Jay Blogs – Making Disciples

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Last week, I was preparing for our State of School address, and considering what was most important about our school and its mission, played out in the life of our students. What does “teaching Jesus” really mean, and how is it we assist parents in educating, equipping, and encouraging their kids to impact God’s Kingdom? As I was considering these questions, I had dinner with my two oldest daughters Friday evening.  And, they shared with me a couple stories that brought everything into focus for me. It reminded me that, at Grace, education is discipleship, within our schools, and without, and that God has shaped our school community to be good at this shaping process throughout the years.

My oldest two daughters are living and working in Dallas, having graduated from school. My middle child talked about how she shared her testimony with her Bible Study group last week. As she shared, she mentioned multiple times what an impact this school played in her spiritual growth and maturity. Her testimony made me think about what we hope for our kids- that they will become disciples of Jesus. Soren Kirkergaard notes that Christ calls us to be disciples– not believers, worshippers, or adherents. Being a disciple is different than these things. Disciplles are not people who believe things about Jesus, but who live as He lived, speak as He spoke, love as He loved.

Living as a disciple of Jesus means giving up my right to self, and living in a way that is contrary to what seems right to the world around me. It means finding joy in enduring trials of various kinds, because we realize that trials perfect us. We realize that being made perfect means being a people of humility and knowing how to forgive in a world that has rejected God, and knows neither humility nor how to forgive. And, only through suffering, hardship, and trial can we realize those things that matter, like humility and empathy that leads to forgiveness. 

Being disciples means we are called to love our enemies, and to pray for those who persecute us, because it teaches us to love. Love is about sacrifice; it is not measured in what you get, but in what you give up. The best way we learn to love, to be sacrificial, is to love people who are hard to love, getting and expecting nothing in return.  

Further, learning to be disciple-makers and being great in the life of Jesus, is not found in building up our own portfolios or accomplishments, but in service, in developing a heart that seeks to influence others- not to be thought of as great, not to make it about me or for narcissistic ends, but as an act of service to the Lord, and so that others can flourish. 

In short, becoming a disciple requires surrendering to Jesus, and allowing suffering, service, and sacrifice to be a part of our lives. The paradox, the secret of life, is that only in these things do we find true joy, true fulfillment. Only in these things can we be all God created us to be.

And, as parents, the problem arises because, while we know all these things, that surrender, suffering, service, and sacrifice, are best for our children, our human nature, our default, is to protect them from these very things. We want to shield them from pain and challenges, to ensure success for them, to give them comfort, all the while knowing in our Holy Spirit-indwelled hearts that the opposite of these things, surrender borne in suffering, sacrifice and service, will form godly character, and make them the people God called them to be, and we want them to be, and that will bring them joy. These things will make them disciples.

One of the key ways we fight against this natural tendency, this counterproductive protective instinct, is to raise our children in Christian community- surrounded by and shepherded, stewarded, and discipled by followers and lovers of Jesus who will help me disciple my children and lead them to righteousness and a life that embraces surrender, suffering, service, and sacrifice, people who are willing to empower me to challenge my own kids, and who are willing to even challenge me, speaking into my own overprotective instincts.  Community is fantastic at caring for us when we’re in need, and our community does that as well as anyone I’ve seen. But this school community is best and perhaps most necessary every day, to help us give our kids what they most need, even helping us sometimes get out of our own way to give it to them. 

But Grace can’t fulfill its mission to truly be a help to our families if it’s just a sweet little mediocre school that’s only about loving Jesus. It has to be more than that. It has to be a great school, as well. Because if Jesus’ name is on our door, we had better bring our best every day. If our parents are investing what they do in this place and these people, we need to be good stewards before God. We need to be excellent, engaging in the continual process of becoming better than what we once were. We have to be a great school. Because making disciples requires teaching children well. Which brings me back to our dinner Friday night, and to my conversation with my oldest daughter. 

At dinner, my oldest told a story of work this past week. She works as a marketing consultant in the Dallas office of a law firm of over 1,000 lawyers scattered around the country, and she shared that last week a Supreme Court case was issued. The opinion dealt with overtime pay, and had an impact on virtually every one of their clients. The marketing folks are supposed to work with the attorneys to read the Court’s opinion, summarize them, give perspectives, and send them out, all as a marketing service for their clients. The lady who my daughter works with that’s in charge of these functions was out last week, and my daughter, who has been there less than a year, had to step into her place and send out the brief. 

Later, her boss told her it was one of the best she had seen. She told her that most of the time she has to do a great deal of editing to ensure the writer understands and articulates the meaning of the case well. Her boss told her she’s never had to do so little polishing as she had on this piece.

This is not a “brag on my kid” story, because the glory belongs to the Lord working through Grace. That particular child began as the worst reader of my three early on. But, through our Foundations and Frameworks methodology teaching her how to break down language, and her fourth-grade teacher showing her how to study, and her high school English teachers making her write until her hand turned blue, and her government teacher showing her how to analyze and understand court cases, and a host of others working with her, she learned to read well, analyze well, to critically think, and to write well. Her college may have honed that a little, but most of what she learned happened right here. 

Through our liberal arts focus, this school teaches children to read, comprehend, critically analyze, think, and communicate, verbally and in writing, as well or better than anyone in the state. It doesn’t matter what they do for the rest of their lives. They may be great engineers, but to be leaders of engineers, they have to have these skills. I’ve seen this excellence to be true from virtually every alum I’ve ever spoken with over all these years as they’ve matriculated to the collegiate level and beyond, and virtually any parent of any alum from this school can confirm that for you.

My dinner Friday night affirmed for me what is true every day: There’s nothing more important as parents than raising disciples in our home– the Great Commission begins with our own house, because those are the people God entrusted most closely to us. It doesn’t end there, but it does begin there. We need partners to help them in the journey. And, that’s why Grace exists, and why we all need it.