Years ago, when I served in a college campus ministry, some of my most fruitful interactions with students occurred in the most unlikely places: walking to the parking lot, hanging out at the pool tables, “studying” in the favorite lounge area, or sitting in my car in the driveway after giving someone a ride home. It is a little humbling to realize that all the hours I poured into studying and preparing messages to teach to the group had perhaps less long-term impact than those little unplanned conversations with individuals that “just happened” throughout each day.
Mark 3:14 reveals something of Jesus’ disciple-making strategy. It tells us that Jesus’ purpose in selecting His disciples was “that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach.” We tend to emphasize the sending out to preach and completely miss the fact that what came before being sent was simply being “with him.” It was during the long dusty walks between destinations and in the boat rides across the stormy Sea of Galilee that Jesus’ school of discipleship took place.
Robert Coleman puts it this way: “Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program–just letting his disciples follow him… Knowledge was gained by association before it was understood by explanation.” Thus we have verses like Luke 9:18 “Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him.” That doesn’t sound very “alone” to me! But it was precisely because Jesus gave these men access to His private prayer times that eventually they asked Him “Teach us to pray…” (Luke 11:1).
And it is precisely this principle of discipleship through association that makes parenting so powerful. Whether we intend to or not, we as parents are constantly teaching our children, for better or for worse, simply because they are with us and are observing our reaction to stress, our attitudes toward people, our devotion to God, our struggles with sin. And though we are called to intentionally instruct our children in the ways of God, we also do much informal teaching around the dinner table, on the car ride to church, in the grocery store, and snuggled up on the couch before bed. So we would do well to be mindful of all that we are modeling and teaching our children in those unplanned moments of driveway discipleship.