“Listen, Israel,” the Holman Christian Standard Bible renders the familiar words of Moses, “the Lord our God, the Lord is One” (Deut. 6:4).
The setting in which these words were delivered was one of the great scenes of Scripture. God’s people are poised for conquest, camped within sight of the long-promised land. Moses, now a seasoned leader who knows his days are numbered, gathers the people to remind them one last time what matters most. Recalling their struggles, Moses shifts his focus from codes and rules. Moses, inspired by the very Spirit of God, gives the people a single command that sums up all the statutes and ordinances in a single sweeping statement. This command isn’t aimed only at the head; it aims for the heart too: “Listen, Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart.”
This passage is saturated with key relational words: “Listen!” “Love!” “Heart!” These words would forever alter the way in which the people of Israel considered their connection to their God.
Listen to the timeless word of God, for “many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord purpose that prevails” (Prov 19:21).
Listen to Solomon instructing us to “train up a child according to the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). Could it be that God designed the home as the first and best “small group” because no one understands better than parents the unique “bent” of each child?
Listen to the Spirit-fueled words of Peter at Pentecost, who tells new believers that the promise of new life in Christ Jesus, the new covenant, is not just for them, but “for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39).
Listen to single parents in forty percent of American homes who are struggling to pay the mortgage and to keep food on the table. Listen as they long for a compassionate church to surround their children with unconditional love.
Listen to the parents who blindly accept the culture’s values for their children because the church hasn’t had the courage to teach them the truth.
Listen to the parents who long to be spiritual leaders in their households but who have had no models-and who are spiritually intimidated by the so-called religious experts.
Listen to studies that confirm our concern about the future of the Christian faith. Fewer individuals are affiliating themselves with any form of the Christian faith.
Listen to the research that, despite several decades of innovation in providing a powerful church experiences for children and teenagers, young adults aren’t even able to articulate basic truths about the Christian faith.[i]
Listen to the growing chorus of children and student workers and ministers who are burning out beneath the weight of trying to do in the church what was designed to be done primarily in the home-disciple the next generation.
If you are reading this, you are likely already passionate about refocusing the church’s vision to equip families. I would invite you to get on your knees. Slow down. Cease your striving (Psalm 46:10).Open the Scriptures. Be a missionary in your own culture. Pay careful attention to the messages you are hearing, delivered daily by the parents, children, teenagers, community and church around you. Invite others to join you in praying and pondering.
Listen to God speak.
Then and only then will your plans line up with his.
About the Author: Jay Strother is Campus and Teaching Pastor of The Church at Station Hill. He previously served Brentwood Baptist Church as the Emerging Generations Minister, overseeing the spiritual formation processes for families and all ministries birth through college. Jay is a graduate of Greenville and New Orleans Baptist Seminary. He has authored small group resources for Serendipity House and coauthored Perspectives on Family Ministry (B&H Academic).
[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 1.1. You can access this article in Adobe Acrobat (r) PDF here.]