“One of the biggest hindrances to world missions is the inability of parents to release their children to the Lord,” says Fred Market, a leader in the global missions movement. And the longer I am in missions and work internationally, I see this as true. Not just for young people but even parents releasing adult children. As one of my friend’s mom said, “I think missions is great and I support it. It’s just that I don’t want my daughter in missions.”
I was reading in Matthew this morning when Jesus called his disciples. We see first that Jesus calls Peter and Andrew. They left their notes and followed him. Then Jesus comes to James and John. The fishing business is a family one. It’s Father and Sons written on the side of their boat. That is until Jesus comes along. It says this:
“They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (Mt 4:21-22).
I’m imagining what their father is thinking. In a sudden moment both sons left him in the boat to follow someone they probably didn’t know too well. Was their father proud? Angry they left him so abruptly? Disgusted to see them chasing after what he might have perceived as a waste of time? We don’t know. Just all of a sudden one day he has his grown sons by his side, and the next he doesn’t. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Zebedee to “release” them. I’m not sure if his sons even asked.
Even Jesus had to deal with parental figures on his quest to fulfill God’s work. Jesus had been teaching, healing and deliver people from demon spirits. Crowds followed him and the family was feeling embarrassed by his actions. In Middle Eastern culture it falls on the brothers to protect the family honor, especially the oldest brother. Unfortunately Jesus was the oldest brother. But they came together anyway and “went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:21). Their trump card? Mom. This was not a family visit. This was using mom to manipulate him into submission. You were supposed to listen to your mom. Always.
While the religious leaders were crying out that this madman Jesus was demon possessed, Jesus mother and brothers stood outside and sent someone to go get him. But Jesus in his brilliance saw right through their plan and turned it into a teaching moment. “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mk 3:34). They should’ve known better.
And then there was my friend Gunila. She has had multiple children enter into missions and she blessed them. But there’s new levels of releasing your children to the Lord. Her son Dan while preaching the gospel in Iran was captured by authorities. When Gunila heard her son was in the worst prison system in all of the country, she prayed this, “Lord, keep Dan in prison until every purpose of yours is fulfilled.” As Dan jokes later, “Thanks, mom. Glad there were others praying.”
But then Dan saw guards come to the Lord through years of watching Christians suffer in the prison. And when it came time for Dan to defend himself in court, instead he preached the gospel. He was handed two death sentences. You can read the rest of the story here: Cell 58 by Dan Baumann. Gunila went on to write a book called “Releasing Your Children to the Lord.”
It’s hard for parents to release their children to the Lord. And it’s hard for children to serve with their parents disapproval over their head. But for those parents who do release their children, I believe the return comes back many times over.