challenged me and, I trust, better equipped me as a dad. It offers what, to my knowledge, is a unique angle in a crowded genre: Its focus on discipleship as the heart of parenting. “The foundational parenting text is not Ephesians 6:1-4 or Deuteronomy 6:4-9, as important as they are. Rather it is Matthew 28:18-20.” This is a book about raising children to be disciples of Christ for “God’s desire for your family is to be a Trinity-displaying, God-glorifying, disciple-making unit.”
As Bettis begins, he encourages the reader to “think of this material as a guidebook to help you on your parenting journey. A guidebook is written by someone who has been where you are going. While not feeling compelled to do everything the guidebook says, it is still helpful to learn from someone else’s experience as you forge your own path.” There’s another alternative: “You can think of this as a playbook. Every football team has a collection of plays, called a playbook. Any of these can be executed during the course of a game. The goal of the team is to win the game, not execute every play in the playbook.”
The Disciple-Making Parent functions well as either of these two kinds of book. As a guidebook, its strength is more in curation than creation, as Bettis tends to collect and compile what others have written on the subject rather than bring a load of brand new material. As a playbook, its strength is in teaching and demonstrating how to apply these things in real-life situations. Here Bettis refers often to his own family or his own church, showing how biblical principles take shape in actual situations.
The book’s 28 chapters fall into a number of sections: The Power of Example, The Power of the Gospel, The Power of the Heart, The Power of the Word, The Power of Purpose, The Power of Prayer, The Power of Apologetics, The Power of Friends, and The Power of Seeking God. It is a thorough look at parenting. In fact, if I had to offer a constructive critique, it would be that the book may be 60 or 80 pages longer than it needs to be. Then again, the subtitle is “A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ” so the comprehensive nature of the book is within the author’s intent.
What is certain is that the book is deeply biblical and absolutely loaded with wisdom. In Marty Machowski’s little endorsement, he suggests “you will find yourself underlining line after line, page after page.” That was exactly my experience and there are many parts of the book I need to return to for reflection and application. I’ve got loads of notes to compile and consider.
Bettis wants parents to know that “parenting is a commission to do all we can to raise our children to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ. The Disciple-Making Parent teaches why this is so important and it teaches how to actually go about so daunting a task. I am glad to recommend it as a resource that will prove helpful to any parent.
- As parents it’s easy to assume that if we give our children the right ingredients, keep out the wrong ingredients, and put them in the right environment for the right amount of time, we are guaranteed a certain result. Parenting doesn’t work that way.
- We discipline our children not so that they will make us happy but so that they will serve Christ as adults. We educate them not so they can have a good job but to develop them to be the best follower of Jesus they can be. We work hard to prepare them not for graduation day but for the Judgment Day!
- Children are God’s means to transform us. Their sin reveals our sin. Their questions reveal our ignorance. All of these are God’s prompts for us to grow.
- The first battleground of family discipleship is not my child’s heart; it is my heart. Each parent must decide whether he is more concerned that his child is accepted into Heaven or “Harvard.”
- Our goal is not “successful” parenting per se, but faithful parenting.
- Having made the point that there are no guarantees, we must also make the counterpoint equally strong. God can and does use means. Because there is no guarantee of success does not give me the right to throw up my hands. A belief in God’s providence and promises does not give me a license to live passively.
- Teenage rebellion is not a natural part of growing up. It is a natural part of the sin nature maturing.
- The more I realize my powerlessness in discipleship, the more I will spend time in prayer.
- The finest art of communication is not learning how to express your thoughts. It is learning how to draw out the thoughts of another.
- God gives us little children for a reason. Pain imposed when small is forgotten in the later years. Teens and adults whose hearts have been trained can more easily say, “Yes, Lord.” Discipline, then, is not fundamentally about having good children, but godly adults. Discipline is discipleship in action.