Each year I am privileged to lead a group of about 40 people on an in-depth study tour of the land of Israel. We study the biblical text in context, but not in the usual way. Instead we hike the land from Dan to Beersheva and try to pattern our experience after the ways of the rabbis. We use the teaching methods of Jesus imploring the full range of senses and emotions by engaging heads, hearts, hands, and feet in the experience. Our goal is simple. In twelve days we want to make disciples who will take the message of Christ to the world just like His original disciples did. Quite a mission! *
I am fascinated by the Rabbi-Talmidim relationship. In the Hebrew context this is the relationship between the master and the disciple. In today’s Israeli culture I often see the rabbis with their disciples in obscure places in the wilderness and in very obvious places like the Temple Mount. The first time I saw a rabbi leading his disciples I was shocked. The disciples are children. They sit at his feet to hear his teaching and they walk in his dust as he leads them to the next contextual picture he would like to show them.
The rabbi has chosen these children as his disciples, believing that one day they will be just like him. The children are following the rabbi in the hopes that, one day they will be just like him. Likely, they will. They will walk like him, pray like him, teach like him, even gesture like him. This relationship yields the rabbi incredible influence in hopes of hurling his teachings into the next generation that they might love God with all of their heart, soul, mind, and strength. I think this is part of the reason that Israel has remained through so much trial.
The model of the rabbi spurs me on toward investing deeply in children as the stewards of the gospel in the next generation. This idea touches me both as a parent and as a pastor. If we want to see children become missional in their youth and adult life, the manner in which we disciple them now makes all the difference. Here are some key principles for discipling children to live on mission.
- We disciple best in close relationship. Consider Rabbi Jesus and his relationship with His disciples. Everything He teaches them, everything they experience together is in the context of heart connection. If we want children to embrace the mission we are on we will have to lead them toward it in relationship.
- Discipleship that spurs children toward missional action is experiential. We can’t just tell children about missions. In order for it to sink deep into their bones, they need to experience it with us. Classes and curriculum are nice, but get in the field with children.
- Demonstration is key to missional success. If we take our cues from the methods of Jesus, we must model how to live on mission. Jesus showed his disciples everything. How to pray, how to preach, how to meet the needs of people, and how to confront spiritual forces of evil. Later, the disciples would do all of this as they carried the gospel from Jerusalem, into Judea and Samaria, and finally to the uttermost parts of the world. Our children need to see us do it so that they can do it themselves.
When you and I live on mission and take children with us, teaching them along the way, we will cultivate disciples that carry the gospel to the world.
*For information on the Israel experience visit http://www.legacymilestones.com/israelstudytour