Learn, Love, Live
As we prepare to restart our children and youth ministries, I have been spending time asking: what is our goal? How do we successfully disciple the next generation of Jesus followers?
Certainly, we want our kids to learn the Bible. It is God’s perfect word, our source of truth, and our instructions on how to live according to God’s will. Learning the Bible is a good start on the road of discipleship, but is just knowing the Bible enough? Probably not. We also want our kids to live out what they learn from the Bible. But is “good” behavior all we want? I don’t think so. In addition to knowing the Bible and living out our faith, I think a third important ingredient to discipleship is love. Love for God, and love for others. I think love is the connector between what we learn and how we live. Discipleship is about these three parts—helping people (children and adults) learn the gospel story of Scripture, love God, the author and subject of that story, and live out their faith as part of the ongoing gospel story. Learning usually comes first, and in time our understanding leads us to a deeper love of God and a desire to live according to his will. Living according to God’s will leads us back to the Bible to better understand how we accomplish this goal.
This learn, love, live structure of discipleship is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9, known as the Shema. And while it was intended as instruction for discipleship between parents and children, its ideas transfer to discipleship of all ages.
“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”
The foundation of discipling is knowing who God is. We need to understand who God is because we cannot love who we do not know, and we cannot live out what we do not know. Discipleship begins with knowing, but it progresses from there.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.”
God’s intention is that once we know who He is and what He has done to restore our relationship with him, our hearts will be full of gratitude and love for Him and others. That is why Jesus taught us the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others. Love is what connects what we know from the Bible and how we live it out each day. But love requires action—the final piece of discipleship.
“You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”
What we know and love about God will show in how we live our daily lives. The goal is not to just know and love God, but to extend that love to our families, friends, and communities. We want people to live differently because of what they have learned and who they have come to love. This is discipleship, and it is our goal for ministry: to know God, to love God and others, and to live according to His will.