Thinking Biblically about Mission
About the Guest
Dennis and Barbara Rainey believe parents should give their children a sense of mission as it relates to Ephesians 2:10, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works." To do this, parents must first evaluate whether they are living for Christ. It's only then that they can help their children identify their gifts and help them think through how they might serve Christ.
Dennis and Barbara RaineyDennis and Barbara Rainey cofounded FamilyLife®, a ministry of Cru®. Their 43+ years of leadership enabled FamilyLife to grow into a dynamic and vital ministry in more than 109 countries. Together they have spoken at over 150 Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways and authored or co-authored more than 35 books, including best-selling Moments Together for Couples, Staying Close, A Symphony in the Dark, and Barbara’s most recent, Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife...more
Dennis and Barbara Rainey believe parents should give their children a sense of mission as it relates to Ephesians 2:10. To do this, parents must first evaluate whether they are living for Christ.
Thinking Biblically about Mission
Bob: Dennis Rainey has a provocative, engaging question for parents to ask their children.
Dennis: “If you could do anything in the world and couldn’t fail, what would you do and why?” And then maybe toss this one out at the dinner table—it’s by A.W. Tozer—“God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.” Kids need to realize that if God is their God, they need to make their plans large.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, February 21st. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Are your children setting big goals? Do they have big dreams about how God might use them in the future? We’re going to talk today about how you stir that up in your child’s heart. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. We have spent a lot of time over the last six/seven months talking about parenting—actually, for the last year. I’m going all the way back to when our movie, Like Arrows, came out in theaters a year ago—
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: —and then the video series for the Art of Parenting™ came out shortly after that. Your book, The Art of Parenting, was released in September. We’ve been talking about parenting quite a bit; and of course, this is something you’ve been studying and reflecting on for decades.
Dennis: This is a passion of both Barbara’s and mine; and by the way, she joins us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back.
Barbara: Thank you much; glad to be here.
Dennis: For a little while longer, at least, welcome back.
Barbara: A little while longer. [Laughter]
Bob: A little while longer—yes; we shared with listeners earlier this week about the change that is coming.
Dennis: That’s right! Dave and Ann Wilson are going to be stepping into our shoes, and they are going to become the hosts of FamilyLife Today.
We’ve been at this for almost 26-and-a-half years, not quite.
Dennis: But we’ve had the privilege of doing over 6,000 broadcasts that listeners have paid attention to dutifully and have been listening to what we’ve said here. Hopefully, we have helped you in your most important relationships in life. It’s kind of fitting, Bob, I think, that Barbara and I are here talking about this final pillar of raising kids, which is giving your child a mission and releasing them.
Something like FamilyLife Today can’t die with my hands or Barbara’s hands tightly gripped around the microphone saying: “No, no, no! You can’t have someone else lead this!” We’re all meant to pass it on—to pass the baton. We’re excited to be able to do that. Dave and Ann Wilson have been in ministry for a number of years, and I think our listeners are going to love them.
I believe, for FamilyLife Today and FamilyLife®, the best is yet to be. Bob Lepine is still going to be at the microphone, so I’m excited. What about you, sweetheart?
Barbara: I am too. We’ve known Dave and Ann for years. We love their enthusiasm; we love their energy. They are both very biblically-anchored, and they will just do a fabulous job. In fact, I think they’ll do a better job, in many ways, than we did—
Dennis: I think you’re right.
Barbara: —because they’re just—they’re great people, and everybody’s going to love them.
Bob: We’ve heard from them already this week. We’re going to hear from them again next week. It is nice when you can make a handoff to friends and people who you admire and respect; and that’s the case with Dave and Ann.
Dennis: Kindred spirit friends.
By the way, just a transition to today’s broadcast—because I want to get on with that—we’ve been talking, as you mentioned, Bob, for a number of months about the essence of raising children. We talked about how the Scriptures really break it down into four categories.
