Speech is truly powerful. It can be used in many arenas, but chief among them is the effective molding of another’s ideals, goals, and values. Speech shapes lives. And this is by God’s design. God himself creates by speaking. He speaks to us and effects change in us by His Word. In fact, it is only by Christ (His Word made flesh) that we can change. Moreover, He expects His image-bearers to shape each other by their speech. Christians are called to speak God’s Word to one another to mold one another into godliness.
The use of speech for godly shaping isn’t a one-time deal. It is a repetitive and consistent endeavor. More specifically, endeavoring speech is the primary tool in leading young people toward God and away from sin. Deut 6:4-9 tells us God has entrusted to parents the power of effective conversation. Deut 6:4-9 also calls parents to use it to lead their children to God.
This presents a problem… aren’t younger generations anti-conversation? Wouldn’t they rather text, or tweet, or tik-tok, or DM, or snapchat, or avoid conversation all together? Regardless of today’s popular mediums of connectivity our best medium for leading young ones to Christ is simple, everyday conversation. To this end, here are a few biblical principles concerning effective conversations:
1- Fill your heart with love for God – Deut 6:6 says God’s Word should be on the parent’s heart. This predicates God’s call to parents to repeat His Word to their children. If God’s Word is not on your heart than you cannot love God and you cannot lead someone to God. If something else occupies your heart, that is what you will talk about and lead others to. 1 Cor 15:33 reminds parents there is no such thing as “neutral” talk. Our words either lead to God or away from God. Do your words represent a heart full of God’s Word and full of love for God?
2- Fill your day and home with conversation about God – Deut 6:7-9 goes on to say that conversation about God should be a regular part of everyday life. Whether families are at home or on the road, resting or doing chores, the topic of conversation is God and His Word. Everyday conversation about God prepares a child to trust in Christ. What are the topics of your at-home conversations? Do you converse with your children while at home?
3- Encourage any and all questions – Deut 6:20-24 presents a vignette of a son asking his father about the Israelite’s way of life. His father answers him by recounting God’s redemption of Israel out of Egypt and to Himself. Parents ought to encourage questions from their young ones. Parents ought to answer each question with truth tied to God as our Creator, Lord, and Savior. Do you cherish your children’s questions as chances to help them understand God?
4- Actions do speak loudly – In 1 Thess 2:8 Paul revisits his time at Thessalonica. His love for the fledgling church drove him to teach the gospel and share his life. To Paul, both his teaching and living were mediums to shape the infantile faiths of the new church. A love for your children will lead you to teach them the gospel. Your actions will then play out the gospel: Honoring God as Lord. Forsaking sin. Pointing to Christ as redeemer. Repenting of sin and growing in faith. Imitating Christ’s righteousness. Do your words and actions mirror the gospel?
5- Repetitive and concise conversations are helpful – Proverbs is written by a father to mold his son. It is filled with pithy statements on how to wisely live. They were meant to be read aloud, often, and memorized. Short, repetitive, and similar conversations with your children help sink God’s truth in. They will see the world through the lens of God’s truth. When talking with your children about spiritual matters, do you find yourself having deep, drawn our monologues? Why do you think that is?
6- Start tough subjects by talking about God and His design – Eph 4:17-19 tells us that sinful living comes from a lack of knowing God. When the mind knows God the heart’s goals and values are molded toward godliness. Difficult subjects (like sex, friendship, cellphones, science, drugs, autonomy, etc.) ought to be started with an acknowledgement of who God is and His design for His world. Faithfulness is a matter of knowing who to be faithful to. Do you use God’s Word to reveal God to your children? Do you misuse God’s Word in any way?