That’s right. Indoctrinate your kids. Especially as it concerns the faith. While the word indoctrination has negative connotations today, one definition is as follows:

1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.
2. to teach or inculcate.
3. to imbue with learning.

Does this not describe to a great degree the parent’s role in the discipleship process of their children, especially when the kids are young? Surely we want to “instruct [our sons and daughters] in [Christian] doctrine, principle, and ideology.” Is it partisan or biased? Absolutely! The knowledge we want inculcated into our kids is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the teachings which flow from it. In short, we want our children to deeply know what God has revealed – to flee from that which he deems sin, and run toward that which he loves. One of the ways that best happens is via indoctrination. While it’s popular to criticize people of faith for indoctrinating their kids, the truth is, every child is in the process of being indoctrinated. At every turn in a young person’s life, someone or something is trying to place their beliefs into that child. Schools, churches, and governments do it. Parents, teachers, and coaches do it. You can be sure songs, movies, and television do it as well.

Even parents holding a negative view of indoctrination indoctrinate. Suppose a father and mother who pride themselves as intellectual progressives that disdain indoctrination in any form confidently proclaim they’ve withheld themselves from pushing their personal belief systems upon their kids. They chose to instruct their children to discover what’s true for themselves. However, they fail to see this also is indoctrination. They are attempting to deposit into their children the “ideology” or “principle” that truth is relative. Additionally, these parents may also lead their kids to conclude that what dad and mom believe isn’t so important that it’s worth passing down. Regardless how those parents view their actions, it is indoctrination nonetheless.

Therefore, the real question is not who is being indoctrinated but who is doing the indoctrination?

I witnessed indoctrination in action when my wife and I were invited to a friend’s baby shower. I walked into the room where guests brought their baby gifts only to see it full of Texas A&M stuff. It was like College Station has exploded all over the place. I noticed an Aggie doll wearing shirt which said, “Welcome to the world Lil’ Aggie.” I saw Aggie baby booties, Aggie hats, a CD with Aggie lullabies (for real y’all), and even a DVD entitled Baby Aggie. The cover had a baby clad in Aggie fare mouthing the words, “Gig’ em!” What struck me was the DVD’s subtitle: Raising Tomorrow’s Texas A&M Fan Today.

After my wife resuscitated me (I’m a Baylor Bear, she’s a Texas Longhorn), I could only come to one conclusion: this is indoctrination. Make no mistake, those friends and family wanted to place their beliefs about their college in that child. I would assume most Aggies who read this would say, “But of course!” (with a tear in their eye and the Aggie War Hymn in their heart) Why? Because they believe a love for Texas A&M should be “imbued” or “inculcated” into their children. Thus, it only makes common sense to strategically place the “truths of A&M” into kids when they’re young. Welcome to indoctrination.

As I said, the question isn’t who is being indoctrinated, but who is doing the indoctrination?

It’s a big reason why the Bible highlights the father and mother as the chief agents in the discipleship process of their children.  And why I call on parents who are followers of Jesus to use their home as place where they “indoctrinate” their sons and daughters in the truths of the gospel. Don’t just indoctrinate them in your favorite school, sport, or show. Pour the truths of the gospel into them! Read the Bible with them. Tell them about Jesus. Pray with them.

Why? Because you want to raise tomorrow’s passionate follower of Jesus today!


Different churches define membership different ways. My local church defines it by the union of four committed relationships: to Christ (“I believe”), to church leadership (“I support”), to church community (“I belong”), and to the unchurched (“I go”). We could say if one is deeply committed to the first relationship (Christ) the others would take care of themselves. However, we find it helpful to make distinctions relationally because it allows us not only to articulate what membership looks like but also what it doesn’t look like. For example, to be uncommitted to one of the three different relationships that make up the church (Christ, community, leadership) will produce one of three frustrating relationships:

The Rebel

This person commits to community and to Christ but not the leadership. He wants to be a part of small group and engage in worship of Christ at a service but rejects the direction of the elders. He subordinates the mission, vision, and values of the local church to his own personal mission and values. In the end, these individuals promote an adversarial relationship with the church, specifically with the church leadership, and can easily become the source of disputes, complaints, and a disgruntled spirit in the congregation.

The Consumer

This individual commits to Jesus in salvation and the mission, vision, and values of the leadership, but doesn’t want to be engaged in the church community. He resists or refuses fellowship, because to enter into community is to relinquish power to control the terms of the relationship. In other words, these individuals have a transactional relationship with the church. This individual wants from the church what he refuses to give. He treats the church not as parishioner, but as consumer.

