Does your family have a favorite game? Mine does.
Through the years, a game called Connect Four has remained in our entertainment repertoire. For many laughing, smiling moments my family has enjoyed this simple, but strategic, game.
In case you’re not familiar with it, Connect Four consists of a simple plastic grid with seven columns and six rows. Players take turns dropping discs into these columns trying to “connect” four consecutive discs horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The first person to “connect four” wins.
Over the years, as a mom and pastor’s wife, I have come to think of Connect Four as a vivid picture of something more than a game. Connect Four has become an incredible analogy of biblical discipleship to me.
As my husband and I raised our five children, I began to realize that our kids’ minds start out similar to an empty Connect Four grid, waiting to be filled. Discipleship is strategically teaching the truths of God and His Word in an understandable, relatable way, so that each word, concept, verse and character gets put into our kids’ own personal, theological Connect Four grids.
But, oh, this Connect Four is so much more than a game!
Every person’s theological grid will be filled up, one way or another, throughout their life. The “discs” of what our children think about God may be dropped into their lives through experiences, friends, or social media. Or, on the other hand, our children’s theological grids will be strategically filled with “discs” of truth we place in their lives.
When we intentionally disciple our kids through God’s Word, we fill their lives with a biblical worldview. For example, as we teach our kids the truths of Exodus 34:6-7 (that God is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, loving, faithful and forgiving), we are planting six “discs” of truth into their understanding of who God is. That “column” will be filled with what God revealed about Himself in His Word. As our kids grow up and go off into the world, it will not be as easy for the enemy to drop in discs of untruths – such as God is hateful, unforgiving or angry – when that “column” about who He really is has already been filled with truth.
The theological Connect Four has columns of systematic theology, like Christology, soteriology and ecclesiology. We may never use these big words with our kids when we disciple them, but we will intentionally teach them doctrines like who Christ is, what salvation is all about, and why church matters. We will also fill our kids’ theological Connect Fours with personal columns such as “What God’s Word says about prayer” and “God’s promises I have claimed.”
Slowly but surely, as we disciple our children about God and His Word, the columns will fill up, connected and interrelated. Understanding in one column will influence their understanding of another column. And wow, our faith is rich, textured and compelling when we are discipled in the fullness of Scripture.
The continuance of our faith is one generation away. What we know about God was taught to us, and this is our moment in time to teach these truths to the next generation.
We may or may not play the game Connect Four, but we must have a game plan for discipleship if we want our kids to continue following God for a lifetime.
And this Connect Four is not a game. It is the most important thing we will ever do.