Amidst a pandemic, God is doing a new – but old – thing. There is a positive shift happening in the current season we find ourselves in as a church family. We are seeing many parents get back to the basics of disciple-making. Church begins first at home. (And, I’m not talking a livestreamed service.) Faith needs to start at home and this is why.
First, here’s a little peek backwards: I remember the shock of parents and pastors when I began to ask the tough questions about parents discipling their children. It was around 2007 and I was an institutional church pastor. Parents in my area of the world, known as ‘the Bible Belt’, were used to dropping off their kids at Kids Church and Christian school to be discipled by others. In fact, many parents expressed their frustration at the thought of having their kids with them in a church service. They were busy, burned out and happy to have a program to drop their kids off at.
I remember sitting with elders in a meeting and asking one of them how he engaged his kids at home in the Scriptures and prayer. He didn’t. He dropped them off at Kids Church and at Christian School.
How did this happen?
The Sunday School movement in North America originally began as a temporary evangelistic movement for ‘non-churched’ kids in the community. However, in many churches all over, it slowly became a drop off-discipleship method for many Christian parents. Kids were often dropped off at church, or at Christian school, and with little to no faith conversation at home.
In 2011, I was invited to speak to the annual denominational conference, of which I was a pastor, asking the following questions:
What is the church’s role in nurturing children’s faith?
Where do parents fit into the equation?
I began to teach fellow pastors that the church is not to replace parents but to equip them and partner with them in discipling their children. Research from ‘The Search Institute’ in Minnesota years before, already showed the evidence. A child’s faith is impacted first and foremost by mom, dad, then grandparents, siblings, friends, Bible camp, music and movie stars, and then only after that is the Church or Sunday School listed. The research back then began to show that the most important social influence in sharing young people’s faith is what is modelled and taught to them by their parents.
Where does this sound familiar?
This makes sense because of what we read in Deuteronomy 6. God calls parents to love Him first and foremost, being careful to obey His commands, so that life will be long and enjoyed, and then teach their children to do the same:
“These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life… Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut 6:1-2, 5-7)
The modern-day version could be: “Teach your kids to obey God’s truths. Talk about them when you sit at home, when you drive in the mini-van, when you go to bed, and when you wake up.”
George Barna in his book called, ‘Revolution’ wrote this about the early church: “Christian families taught the ways of God in their homes every day. Parents were expected to model a Spirit-led lifestyle for their children, and families were to make their home a sanctuary for God. In a very real sense, the home was the early church – supplemented by larger gatherings in the Temple and elsewhere, but never replaced by what took place in the homes of believers.” – (George Barna, ‘Revolution’, 2005)
For 10 years up until 2016, while an institutional church pastor, I was outspoken on how church leadership needed to carefully and intentionally train the parents to understand their role from God and then equip them in their own disciplemaking to see their homes as a sanctuary filled with the Holy Spirit. My heart was to set up the parents as the main guides and we pastors, as their coaches, rather than taking this responsibility away from them.It was like turning a semi-truck around but it slowly began to shift.
These days, due to the lockdowns of institutional church buildings from 2020-2021, we are seeing a couple of things. People are noticing how watching a livestream church service takes no input. It’s completely 1 way. There’s no need for personal heart engagement. It is simply watching a talking-head on a stage. If your institutional church is merely that, what reason is there to return to a building? My heart is to see church become relational once again, equipping the family and igniting homes to be beacons of light.
Institutional churches who do not champion faith at home, and who instead assume that ‘real’ discipleship happens with adults sitting in chairs side by side listening to 1 person on a stage, only do more harm in damaging the passing on of faith to the younger generation. Soon, that young generation grows up to become adults who view faith as compartmentalized and inauthentic. They will view faith as being a once a week program and not living it out during the week.
Dangerously, after compartmentalization, comes disintegration and eventually a faith uprooted. And when a faith is uprooted, there is no fruit. Just as a tree with no root cannot bear fruit, a child’s faith not deeply rooted in the home, will be more prone to wither and die like the rootless seed in the parable in Mark 4:3-8. Notice carefully the different soils:
“Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
How can we provide good soil for our kids?
We want our children to have a living faith that produces a fruitful crop. Thankfully, we see another shift happening in this current season. Parents are being intentional in learning how to disciple their children first starting from home and tilling the soil of their hearts to be truly rooted in Christ. The greatest gift we can offer children is to begin forming and molding their identity in Jesus alone. Their identity, how they view themselves and what they find their worth in, will directly determine how they view God, how they treat others, and how they impact this world.
