Although every volume of The Gospel for Life Series has been sitting on my office bookshelf for around a year, I read my first one (The Gospel & Marriage) only two weeks ago. Each book is small (about 100 pages) and follows the same structure of five chapters answering the same five questions: What are we for?, What does the Gospel say?, How should a Christian live?, How should the church engage?, and What does the culture say? While the volume on marriage was very good, The Gospel & Parenting is excellent because it sufficiently calls parents to rely upon the Word and the gospel. The following is a quote from Candice and Steve Watters, who wrote the chapter on how the church should engage.
Seeing parenting as a vocation changes parents. It changes us to see our children as the neighbor God wants us to love and serve. And it changes us to see ourselves as the means God would use to care for our children—especially as we discover how much we must sacrifice as we’re shaped to be more like Christ.
Seeing parenting as a vocation also changes the relationship between parents and the local church. It pushes those who would seek to serve parents beyond just addressing felt needs with a grab bag of this and that. Instead of meeting parents where they are and offering Christian advice and help for their existing parenting hopes and concerns, it prioritizes God’s intention to transform them into servants of His love—for His purposes in their lives, in the lives of their children, and in the lives of those in the church body and the community who will also be shaped by their vocation as mother and father. This means that parenting isn’t just one of many roles in the life of the believer, but is a primary domain for the Christian life, for service, sanctification, evangelism, and discipleship.
This also has a practical application. A church that understands parenting as a vocation will prioritize “equipping the saints” through teaching, strengthening, and encouraging parents in their vocation. A church will not bear responsibility to do that which parents are primarily called to do themselves. And this likely means the church will purposefully limit its overall activities in order to preserve time for families to be together. Additionally, churches that are encouraging and supporting parents in their vocation will look to those maturing families as a means of evangelism toward other families who don’t know Christ, and as a means of practical support to serve other families who are challenged in their vocation by death, divorce, and other disruptions.pp. 65-66
I particularly find the Watters’ affirmation that “the church will purposefully limit its overall activities in order to preserve time for families to be together.” As a pastor of a small church with many young parents and young children, I try to practice that very principle. The pull toward starting another ministry or another outreach program is always strong, and rightfully so since ministries and outreach are highly important. Yet if in our aim to save the lost, we are not sufficiently present for our own children; we have then exchanged the greater for the good. Gospel-centered families are the slow but powerful leaven by which the truth of Christ takes root in the larger culture. If we desire to change the world for Christ, let us begin by discipling our children.