What I Did This Summer Part 5

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Father-led Discipleship

I still have clear remembrance of my father preparing for vacation a month in advance by pouring over an atlas, taking out his ink pen and marking the best route to our final destination.  “Best” didn’t necessarily mean quickest or most efficient because he also wanted to make sure we didn’t miss some unique tourist traps along the way, which would enhance the flavor of the trip.  Additionally, he would talk to others who had made the trip before him, soliciting their experiences and discoveries.  The time and energy he invested in this preparation produced more than one golden nugget of an entry in the family photo album.

One of the best things each of us can do to enhance our own homeschooling journey is to spend time reading books and soliciting the advice of others who have gone before us so that we can have a vision for an educational experience that not only transmits information but actually births a spiritual legacy in future generations.  When my wife and I started homeschooling, true to our public school road maps, we thought only of academics, compartmentalizing the Bible for it’s designated nighttime reading.  It wasn’t until our first ICHE conference that God opened up our eyes to the home discipleship model versus the public school at home model.  I kid you not when I say my wife and I simply looked at each other throughout the keynote sessions and shook our heads in disbelief at how far we had missed the biblical mark.  Our paradigm of education had become so secularized.  We had, according to our training, bought completely into the Greek model of learning and totally ignored the Hebraic model of discipleship that was replete throughout the scriptures.  Our lives—and that of our children—have never been the same since.  Praise God!

I want to begin sharing some of the ICHE principles of home discipleship that so radically changed our vision of homeschooling and multiplied the spiritual and academic fruit in our children’s lives.  These principles are laced throughout the scriptures but are encapsulated in Psalms 78:

For He established a testimony in Jacob,
And appointed a law in Israel,
Which He commanded our fathers,
That they should make them known to their children; That the generation to come might know them,
The children who would be born,
That they may arise and declare them to their children, That they may set their hope in God,
And not forget the works of God,
But keep His commandments;--Psalms 78:3-5 (NKJV)

The first principle we draw from this portion of scripture is that home discipleship is to be father directed…”which he commanded our fathers.”  It is sometimes difficult to talk about home discipleship as being a father-directed process because there are so many single mothers and women who feel like they are single when it comes to educating their children at home.  The temptation, therefore, is to not say anything lest we hurt someone’s feelings, but the reality is if we don’t stress this issue, far too many men will not become aware of their God-given responsibility and the cycle will continue.  Before I do address the men, however, please allow me a brief side note to any discouraged mother out there who feels the weight of the world on her shoulders when it comes to raising her children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. 

I have been amazed at how at highly prized single moms are in the eyes of the ICHE leadership team.  At our annual convention we have a room called the Oasis where we minister to battle-weary homeschoolers.  Single moms who come to the convention are encouraged to come to the Oasis to receive a special gift and prayer.  It’s ICHE’s way of seeking to bless and hold up their arms, if only for a weekend.  Constant consideration is given to them in various discussions throughout the year.  “How can we best minister to the single moms?” is something I have heard on more than one occasion.  You brave women have some unique promises from God as well.  Deuteronomy alone has numerous verses on the provision for widows and orphans:  Deut. 10:18, 14:29, 24:17, 24:20, 25:5, 26:12.  (I realize these verses apply to “widows” but they serve to remind us of God’s care for those in distress.)  I say to you ladies, God is for you and will be a Father to the fatherless!

Gentlemen, take a quick moment and read the ICHE vision for men to direct their home education experience:

The responsibility of discipling children is one which the Bible charges clearly and specifically to fathers (Prov. 4:1, Is. 38:19b). Fathers must fulfill the role of home school superintendent, directing and overseeing the education of their children and if required, personally teaching specific academic classes. The delegation of the spiritual training of children to others is not an option, however. To the degree that Christian fathers perform this duty faithfully in Christ’s strength, the faith is effectually passed to children and grandchildren. This underscores the crucial importance of fathers having their children’s hearts (Prov. 23:26) and the prerequisite work of God in turning fathers’ hearts to their children, so the children’s hearts will be turned to their fathers (Mal. 4:6). Since students grow to become like their teachers (Luke 6:40), the call to Christian home discipleship is first of all an inescapable call to fathers to become true disciples of Christ, able to teach and exemplify the Christian walk, and thus raise their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

Unlike much of the cultural prerogative, biblical maleness is about divine responsibility…not human privilege.  There is no exemption due to age, educational degree or busyness.  God expects—and therefore equips—men to lead the charge on the field of home discipleship.  Obviously, this doesn’t mean you personally have to teach every subject—although teaching some material does speak volumes of your commitment to learning as a life long process.  It does, however, give a biblical mandate for what you are to personally teach: the commandments of God.  While English, math, science, etc. are so very important, the scriptures plainly prioritize learning when it asks, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?” (Matt. 16:26)  When we stress academics over the fear of the Lord, we clearly have the cart before the horse.  

While some individuals may note the exception of male leadership in Timothy’s home (2 Timothy 1), this is not the biblical norm, neither do we know his specific circumstances.  Sister passages to Psalms 78 lay the role of spiritual discipler squarely and unapologetically at the feet of the father.  Now, men, this doesn’t mean you have to give a college level, hermeneutically correct exposition of the scriptures, complete with Hebrew and Greek.  If you will spend 30 minutes each day reading a few chapters, asking a few questions about how God’s Word was active in their lives that day and ending in a prayer, it has the potential to literally transform your lineage for generations.  How?  You are not only imparting the wisdom of God’s Word, you are also showing your sons, not by talk but by example, “This is what a man does.”  Furthermore, you are demonstrating to your daughters “This is what you should be looking for in a future husband.”  It’s a win-win-win for your progeny.

Many believe we are at a crisis-point in our culture due to the lack of manly leadership in the family, church and culture as a whole.  Watching the counter cultural effects of home education, I have witnessed more and more men willing to step up to the plate in discipling their children and becoming leaders.  If the “hand that rocks the cradle rules the world” what will happen to western civilization if we men not only make sure the cradle is working fine for our wives but actually start talking daily with the child who is in that cradle about the things of God?

Let me end by challenging every young man who is reading this article, settle it in your mind right now to lead your future home in a Christ-like manner.  If you don’t know the Bible that well, start reading it now.  Your clock is ticking.  If your father isn’t a Christian, find a man in your church whom you respect and ask questions of him.  For you who are already fathers, I have no doubt you see the imperative of scripture on this matter.  You are the man.  Don’t let the devil intimidate you, saying you have nothing of consequence to offer your family.  God Almighty foreordained before the foundations of the world were laid that your children would be born to you and your wife.  He didn’t give them to the state and not even to the church.  He called you to raise them.  1 Thessalonians 5:24 says faithful is He who calls you who will also do it.  God will be your help.  You need only begin by planting a small seed each day which God can multiply in the lives of your children.  One small step at a time. 

We have the map and the experiences of those who have gone on before us.  Let’s make this trip of life one which our children and grandchildren will refer to time and again to those who come after them.

Kirk Smith
Executive Director, ICHE


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