When one lives with Jesus daily, walking with Him, and listening to His voice, everything changes.
(This is why I love teaching people – young and old to hear His voice. Resources are listed below.)
However, if our children find their identify in something other than Jesus, then they will pursue that thing above Jesus. If they find their worth on social media, in school, their relationships, video games, or sports, there’s no doubt that a once a week Sunday morning church service will be secondary to the pursuits of their lives. They will learn to use everything at their disposal to worship that “thing” above the Creator who made it. Notice the idolatry there which only leads to brokenness and heartbreak. And if idolatry is sadly modeled daily at home, the child will be deeply impacted in this model no matter what is taught at a weekly church service. What is lived out daily at home is what takes root. Parents have more impact on their children through the day to day than they realize. Parents are still the primary disciplemakers of their children in the modern day.
For greater discipleship, churches need to equip parents at home to know how to teach their children the story of the Bible, and not simply telling them random stories out of it. Parents need to lead them through the redemption of Jesus’ story throughout Scripture and then show them how their lives intersect with that story. Parents need first to know how to hear God’s life giving voice and teach their children in order to navigate amidst so many voices today. The tragedy is when a child grows up in a Christian home but walks away from Christ because of what was poorly modelled in their home. This is often because parents have not been discipled themselves and so do not know how to disciple their children. This is why I enjoy passing on to parents some basic transformational disciplemaking skills. I long to see generation after generation passionately following Jesus.
What happened for me?
I grew up each morning digging in the Scriptures and prayer time with my parents at the breakfast table. (I remember, to my parents’ dismay, making faces in the shiny 1969 toaster.) We then prayed for missionaries and various countries. My parents were often hosting people over for meals and helping our neighbours. My dad is famously known for fixing people’s cars and shoveling their driveways. We often gave our vehicle to missionaries who were home on leave and helped people stranded on the side of the road.
In a small prairie church family of only 30 people spanning across generations and cultures, I had the regular benefit of experiencing life together. As a young person, I was often welcome in the adult Bible studies, prayer meetings, and church gatherings. We often sat in a circle, looking into each other’s eyes, serving each other, in each other’s homes. I never felt unwelcomed with the adults.
Their love helped me to know God’s love, and as a result, I know who I am in Him.
I personally love the example of the church in Acts where Lydia, the business owner and seller of purple cloth, the formerly demon possessed girl, and the jailor all made up a church. They became a church family from different generations and levels of status. They also met in Lydia’s home. Can you imagine the impact on a child and their surrounding community from that circle?
Disciplemaking also goes both ways.
As an adult and parent now myself, I have learned lots from my children, their questions and exploring who God is. Max Lucado once said that parenting is better than any theology degree. We are not to underestimate the value of children. Matt 18:1-10 shows us Jesus’ perspective on children and how he loved to welcome them. He even called us to humble ourselves like children to be the greatest in His kingdom. Generations learn from each other while authentically doing life together.
One of my favourite things, as a pastor, was partnering seniors with young families and classrooms of children. I gave seniors a list of 5 or so kids and their birthdays, and parents names and info (getting everyone’s permission.) What began as seniors praying for young families, turned into spiritual adoption arrangements. Some seniors invited the young kids to learn how to cook, sew, or simply to eat together and visit! Relationships that started in 2006 are still going today in 2022 at the time of this writing!
In 2016, the Lord called me, my husband, and 2 boys away from pastoring in an institutional church. We began meeting in our home and serving in our surrounding community including at times helping our neighbours feed the homeless. Being the church in our neighbourhood has since continued and frankly has been a deeply healing and growing experience – going back to simplicity, following Holy Spirit. As a result of this, we have perhaps found ourselves navigating the changes of society more easily than some, in our current season. (I coach pastors and missionaries all over the world and I hear their stories and help them move forward.) From other blog posts, you’ll see an account of beautiful divine appointments and physical healings in our neighbourhood simply from going for a walk and running into our neighbours and praying for them.
I have been deeply impacted with my family as a result of digging in the Scriptures together, praying, and enjoying 2-way dialogue. We are doing life together BEING the church, first launching from our home. From there, we go as He leads us. I hope and pray that my kids grow up seeing the goodness and power of God, in relationship and in community, rather than simply hearing about Him and knowing the Sunday school answers while sitting in rows. I want them to know God’s love and abundant life at home first, in order to live an authentic faith that transforms their world.