The Faker

This person assumes since he is good at checking off a bunch of religious boxes he merits God’s favor and salvation. As such, it is easy for him to commit church leadership because he finds his security in his ability to perform responsibilities, and it’s also easy to commit to community because he is comfortable in religious environments where he compares his spirituality with other people. Unfortunately, these individuals are not truly seeking to grow their relationship with Christ and glorify God but to further personal agendas such as expanding their business clientele or search for a spouse. Ultimately, they have a utilitarian relationship to the church.

Rebels, Consumers, and Fakers are people who desire membership but adamantly and steadfastly reject commitment to one or more of the four relationships. They aren’t ready for membership but should examine where repentance needs to take place because adversarial, transactional, and utilitarian relationships only hurt the church. We must also remind ourselves this is about membership not involvement or attendance in the local church.  There can be tons of people in the congregation which cannot presently commit to the four relationships. They may be spiritual seekers who simply want to know more about Jesus and the gospel. Others may desire to better understand our mission and values. Still others may need more time dissecting the church’s essential beliefs to see if that’s what they believe. All of us are in process. None of us have arrived. What this tells us is that while some are ready and willing to embrace church membership, others may need more time in the journey. However, if one desires membership, the call is to fully embrace four relationships – Christ, his local leadership, his local community, and the unchurched.

Last Sunday I finished my part in preaching through the book of Exodus. My philosophy in developing a preaching calendar for a Bible book is to work through the large literary units of thought. With that in mind, our teaching team spent 15 weeks on the story of God redeeming his people Israel from Egypt. It was both challenging and encouraging to me as a preacher. I hadn’t taught Old Testament narrative in a while and, in finishing Exodus, was reminded of a few things in preaching it.

#1: Get behind the story

Far too often I hear preachers work through a text like a commentary. They read a few verses, then proceed to interpret, illustrate, and apply those verses. After, they take the next few verses and do the same. This isn’t a wrong method to preaching. However, it can lead to preaching a message with disjointed ideas and miss the main idea of the text. I tried to discipline myself to get behind the story of Exodus in each of my sermons. In other words, I didn’t do any substantive sermonizing (illustration, application, etc.) until I had walked the congregation through the entire text in question. I had to trust the story was appealing enough to stand on its own. However, in doing it this way it allowed me to treat the entire text as having one truth to preach instead of several different ideas in which I might lose my listeners or at least work ten times as hard to consolidate into a unified message.

#2: Make it about God

I think the temptation in preaching Old Testament narratives is to cheapen the texts by letting the characters become mere touchstones for living or normalizing stories to parallel them with our own life situations. But these make the main aim of the author something less (and frankly trivial) than intended. The Bible is ultimately the story of God and his plan to redeem his people through the work of the gospel. That’s why a question I kept asking myself about each Exodus text I was assigned was, What does this text tell me about who God is and what he wants to do for his people? This God-focused analytic helped guard me from the errors of moralizing, generalizing, or spiritualizing, and allowed the text to speak with the appropriate gravitas it was given by the writer.

#3: Preach a New Testament sermon

Simply put, if you preach an Old Testament text like a Jewish rabbi would, you aren’t giving your congregation Christian preaching. We must preach the Old Testament as those who have the fuller revelation of the New Testament. This is where understanding biblical theology is critical. Our teaching team constantly reviewed where Exodus not only fit within the bigger story of redemptive history but made sure to take our people from Sinai to Calvary – showing that these things of Moses and Israel were a “copy and shadow” of the gift of God in Christ (Heb. 8:5). Also, if your Old Testament text is also preached in the New Testament, use it in your sermon! I felt I worked through half of the book of Hebrews in preaching Exodus because it so frequently interprets Exodus. Let the writers of the New Testament do the heavy lifting for you! It will also ensure that your feet will be firmly planted on this side of the Cross while faithfully preaching a text which precedes it.

#4: Give them Jesus

I thought about making this a part of #3 but I want to highlight it with its own point. Dr. Tim Keller says preaching is doxological. It should lead us to worship. Why? Because, as we’ve noted, the Bible is ultimately about Jesus. I can’t tell you how encouraged I was to worship Jesus through the study of Exodus. It was incredible! Indeed, I visited one of our campuses and listened to my own sermon (of all things) on the tabernacle. At the end of the message, all I could do is respond in tearful worship, grateful for our “true tent” in Jesus (Heb. 8:2). Seeing how the different strands woven through Exodus tie up in the Person and Work of Jesus is not only the task of the preacher but his joy as well! Better yet, it will also be the joy of his congregation! When you preach the stories of the Old Testament make sure they find their conclusion in the Savior of the New.