The first one is the Great Commandment, which is teaching your child how to have a relationship with God and with others. The second area of parenting is that of building character into your children—teaching them to be wise and not be a fool; teaching them right from wrong; how to choose what’s right; obey God—that’s what the Book of Proverbs is about. A little earlier this year, we talked about the third area, which is the issue of identity—emotional, spiritual, and sexual identity. The Bible speaks clearly to all of those areas.
This last one that we’re talking about today is really something that Barbara and I will probably fight one another for the microphone, because we both feel strongly about this; and that’s giving your child a sense of mission—helping them discover why God put them here, on the planet, in the first place. It’s really spoken of in one of my favorite verses that I’ve quoted many, many times, here, on FamilyLife Today—Ephesians, Chapter 2, verse 10:
“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Did you hear what Paul was saying there? He was saying we are God’s work of art. Your child is God’s work of art. He has prepared that child for an assignment that is unique to him.
In doing research for this book, we found out that, way back in the 18th century, there was a doctor who discovered fingerprints. He was the guy who discovered that each person has a unique fingerprint on every one of their fingers and thumbs. I think it’s a statement of how God has a unique assignment/a unique ability built into every child. What your assignment is, as a parent—listen to me—your assignment is, as a pair of parents, or as a single parent, or as a blended family—
—you have to help your child discover who he or she is and cheer them on in the race of life, cheering them on to become all that God called them to be.
Bob: When we were working on the Art of Parenting video series and we created the movie, Like Arrows, the reason the movie is called Like Arrows is because of what it says in Psalm 127, verse 4—that children are “like arrows in the hands of a warrior.” You’ve said many times arrows are meant to be aimed and released. We’re going to talk about the aiming part of that today—how we help point our kids in the right direction before we release them. You want to do this in kind of rapid-fire style.
Dennis: We did an earlier broadcast, which I call the “Twitter version”—
Dennis: —real quick, cut-to-the-chase, practical, biblical—but helping you be successful, as parents. Barbara and I are going to tag-team this and go every other one. We’re going to give you our best tips on helping your child find his or her mission in their lives.
Bob: Okay; who’s going to—are you going to give us the first tweet, Barbara?
Barbara: I will do that with delight. The first one is: “Evaluate your own life.” You know, parenting starts, so often, with us. We have to know what we believe/what’s important to us before we can ever pass it on to our kids. So that’s what this is about.
Evaluate your own life: “Are you a person on mission? How would you describe the mission that God has given you? Are you excited about fulfilling God’s mission, and are you talking about it with your children as you do life together?” You can’t teach your children how to have a mission if you don’t have one yourself.
Dennis: Most of the important lessons in life are caught, not taught; so what’s your mission?
Second one: “Ask God to give you discernment, as you raise your child, to spot his or her gifts, abilities, passions, and burdens.” What we call it is: “What is his or her missional DNA?”
Ask God, by the Holy Spirit, to teach you, as they emerge from their lives—as you raise them all the way through the toddler years, the elementary years, junior high, high school, and beyond. Just speak truth into your children: “You know, you’re pretty good when you’re championing this cause.” Help them spot what their mission is, and then speak it into their lives. Let them know you’ve seen it, multiple times.
Barbara: Number three is: “Affirm and encourage your child when you see him or her operating in what appears to be a sweet spot or a gift, and let them know that you see that and recognize it.” There will be really awkward years when you may not see much for awhile.
Dennis: Yes! [Laughter]
Barbara: But when you do—when you do spot something that they’re really good at—then affirm that, and mention it, and help him or her see it too.
Dennis: This fourth one is very practical: “Use a date night with your spouse to sharpen your inventory of your child’s life.”
Bob, many, many times, you know, Barbara and I had a date night. We’d go out and we’d talk about our calendar / we’d talk about what we’re going to be doing; and we’d also talk about each child. Keep a record of what you’re talking about each child and sharpen your inventory of who they are, what they are good at, and how you can better cheer them on.
Barbara: Number five is: “As you decide what your mission is, as mom and dad/as parents, talk about that with your kids. If possible, begin to bring them into the process; so, if your mission in life is something you include your kids on, bring them in on it with you.
And then, as your kids get older, start reading books to them or with them or give them books to read that will help them think through how to have a mission. Dennis’s book, Choosing a Life That Matters, would be a good one; Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose-Driven Life; and there are probably others.
Help your child, especially in the teenage years, read books that help him think through, “What is my purpose?”
Bob: And when you’re talking about your life on mission, it could be what the two of you are doing together—something that you’re involved with—but it can just be how you’re living out your faith in whatever arena God’s put you in—
Barbara: That’s right; that’s right.
Bob: —whether that’s the workplace, whether it’s clubs or activities, or people you’re interacting with—it’s helping your kids see how you’re integrating faith into the world God’s called you into; so that they can understand, “Oh, this is how I do it in my world,”—right?
Dennis: As Barbara was reading that, I was thinking about the time we bought—I don’t know how many—packages of hot dogs to host an evangelistic outreach in our home for junior high and high school kids. We were ready for 100 kids. I mean, we had the buns, we had the dogs—and seven kids came. [Laughter]
Dennis: We ate those dogs for a long, long time. [Laughter] You know what the kids caught in that? They caught the passion that Mom and Dad wanted to be a part of reaching out to others, spiritually, and helping them find hope and help in Jesus Christ.
The interesting thing is—by the time we quit, we had over 400 kids coming out to meetings at school—to host kids to find out about Jesus Christ.
Number six: “Fan the flames of your child’s dreams.” Perhaps consider asking this question: “If you could do anything in the world and couldn’t fail, what would you do and why?” Then maybe toss this one out at the dinner table—it’s by A.W. Tozer—“God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity we plan to do the things we can only do by ourselves.” Kids need to realize that if God is their God, they need to make their plans large.
Barbara: Number seven is: “If possible, use testing services as children move into their middle teens and beyond.” This is something that Dennis and I did with some of our kids, not all of them.
We took them through some different testing things to help them see what their innate strengths were, what their weaknesses were, and what they could develop and potentially become. It sort of expanded their view of themselves; it helped them see themselves objectively.
Bob: Some of this was personality and temperament, but some of it was vocational aptitude.
Barbara: Aptitude; yes.
Dennis: Yes; that’s exactly right.
Barbara: It was really helpful.
Dennis: Number eight: “Encourage and affirm small and big steps of faith for your kids.” I think this is an area, Bob, where a lot of parents miss an opportunity to affirm their children when they step out and take little steps of faith or maybe a big one. Call it to the attention of your other children or, maybe, with adults. Children take steps of faith; be sure to point it out and affirm them as they do it.
Barbara: I agree.
Number nine is: “Teach your kids how to process failure.” I think this one is really, really important; because what we tend to do with our kids is—
—we want them to win, especially as moms, I think. We want our kids to succeed; we don’t want them to fail. And yet, failure can often be the best teacher, because we learn in life through our failures.
I remember we used to read stories about famous people to our kids. The story of Thomas Edison was one that we read. He failed thousands of times before he finally invented the lightbulb. I think it’s helpful, in this pressure-driven world, that our children understand that it’s okay to fail and make mistakes.
Dennis: Number ten: “Be a person of faith too.” Sometimes, your pushing your kids out on a mission is going to come back and test your own faith. Do you remember, sweetheart, when our son came home and told us he was going to spend his senior year in college on the mission field in a former Soviet state in Estonia, introducing Estonian college students to Jesus Christ?
Barbara: Yes; I remember.