Stay tuned!Resources for you to help learn to hear God’s voice and disciple others are listed below…
After serving 10 years as an institutional church pastor, Merri Ellen Giesbrecht now serves as a Life Coach and Spiritual Director to those who find themselves stuck and desire to move forward in freedom.
She coaches people to connect better to God through hearing His voice according to His Word, taking them through unique sessions in order to move forward and receive clarity. God knows each client so beautifully and He tenderly leads by His Spirit in each session.
Merri Ellen’s deep compassion and 20 plus years of people helping have seen her work effectively with professionals such as counselors, psychologists, doctors, pastors and ministry leaders; walking them through heart healing, healthy release of burdens, burnout recovery, ministry transitions, and healthy sabbaticals, as well as hard working homeschooling moms.
She loves guiding people as they explore their dreams, assess their gifts and abilities and pursue their goals.
A major life contribution are her landmark contributions in the area of recovery from depression and anxiety where her writing and coaching have impacted over 2 million people in 120 countries since 2003.
As I continue meet with women, I see a hunger for them to connect with Jesus and with each other – especially in this season….
In March 2019, the Lord nudged me to begin offering 5 week courses to lay down a foundation for hearing His voice and what to do if you get stuck, blocked, etc and how to walk with others who are stuck.
It’s been an incredible journey. The courses kept happening and just recently I sensed the Lord saying, you need to multiply this further! So, here goes!
I’ve taken the gold of the 5 week course I have been offering that has been transforming women, marriages, workplaces, families, and communities!… and will be sharing keys in 5 days to kick start more women in encountering Jesus amidst the current noise.
Are you a woman of faith who seeks clarity and peace amidst the noise?
Come join the movement of women hearing God together!
Invite your friends!
We simply want to KICKSTART more women
in hearing God’s voice more clearly in this season!
As I walk with people, I have noticed an obvious, LOUD truth.
There are 2 basic motivators in life.
Fear or Love.
Knowing this fact can change everything in how you view life.
Fear is darkness, love is light.
“The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (Jesus) – John 10:10 – NLT
When we align ourselves with the thief, we align with fear. If something is stealing, killing, or destroying you, it’s not from God.
When we draw near to Jesus, through His Word and through listening prayer inviting Holy Spirit to flow, our hearts will heal and grow in God’s love, and our minds are renewed in His truth.
“Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.” – 1 John 4:18 – NLT
If you are walking in fear, you are believing a lie about who God is for you. Confess and nail the lie to the cross, breaking all agreements with it. Ask God for the truth instead. (If it is a deeply rooted lie, ask God to show you the root. It could be generational.)
How do you know if you are walking in love? Read 1 Cor 13 and put your name in place of ‘love’ and see how it feels. If you are not feeling peace as you read it, do not beat yourself up. Simply confess to the Lord and ask for more of Holy Spirit. Love is a fruit of Holy Spirit, and not a fruit of striving.
What is my motivator? Fear or love? Where is my focus – on You God or my circumstances?
What am I believing about you God or myself or others that is causing me to walk in fear? Or to walk in love?
(In understanding other people…) What is behind that person’s behaviour? Fear or love? How are you inviting me to pray for the person who is walking in fear?
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, thank you that you are the Prince of Peace. I fix my eyes on You and not on the wind and waves around me. I invite you to live within me and to increase Your presence in every area of my life. I choose Your peace to be my ruling power. Release Your heavenly angels to minister to me. Holy Spirit, come and fill me and seal me with your rest and peace. Amen.”
My journey so far as a Christian Life Coach and Spiritual Director in Canada has been FAR FROM BORING.
Each day I feel like I’m walking the Emmaus Road with Jesus and my clients. 😀
I was recently asked how I got into this journey…
Throughout my life I have noticed that people have come to seek my perspective.
When I was resting from 10 years of institutional church pastoral ministry, I remember people coming to bless and encourage me. However, soon the conversation would shift. We would crack open God’s Word and bam – tears and healing would occur… in my guests! I could not believe it…
(Tears and healing happened for me too …often just the day before …because I too had been pressing into the Lord. I often wondered if God’s presence was simply lingering and they would step into that too.)
It definitely was an encouragement to see that when we are weak, God is strong.
(I had been recovering from a nervous system crash due to some trauma and so I felt pretty wimpy.)
