Disciple the mind, heart, and will

We can teach our children and students a lot of biblical information–and so we should. We should acquaint them with as much Scripture as possible; it is the only means of making them wise for salvation in Christ and living in a way that is pleasing to Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We want their minds to know, understand, and be able to rightly interpret the Bible. However, as Jesus’ words remind us, it is not enough to simply receive knowledge about God.

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me… (Matthew 15:8-9) And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matthew 7:26-27)

In this 7-part series, we're spotlighting each commitment with a summary, an excerpt from the book, examples of applications of the commitment, and recommended resources.

Commitment 5: Disciple the mind, heart, and will.

SUMMARY

For children to personally know, embrace, and apply biblical truth, we need to disciple the mind, heart, and will. Toward that end, we must diligently instruct the mind, providing them with the proper tools and skills needed to rightly read, study, interpret, and apply Scripture.

While fully acknowledging that only God can bring Spirit-wrought, grace-dependent faith in Jesus, and lead us to walk as His faithful disciples, it is our responsibility to engage the heart—to guide, inspire, and implore children toward a personal and sincere response to God’s truth.

Finally, true saving faith will be evidenced by a growing desire to walk in obedience to God. While this is dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit, God does expect His children to exert effort, choosing daily to trust Christ, submit to Him, and follow in obedience. Therefore, we guide, challenge, and encourage students to specific Christ-like thoughts, words, and actions.

BOOK EXCERPT: 

Though we do not always see the result of our teaching—the informing of the mind with truth—we must help children understand how to apply the truth to their own lives. If they own that truth, embracing it in their hearts, the Holy Spirit will bring opportunities to act on the truth, engaging the will.

Sometimes parents and teachers emphasize one dimension at the expense of the others, to the detriment of the child. For example:

  • If we concentrate on conforming the will to God’s standard of behavior without paying attention to the heart beneath the behavior, children will tend toward a faithless self- righteousness, instead of depending on Christ’s righteousness.
  • If we emphasize the heart but neglect instructing the mind, we can ignite and fuel feelings that, while genuine, are not in conformity to God’s nature or will.
  • If we stress instructing the mind, but give little attention to how God’s Word is to be responded to, acted upon, and lived out, we risk giving children the impression that God and His Word are irrelevant to their lives.

Mind, heart, and will—all three are essential.

APPLICATION FOR CHURCH:
  • Encourage your children’s workers to read Teaching to Change Lives by Howard Hendricks or Creative Bible Teaching by Lawrence Richards.
  • Distribute the Truth 78 Core Training Series document on Leading Small Group Application to your children’s workers. 
  • Incorporate an “application time” (a time to engage the heart and influence the will after the Bible lesson) in your Sunday school and/or midweek classes.
  • Distribute the Truth 78 Core Training Series document Preparing and Teaching a Lesson to your children’s workers. 
  • Encourage your teachers to listen to the Truth78 seminar The Importance of Biblical Literacy in the Next Generation and to read the article Encouraging Active Minds in the Classroom.
  • Train your children’s workers how to have application discussions with children.
  • Gather your children’s workers together to listen to small group application and small group leading seminars and discuss ideas for implementation in each classroom. Reaching the Heart: The Importance of Application and Small Group Leading: Nuts and Bolts 
  • Encourage your teachers to listen to the Truth 78 seminar Teaching to Reach the Heart
  • Make the parenting books listed below (Application at Home) available in your church library or bookstore. Consider gifting new parents with one of these books when their first child is born (or the first child born since attending your church).
APPLICATION FOR HOME: 
  • Read one or more of the following books: Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd and Margy Tripp, Teach Them Diligently by Lou Priolo, The Disciplemaking Parent by Chap Bettis, Gospel-Powered Parenting by Bill Farley
  • When you “walk by the way” make practical application of Bible truths or verses to everyday situations.
  • Teach the catechism to your children. (See Discipleship through Doctrinal Teaching and Catechism for rationale, ideas and resources.)
  • As a couple, make a strategic plan as to how you will disciple the mind, heart and will of your child. Be specific and start with one simple idea.
  • Use The Inductive Bible Study Handbook in your instruction of older elemenary children and youth.
  • Have a regular family devotional time.
RESOURCES:

Recommended resources for Christian education directors

Recommended resources for parents