Dennis: He was going into Communist block housing to live and drove this car that was—we went over there, Bob—and it was a joke. They went over there; and in a period of a year, they led one person to Christ. Today, that ministry in Tallinn, at the university there, is student-led by dozens of Estonian college students, in some part due to Benjamin’s, our son’s, step of faith—and when his parents had to take a step of faith, too, and quench their fears and go, “Okay, God; we’re going to trust You with our kids.”
Barbara: Amen; we did.
Number 11—this one sort of goes along with it—Number 11 is: “Pray with and for your child for the fulfillment of God’s mission for his or her life.” We did pray for our son, and we prayed for our other kids too. Oftentimes, at night, when we put them to bed, we prayed that they would know what God had called them to do and that they would see what God’s purposes were for their lives.
Dennis: Number 12: “Read Ephesians 2:10 as a family.” This is a good one; because what you can do is assign this verse to, maybe, an older child, who can dig into the Bible and do a little Bible study and share a few minutes—three to five minutes—of thoughts about what this verse teaches. It’s back to the verse that says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
There are other verses we recommend here: Matthew 6:33, which talks about seeking first the kingdom of God; Matthew 28:19-20, which is the Great Commission. These are all commands of Jesus Christ that the church today needs to take seriously. Our young people, I think, are capable of far more than we’re challenging them with.
Number 13 is something else you might discuss at the dinner table, and this isn’t a verse.
This is an Ethiopian proverb, and it goes like this: “The feet take a person where one’s heart is.” That would just be an interesting conversation to have—maybe it’s not at the dinner table; maybe it’s at night before bed, or maybe when you’re driving your kids to school. Just talk about: “What does that mean? What does it mean to follow what’s in your heart?” because God often puts desires in our hearts that He wants us to fulfill. That’s a part of discerning His plan.
Dennis: My son, Benjamin, recently called me, the other day. He mentioned number 14—he said, “This book ought to be required reading of every junior high and high school student in America.” He was speaking of Katie Davis Majors’ book, Daring to Hope. Number 14 is: “Assign one of your children to read Katie’s book, Daring to Hope, and then give a report/a book report to the family.”
Tighten your seatbelts for this is quite a story of a young lady’s faith, who stepped out, as a young college-aged student, and began adopting Ugandan girls. I forget the number she’s up to now—is it 13?
Bob: I think she’s adopted 13, and then I think she and her husband have had their own biological child. They live in Uganda. Katie was working in an orphanage there; in fact, her story is one that we featured on FamilyLife Today. If listeners want to go to our website, they can listen to the podcast and hear her share the story. That may be something for the family to listen to together.
Dennis: I would, Bob. I know this—when Benjamin called me, he said, “Dad, this is one of the best books I have ever read.” Katie is in her late 20s/early 30s now?
Dennis: But it is a compelling story of someone who just took God at His Word and decided to go do something that represented the heart of God for orphans. You know what?—
—that is pure and undefiled religion.
Bob: Let’s say, as a parent, you have one child, who wants—
Dennis: Now wait a second, Bob—we did it!
Bob: You want me to acknowledge all 14. [Laughter]
Dennis: All 14!
Bob: By the way, all 14 of these are available on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com—
Dennis: —and they’re also available in our book, The Art of Parenting.
Bob: Yes; and you can order the book, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can download the list if you’d like to.
I’m just thinking of the parents, who are going: “We have three kids. One wants to be a veterinarian; one wants to be a professional baseball player; and the third one doesn’t know what she wants to do. How do I talk about mission when what my kids are interested in is not particularly spiritual?”
Barbara: Well, I think that it’s helping them think through mission in a broad viewpoint too. I’ve always believed that medicine is ministry. We have a son-in-law, who’s a doctor. We’ve been on medical mission trips with doctors and nurses.
Those fields aren’t strictly defined as ministry, but they are. I think that—one of the things that Dennis and I did is that we took our kids on missions trips. It was one of the ways that we wanted to help expose them to the things that God was doing in the world.
