Todd Ahrend, author of In This Generation, said, “The possibility that Christian parents are the number one hindrance to world evangelization is truer than we would like to admit.”1 Just as the quest for a mate keeps many from obeying God, an unsupportive, unenthusiastic family may also stand between you and God’s will. This is one of the toughest obstacles to overcome. There are countless stories of family members who manipulated loved ones using every emotional, physical, scriptural, and psychological strategy. Could you live in a foreign country knowing your family disapproves?
Two Types of Parents
Parents who say no to their son or daughter living missionally fall into two categories, those who mean it and those who don’t. The ones who mean it try to leverage everything in their power so their child will not leave. They leverage finances, vehicles, inheritances, or even holiday get-togethers. If you are still young and under their authority, I would advise talking with them and waiting until they are softened to the idea. In the meantime, pray for them. Keep them informed. Introduce them to key people who hold your values.
The other category of parents say no as an indicator to see if their child is serious about this decision or it’s just another phase. They may relate your desire to do ministry to poor decisions you’ve made in the past. The difference with this type of parent is they are being consistently informed and open to what God is doing in your life. They see you taking responsible steps toward living missionally. Parents tend to grow more confident in their child’s decision when they see them maturing. The majority of parents fall into this second category. To hold fast in difficulty of family, keep them informed. If your parents still don’t concede and never consent to letting you go, you must obey the Lord first. If He leads you to go, cling to the promises of God. You are not alone.
If parents are an obstacle for you, here are seven ideas to remember as you ask God to change their hearts:
1. Ask them to pray with you for a few months about your plans.
2. Ask them why they feel as they do. Seriously consider their reasons. Since they raised you and know your character better than anyone else, they may see major problems with your plans that you hadn’t realized.
3. Seek counsel from an older Christian who knows your family. They may have some insight about how to approach your parents.
4. Introduce them to a staff member of the agency you would choose, and let them ask questions.
5. Express your gratitude for the things they have provided for you in the past.
6. Show appreciation for the sacrifices they will be making when you go.
7. Let your family know that you haven’t just dismissed their objections.4
When speaking about family, Jesus stated, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26, esv). Do you actually have to hate your family to follow Jesus? Of course not. He means there will be things you do in your pursuit of obedience to God that makes it look like you hate your family. Your priority, love, and devotion are now to the kingdom of God. To the world this can look like hate. Missing your brother’s marriage so you can minister to the Middle East. Missing holidays with family so you can serve at the homeless shelter. Missing funerals, births, and birthdays for the sake of the gospel reaching the nations. This is the cost of discipleship. This is the cost of obedience. Following Christ affects two people: the one following God and the person who loves that one.
By Josh Cooper