Discipling Your Family Starts in the Heart


As a follower of Jesus, one of my greatest desires in life is for my children to follow Him as well. I want many things for them – long, happy lives filled with joy in their careers, marriages, and families; success in whatever endeavors they give themselves to; meaningful memories enjoying life and all of God’s creation. Yes, I want all of these for each of my three kids. But more than anything, my greatest prayer by far is that they would each fall in love with Jesus, experiencing his redemption personally and living their lives to follow Him faithfully.

This being true, I often search the scriptures for wisdom on how to see this happen. I know that God is sovereign over salvation, and that ultimately, it must be His hand that moves to bring new life into their little souls. But I also constantly ask myself, “What can I do today to foster that work of God in their hearts? How can I help foster and cultivate vibrant faith for each of them?” 

Deuteronomy 6 is one place where I have found some helpful and practical answers. In this passage, God speaks through Moses with an incredibly powerful command for the people of God as they go forth to enter the Promised Land and be established as God’s representatives on the Earth. He says this…

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The commands from God given to His people through Moses here are incredibly clear. As He leads them into the Promised Land, he instructs them to live their lives with two main forms of obedience…

  1. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and might.
  2. You shall teach [the law of God] diligently to your children.

As we seek to cultivate healthy and vibrant faith in our homes, one of the most important things to pay attention to is the order of these commands in this passage. God is not without purpose in his words – both the words themselves and the order in which he says them. Notice, before he commands us to DISCIPLE our families, he first commands us to LOVE Him wholly.

Here, we learn an incredibly important lesson from scripture for discipleship in our homes. As we seek to instill passion for Jesus and faithfulness to the Bible in the hearts of our family, we must cultivate the same in ourselves.

There is simply no way around it – we cannot give what we do not possess. Discipling our family starts by discipling ourselves, cultivating healthy habits of following Jesus in our own lives. If we want to raise passionate followers of Jesus, we must become passionate followers of Jesus!

Toward this end, here are three vital disciplines that you can begin to practice in your life to cultivate deep dependency on God and healthy vitality in you spiritual life. In John 15, Jesus taught us that He is the vine, and we are the branches – apart from dependency on Him and his life-giving force flowing through us, we can bear no spiritual fruit. Therein, these three habits are ways to cling to the vine and allow Jesus to grow you into a healthy, fruitful branch that overflows with spiritual leadership and health for your family as well.

1. Daily Feeding from Scripture

In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, we find out that God’s Word is effective and useful for growing us into spiritual maturity. That truly, in our spiritual lives, there is perhaps no more useful tool for cultivating growth and health than the Sword of the Spirit – the Word of God! Therein, we have to learn to feast daily on the Bible – studying it deeply and obeying it courageously – that God would use his Word to do what he promises, make us complete and equipped for every good work.

One thing that is very true – there are good and bad ways to read the Bible. Not all reading is equal! We can read poorly and carelessly and end up not being able to enjoy these great benefits that scripture promises. So, in the audio teaching above, we walk through some good ways to study with care to ensure you are feasting well on the scripture. Listen above to find out more.

2. Daily, Persistent Prayer

Prayer is one of the greatest barometers for our dependency on Christ. When we feel like we have it all together on our own, our prayer lives often wither. When we are hurting and in need of intervention from God, prayer comes naturally and easily to us. Why? – Because prayer is a habit of dependency; it’s the way we cling to the vine and ask Christ to intervene in our lives.

Therein, as you seek to cultivate a healthy faith in your own heart, develop discipline in coming to Christ in dependent prayer each and every day. Be faithful and persistent, seeking to live out your life in constant connection with Christ as the vine that gives you life. In the audio teaching above, we explore additional content and advice on this subject – give it a listen to explore this idea more deeply.

3. Faithful Engagement with the Church

One additional gift of grace that God has given us for our spiritual growth and health is the church, our local expression of the Body of Christ! In Ephesians 4:11-16, Paul gives us a glimpse of God’s design for the local body, and he shows us so clearly that it is here that God intends for us to grow into maturity that can survive any wind in the culture. We need the church! We need pastors, we need elders, we need leaders, we need each other! Therein, as you seek to grow, make sure to engage deeply with your local church.

Here at Emmaus, that means plugging in on Sundays for our Sunday Worship and participating faithfully in a Missional Community Group. Both of these require more than just attendance too… Seek to engage thoughtfully in the sermon, participate fully in the worship, and engage faithfully in the discussion in your MC Group. The Lord uses the benefits of the body to grow us in ways we can hardly imagine, but as we engage faithfully, the growth comes in season.

In all of this, remember – it is not the habits themselves that give us life and maturity, but Christ himself, working through the habits that are effective. It is the VINE that gives life, not any discipline in and of itself. All of these simply place ourselves in humility before Him, asking Him to bring to our lives what we cannot bring ourselves. Dig into scripture, pray diligently, and engage with the body – and through it all, rely on Jesus who brings health and fruitfulness to our souls.


Note – This article is a condensed form of the first week of content in Faith Filled Family – a 3-week class offered by our Emmaus Institute in January 2020. For a detailed overview of the entire course, please click here. Also, listen to our recording from the Week 1 Class – It Starts in the Heart – from the Emmaus Institute Podcast below.