Biblically Functioning Homes
The third and final leg of the discipleship stool is the biblically functioning home. This is seen directly in Paul's warning in 1:10-11 concerning the urgent need for rebuking those who contradict sound doctrine:
"For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach." (Titus 1:10-11)
Hence, the teaching ministry of the elders is linked directly to the defense of the discipling ministry that is carried out in families. As Calvin notes:
"If the faith of one individual were in danger of being overturned, (for we are speaking of the perdition of a single soul redeemed by the blood of Christ) the pastor should immediately gird himself for the combat; how much less tolerable is it to see whole houses overturned?"
This may sound strange to you. We are so used to viewing discipleship through the lens of professional, age-segregated, age-appropriate ministry in the church that it is a bit awkward to think about the home being such a central player. However, Paul's words here are not only unambiguous; they are also consistent with his teaching elsewhere:
"Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land." Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." (Eph 6:1-4)
We will look at this passage again, but for now allow me to simply point out the obvious. It is fathers; not youth ministers, children's ministers, or preschool ministers (none of whom find warrant for their existence in the pages of Scripture) who are charged with the duty of discipling the next generation. Nor is this-as I have already argued-inconsistent with the centrality of the pulpit ministry of elders in the local church.
In fact, the home is actually the proving ground for elders. As Paul notes in his letter to Timothy:
"He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church?" (1 Tim 3:4-5)
Hence, it is impossible to overstate the importance of the ministry of the home in the Pastoral Epistles. Again and again we find admonitions to parents and children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:20), and instructions to elders (1 Tim. 3:4-5; Titus 1:6, 10-12) that center around the disciple-making function of the family, and particularly the family shepherd.
The Link that Joins the Other Legs
The importance of family discipleship in the overall ministry of the local church is further evidenced by the way in which the ministry of the home is interwoven into Paul's teaching in Titus. A panoramic view of this short epistle makes it obvious that the home is the hub of Christian activity. Paul emphasizes the importance of the family in evaluating potential elders (1:6-7); as an outpost to be protected doctrinally (1:10-12); as the locus of primary ministry for young women (2:4,5); and as the focus of the instruction of older women to the young.
Therefore, we see that in each of the three stools of discipleship in the local church-godly, older men and women; godly, manly elders, and biblically functioning homes-there is a link to the ministry of the home, and the family shepherd in one way or another. Hence, there is a synergy between strong Christian homes and strong churches. Thus, the ministry of the family shepherd is an indispensable element in the health, wellbeing, and future of the church. I have often quoted Richard Baxter on this matter, but his words are so appropriate here that I cannot help but do it again: "The life of religion, and the welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we shall undo all."
John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries (Complete), trans. John King, Accordance electronic ed. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1847), n.p.
Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor, Select Works of Richard Baxter. Accordance electronic ed. (Altamonte Springs: OakTree Software, 2006), ii.