So, as a family, you might take your kids and go on a week-long mission trip to Guatemala with your church, or wherever your church is doing missions. Even if your child does want to become a veterinarian or whatever, they may change; but you can also come alongside that natural desire and expose them to things that God is doing around the world.
Dennis: I think it’s very important that we don’t create a sense of someone, who is not in vocational Christian ministry—that if you’re not doing that, you’re a second-class citizen in God’s kingdom.
Barbara: I agree.
Bob: —or you’re not “on mission.”
Barbara: Right; right.
Dennis: I think it’s interesting—I think all of our kids are in ministry.
I wouldn’t say that any of them, right now, are in full-time vocational Christian work. Our son, Samuel, is a counselor—that’s as close as it gets to full-time vocational work. And yet, we’re applauding them as they fulfill God’s assignment for who He made them to be. They’re raising their families, and they’re also taking their kids on mission trips. They’re exposing them to God’s work and what He’s doing around the country and around the world.
Bob: When any of us bring biblical thinking and God’s love and grace for others into whatever arena we’re in, now, all of a sudden, that arena has become a mission field. I think for us, as parents, that’s what we have to be helping our kids understand. We’re not sure what the unique “good works that God prepared beforehand, that you should walk in” are yet; but whatever they are, you can bring a biblical worldview and you can bring God’s love and grace into that arena; and it can be transformative, whatever it is.
Dennis: That’s exactly right. You know, one of the most frequent comments made to Barbara and me, now that we have stepped out of leading FamilyLife, is—people say, “So, what are you doing now that you’re retired?” [Laughter] It’s kind of like: “Well, you finished that. Now, you’re just off—
Barbara: —“doing nothing.”
Dennis: “—doing nothing”?—“kind of kicked it in neutral”?
I have to tell you—this is an exciting time to be alive!
Dennis: Barbara and I are not going to rust out; we’re not going to go away. It may be that we’re not heard on 1,000 stations across the country, but the checkout lady at the counter at Kroger may hear from me; and I may give the guy who picks up our garbage a copy of our book, Stepping Up—or the electrician, who does the repair work—I did that the other day.
We’re all on mission; and we’re going to be doing some things, going forward. We’ll be talking about that in the coming days ahead on FamilyLife Today.
But we have an assignment that we’re going to complete. We’re not retiring in the traditional sense—we’re not withdrawing from battle—I don’t think God made us to ever retire.
Barbara: I agree.
Dennis: I think we should be about the battle all the way to the finish line, doing only what God has called you to do, and where God is at work. Frankly, both Barbara and I have been praying this—we don’t want to be doing anything where God isn’t already there and being at work in people’s lives.
Bob: Well, and I don’t think it’s just the checkout lady or the garbage man who are going to be hearing from you in the days ahead. [Laughter] I think the rest of us are going to be hearing from you as well.
We do, again, have the list of ways you can help your children think, missionally, as you raise them. That’s available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. We also have your book, The Art of Parenting, which we are making available today to any listener who can help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today with a donation.
You know that the whole reason why hundreds of thousands of people are being impacted every day by the help and the hope they hear on this program is because there’s a small group of listeners, who say: “This is important. This matters for me, for my family, for our community, for my city, for the world.” Those of you who support the ministry—you have made today’s program possible.
Now, we’re asking you to help make tomorrow’s program possible by going online and making a donation to support FamilyLife Today. When you do, upon your request, we’ll send you a copy of Dennis and Barbara Rainey’s book, The Art of Parenting. You can donate at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call to donate at 1-800-FL-TODAY. Be sure to ask for your copy of the book, The Art of Parenting, when you make a donation. If you’d like more information about the video series—the Art of Parenting—that’s available, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com as well. Our movie, Like Arrows—you remember that’s a part of the Art of Parenting—
—the movie is now available for purchase as well. You can order a DVD from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about letting go—releasing our children to life/to thriving on their own. Dennis and Barbara Rainey will join us again tomorrow. I hope you can be here as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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