“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope.” (Romans 8:20, NIV)
Remember the account in Mark 9 of the demon-possessed boy that the disciples could not cast out? They were embarrassed and frustrated at their inability to cast them out and asked Jesus why. His answer? “This kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” Frustration presses us to find where the hope is. When the normal, everyday approach to life is not enough, frustration drives us to a deeper spiritual level to seek a higher spiritual end.
The Christian home-school must embrace hardship in Jesus’ call to discipleship. This hardship is easily found within the real-life frustrations of the ordinary home.
“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23
Doubtless, your family has experienced the frustration of not being able to achieve the “ideal” of a successful Christian home-schooling family. Perhaps you’re frustrated by not being able to get through school time without interruptions. Or maybe you’re discouraged that it just doesn’t seem like your making any break-throughs with dealing with a child’s behavioral problem. Or maybe you’re even despairing whether you can ever be the godly dad or mom you feel God wants you to be. But the Good Shepherd hasn’t defined successful discipleship as days without hiccups, people without problems, or homes without needs. Instead, He has defined successful discipleship as occurring when we take up His cross on a daily basis, and follow His agenda for our lives. In His goodness and design, God has provided the home as the first place of His discipleship program. It is not a polished, lofty institution with picture-perfect pupils; it is a sheepfold, where needy flesh-and-blood followers of Jesus Christ are being trained and nurtured within the context of the “thorn and thistle” reality of a fallen world (Genesis 3:16-19).
There are three key concepts that enable you to treasure God’s design for the family while also equipping you to answer Jesus’ call to discipleship within the “sheepfold” of your home. These concepts are knowledge, nurture, and need.
Knowledge is the training necessary for a child to be effectively equipped for the purpose for which he has been designed and called by his Creator. Knowledge involves not only academic study, but also real-life activities and projects within the home that practically prepare children for future work and service.
Knowledge is of no profit, however, without nurture, which is the development of a child’s relationships, foremost with God, and then with his family and those beyond context of the home. Nurture involves instilling and cultivating within a child’s heart a love for others, a value for the eternal, and a desire for Christ-like character.
Knowledge and nurture are empowered at the point of need, which is the real-life hardship, tension, and difficulty (in our homes) which compose the “crosses” that Jesus has commanded us to daily embrace. Needs are God’s way of revealing His agenda for our lives and the lives of our families, and are the catalyst He uses to achieving His work in our lives. For that reason, Christian-discipleship within the home involves a needs-based “curriculum,” whereby God’s purpose and provision for our lives are discerned at the point of need.
Be encouraged that these three concepts for successful Christian home-based discipleship can be applied anywhere, in any Christian home, whether your family lives on a 10-acre farm, or in a high-rise apartment. Do not believe for a second that because you aren’t like this family or that family, or because you’re not using this curriculum or that curriculum, or because you don’t live in this location or that location, that Christ’s call of discipleship in your home is a hopeless enterprise. Comparing your “sheepfold” to someone else’s will only result in needless discouragement; your perceived lack of knowledge or resources is a faulty perception. God, who has unlimited knowledge, has provided all that is necessary for the success of His discipleship program in your sheepfold. He has given you His Word, the basis for all knowledge; He has given you Himself, the basis of all relationships; and He has given you “sheep,” who are waiting to be trained and nurtured through their times of need.
And the good news is that if you are feeling like you aren’t a perfect “home-school family,” you are already in a position for success, for Christ’s “strength is made perfect in weakness;” and when we are weak, then we are strong. (II Cor. 12:9-10).
May God give you a renewed vision of your home as His sheepfold of discipleship, a re-kindled passion to train and nurture your children, and a joyful understanding that the needs that arise in your family are the very opportunities for your family to follow Jesus’ call to take up your “cross” and follow Him.
By Gary Cox
Gary Cox lives in Emmitsburg, Maryland with his wife, Sally, and four of their ten children. Gary received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Bible with a minor in Christian Education from Washington Bible College in Lanham, Maryland. After college, he taught math and science in Christian junior and senior high schools for eight years, before founding Walkersville Family Christian Schools (WCFS), a Maryland-based home school academy. Gary also has ten years administrative experience in education and business. Through his research for home instruction, Gary acquired much paralegal experience. As part of graduate work, Gary developed the home instruction program for the Walkersville Christian Fellowship – the sponsoring church of WCFS. Gary enjoys carpentry and farming as family hobbies; his children are all home-instructed. Gary has served as the Senior Pastor at Walkersville Christian Fellowship since 1980.
Joel Fischer is a home school graduate and an alumnus of Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy. Born and raised in the Northwest, Joel now resides in Frederick, Maryland where he is pursuing work in the legal and political arena, while enjoying the close proximity of the historical heritage of the East Coast. Joel is a member of Walkersville Christian Fellowship, and is blessed to be part of the home schooling communities on both sides of the continental United States.
This article first appeared in the May 2013 edition of WCFS’ monthly newsletter, “The Family Heritage Developer,” and has been reprinted here in an edited form by permission of the authors.