ABCs of Family Discipleship—Nurture Your Roots

Discipleship Truth: God encourages His followers to remember their family heritage and to build a spiritual legacy. Moses exhorted the Israelites to treasure their identity as God’s beloved, chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6-9). After they settled into the Promised Land, Joshua commanded all 12 tribes to preserve property boundaries and maintain their family lineage (Joshua 24:13-15).

True Story: My father regaled us with story after story from the research he was doing. He hoped to trace each branch of the family tree as far back as possible. Our varied and colorful ancestry spanned across a millennium and several continents. The most engaging story began one night at a tavern. The last thing “Edward” (a young British university student) remembered was a jolly conversation with a group of classmates. The Royal British Navy found Edward and several friends inebriated and forced them onto a ship in the nearby harbor. This common practice for Naval recruitment in those days was called “impressment.” Edward awoke the next morning to find the ship heading west in open water; he was trapped!

Each day aboard the ship was filled with regimented drill and sharp discipline. Armed guards watched the new recruits as they learned their new duties. Over time, as the vessel made her perilous journey across the Atlantic, they fell into the ranks of the military. Edward chafed at his capture and was determined to escape.

One day he overheard two officers talking about an upcoming stop in Boston to replenish supplies. This might be his only chance! As the boat approached the harbor, Edward launched himself over the bow of the ship into the cold water. Swimming for his life, he ignored a volley of shots from the Navy guards and headed for the dock.

After he reached the dock, Edward stumbled into a beautiful, young girl who had witnessed the whole scene. Still visible to the ship, Edward needed cover. The girl grabbed Edward and rushed him towards the family wagon as he explained his plight. “Felicity” pointed to the back of the wagon and jumped in the front herself. The driver raced Edward and Felicity out of town to the family farm outside Boston. Soon Felicity’s father hired Edward to work as a farmhand. Over time he won over the family—and Felicity’s heart. Shortly afterward they were married.

Today I’m proud that Edward and Felicity form one branch of my family tree. This story in particular inspired courage and awe. Could I be so bold in a similar situation? I hoped my distant relatives transferred some of their dauntless gumption to me! I now know that ancestors in my family tree matter—whatever tales of success or failure each life revealed. For the first time I saw myself as part of a bigger picture; I belong to a family line that has spanned many generations. I realize that my life choices and my faith in God really matter! What legacy will I leave to impact future generations?

Action Step: Today, family roots are often neglected and easily forgotten. Help your children truly appreciate their ancestors! Describe the travails and triumphs of those who labored before them. Invite grandparents to relive stories from their own childhood. Place visual reminders around your house that preserve the family heritage—old photographs, antiques, and other memory-rich items. Draw a “family tree” diagram. Be sure to talk about your child’s spiritual legacy, too!


Portions of this article taken from the ABCs of Family Discipleship booklet, available here.

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