A conversation with Joel Beeke
photo: Michelle DeBella-Bharath

BENYOLA: Let’s talk about your ninth point on the list. Luther said to wives and parents, “Through faith we are justified; through good works God is glorified…. And God wants to use your life to convert other nations, that the kingdom of Christ may be expanded” (LW 29:57). “Thus the ordinary duties of home and family, if pursued faithfully, will support the church’s evangelistic mission and impact the world for the glory of God.”

In your chapter in the anthology published last year, The Legacy of Luther, you pointed out that the good works of the Christian home are not limited to home, but also serve the purposes of mission and doxology (Titus 2:5). Dr. Albert Mohler recently pointed out that people in all religions, especially the fastest-growing world religion which is Islam, evangelize their children — we all have a worldview and we’re going to pass on that worldview to the next generation.

In the history of redemption, even before the apostles promised, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31), there has been a familial implication in which God has indicated his commitment to deal in families. Ligon Duncan cited statistics provided by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and the Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization, which confirm that in the United States, 94 percent of people who are Christians have one or both Christian parents. In the world, the number is 90 to 94 percent of Christians. Now, of course we evangelize people everywhere, but the Scriptures and the evidence show that families, from one generation to the next, overwhelmingly are the main vehicle God uses to spread the gospel.

In what ways have you noticed that a mentality of evangelism in family life forms the missio Dei of the church and has led to an expansion of God’s Kingdom in foreign mission fields?

BEEKE: It is a fact of human experience that the faith of parents shapes the faith of their children. We are always teaching our children whether we know it or not. If we are not self-aware and intentional as Christian parents, we may be teaching our children the wrong things! And every parent must know that what we do speaks louder than what we say. We must validate our profession of faith by a life consistent with it.

It is a fact of Christian experience that missionary parents beget missionary children. The dedication of missionaries to their work, and the great value of that work, are contagious and compelling. The same is true in the Christian home. If Christ is loved and served by father and mother, if his gospel and his church are precious to them, their children will at least sit up and take notice! Of course, the Holy Spirit alone can and must convert our children, but it is his normal way to delight to use the witness, instruction, love and prayers of Christian parents as he works in the lives of their children.

Encouraging interest in and support for mission work should be high on the agenda of every pastor and every consistory or session. A mission-minded church will foster mission-minded families. More broadly, Reformed Christians think in terms of the great work that God is doing in the world, the missio Dei, as you put it, and their part or calling in that work. Each of us should ask the question posed by the newly converted Saul of Tarsus: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

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Covenant theology, interviews, Reformation