On the very last day of my 2 years paid rest leave (it took that much time to walk and talk again normally), I told God, “Thank you for your incredible provision (of healing and His presence). I’m ready for whatever you have next.” I sat on top of a hiking hill path sitting on a rock in the sun with the Lord when I said that. It was a Good Friday. 🙂 Then, I turned back down the hill and ran into a couple who God had introduced me to years before. We hugged and prayed for each other. Just days later they invited me to join their ministry team as a Life Coach and Spiritual Director.
God sends me people who need guidance spiritually and in the natural (practical strategies). I have taken my training in numerous places – like a smorgasbord of tools to use. Yet, mostly what I rely on is my own relationship and experience with Holy Spirit and testing it according to God’s Word. Knowing Him personally and knowing His Truth has always been the key.
Each person who I meet with is on a unique path.
Psalms 143:10 was a key passage shared in our recent staff meeting…
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.
God’s spirit leads us for each person we walk with. His wisdom, mercy, grace, and compassion for each of my clients impacts us both every time.
I recently came across this powerful illustration on church. This comic book is basically a short introduction to a much longer conversation. If you’re a Christian who’s only experienced today’s institutional form of church, you’ve probably got several lingering questions. For instance, what about pastors? What about sermons? What about baptism, spiritual authority, the Lord’s Supper, and tithes?
In September of 2017, nearly 150 supporters came together to produce this comic book…
There are also some powerful articles and blog posts on the growing movement towards BEING the church and building God’s kingdom. Could God be moving us towards being ONE body under the Headship of Jesus to answer His prayer in John 17?
…On top of this, I have the joy of leading people through inner healing sessions with Jesus and getting a front row seat to Him doing mighty things! Adults and teens in depression, anxiety, and addiction are experiencing deep healing by hearing God’s voice.
Every day I come home from work, I feel like I just saw Jesus perform another miracle.
How did this all begin to happen?
I look back…
Less than a year ago, I had the unfortunate job of confronting a man who’s behaviours negatively impacted multiple families including his own. Jesus helped me realize that his patterns of behaviour towards me and others were out of fear (which leads to manipulation and control, and in this case emotional and spiritual abuse). Yet, in order to break this cycle of fear, I chose to confront him in love. Jesus strongly put it on my heart that I was to pray over the man for him to know that God’s love is greater than our fear. (Yes, this sounds humanly impossible to pray over a such a person. Only by the power of God can you do such a thing for someone who hurt others. I take no credit.)
For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit gives you mighty power, love, and sound mind. – 2 Timothy 1:7
There are basically 2 motives in our lives for why we do what we do…
Since that day, my health (in all aspects) improved like crazy. LIKE CRAZY. Could it be that walking in boldness brought on more of God’s power? …and more of His love and sound mind (and authority).
It appears the act of confronting someone in love and peace, seemed to immediately cut off the word curses once spoken over me and released healing and power flowing out to others like a bottle uncorked. (Confronting an abuser took lots of guided help. Do not try this on your own.)
Would you like God’s power, love and self-control to become ‘uncorked’?
Questions for you:
Is there someone in your life who has hurt you?
Invite Holy Spirit to come… and then…
Ask Jesus: “How do you see this person? How do you feel about this person?”
What He will show you will blow your mind! God wants to loan us His perspective on people and situations in our lives.
Ask Jesus: “What are you calling me to do, if anything for this situation/person?”
What Jesus shows you can transform the place you are in.
Share it with trusted advisors to pray with you.
Whether you are called to confront someone, or simply pray a release over them…,
Jesus waits for us to be ready to step into His resting place in order to blow us away with what He wants to do next…
Like I said to the teens I was ministering to this summer… “Are you ready to get wrecked by God’s mind blowing love?!” 😀
Check this out…
Paul Prays for Love to Overflow
14 …I kneel humbly in awe before the Father of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, 15 the perfect Father of every father and child in heaven and on the earth. 16 And I pray that he would unveil within you the unlimited riches of his glory and favor until supernatural strength floods your innermost being with his divine might and explosive power.
17 Then, by constantly using your faith, the life of Christ will be released deep inside you, and the resting place of his love will become the very source and root of your life.
18–19 Then you will be empowered to discover what every holy one experiences—the great magnitude of the astonishing love of Christ in all its dimensions. How deeply intimate and far-reaching is his love! How enduring and inclusive it is! Endless love beyond measurement that transcends our understanding—this extravagant love pours into you until you are filled to overflowing with the fullness of God!
20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you.
Ephesians 3:14-20 (TPT)
Jesus invites you to lay down your burdens at Jesus’ feet for Him to handle.
Then, walk forward in freedom and get ready to watch God do some mighty things!