It was on a recent, unseasonably warm and windy evening that I found myself having to make an emergency run to the dreaded Wal-Mart. Now I know there is no better place on the planet for people-watching, but who really likes going to Wally-World? Not me. Anyway… though I was somewhat put out by the whole ordeal and my attitude was not exactly sterling in the moment, the Lord in His typical kindness used the trip for my good.

As a pastor in a relatively small town, I seldom go anywhere without running into someone from the church. This night was no different. It seemed as if every corner I turned there stood one of my church family: a single-mom wrangling a kid, a husband on a late-night ice cream run for his pregnant wife, and a newly-married couple aimlessly roaming the aisles who were lost in one another’s eyes and nearly ran over me. True story. Each of them warmly greeted me with smiles and hugs or high-fives. It was a nice little late-night reminder of the beauty and diversity and love that exists among the family of God.

I finished my shopping, checked out (rather quickly by Wal-Mart standards) and made my way to my beloved ‘93 Toyota Land Cruiser. As I pushed my recently emptied cart back to the cart corral (Don’t be that person that leaves your cart to roam. That was free! ☺) I saw yet another Pleasant Valley family – a husband and wife and their two children pushing a load of canned goods that would feed an army.

We embraced one another and after a few seconds of small talk I realized that this family was out shopping for the PVCC food pantry. This brother, his wife and children serve tirelessly, faithfully and joyfully behind the scenes to fulfill the command of Matthew 25 and feed the hungry in our city. My heart immediately filled with inexpressible joy for the gift this family is to me, my church and my city. But then it hit me, these godly parents were intentionally involving their kids and in the process they were training servants.

As parents we go to great lengths to train our children. We train them to pee in the potty, eat with a fork, throw a baseball, share and not hit and say please and thank you. It is a wearisome and unending task to teach little people the skills of life and to not be terrible, self-centered little beasts! Furthermore, as Christian parents we are given clear instructions in Ephesian 6:4 to raise our children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” What in the world does that mean? The discipline and instruction of the Lord has to entail not only the teachings of Jesus but also the actions of Jesus. Seeing this beloved family laughing and loading a mountain of green beans into the back of their truck caused me to realize that I am missing the joy of training my kids to embrace a life of Christ-like service.

Matthew 20:28 says that, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and give His life as a ransom for many.” Jesus was the ultimate servant. Jesus’ life was marked by humility and loving and serving others. He washed feet, He waited tables and He willingly died on the cross to save sinners from death and hell. He has served us in the ultimate and eternal sense.

But let’s face it – nobody naturally loves serving others. We, by our fallen natures, (children included) are selfish and self-centered. We like what is fun and beneficial for us. We are inherently drawn to praise and the spotlight. Service is a lowly, in-the-shadows life that few find appealing, and because it is absolutely contrary to our flesh, it is an often neglected discipline of the Christian life. Yet Jesus tells us repeatedly throughout the Gospels that the life of a servant is greatness in His Kingdom. (see Matthew 20:16, 20:26, Mark 9:35 and John 12:26) Do I desire to be great in Jesus’ Kingdom? Do I wish for my children that they become great in the Kingdom of God? Then I must be faithful to serve and to train my children in the discipline of Spirit-prompted and Spirit-empowered service to Jesus and the world.

Parents: while we are teaching manners and throwing the perfect fastball and the art of commode marksmanship and spaghetti twirling on a fork, let’s be mindful to train our kids to clean the toilet and scrape the plates. Teach them to serve and tell them about Jesus in the process. We are training them for greatness.

– See more at: