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Blog / How to Parent Your Kids to Become Passionate Jesus Followers: An Interview with Phil and Diane Comer

How to Parent Your Kids to Become Passionate Jesus Followers: An Interview with Phil and Diane Comer

Phil and Diane ComerHow can parents be intentional in raising their kids to be steadfast followers of Jesus? How should the home be a holy place for children?

Bible Gateway interviewed Phil and Diane Comer (@intparents) about their book, Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting (Zondervan, 2018).

[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Why We Actually Crave the Wrath of God by John Mark Comer]

What is your description of a passionate Jesus follower?

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Phil and Diane Comer: A passionate Jesus follower is not a perfect human. Nor is he flawless in following the ways of Jesus. Because the Bible does not give us a nifty definition, we must conclude that followers of Jesus do not look, talk, think, or live exactly alike! Instead they follow Jesus in the reality of everyday life.

As always, it’s Jesus who says it best: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mt. 22:37).

A. W. Tozer called such people a part of “the fellowship of the burning hearts.” George Barna calls them Revolutionary Spiritual Champions; Bill Hybels coined the term: fully devoted followers of Christ.

You get the idea! These are people who are all in, unreservedly seeking first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33)

What do you mean, “for real faith to thrive, each generation must become the first generation”?

Phil and Diane Comer: With this statement we’re urging parents to make sure their children don’t miss “their own soul-changing experience with a God who redeems.”

A first generation Christian is one who experiences God. Or as evangelist Luis Palau puts it: “God has no grandchildren, only children.”

How does the Bible urge husbands and wives to inspire their children?

Phil and Diane Comer: The short answer? TOGETHER.

In Proverbs 6:20-23, God gifts us with a beautiful metaphor: the Lamp and the Light. It’s a picture of a home in which both parents are giving guidance, teaching, correction, and instruction. This gives a child security and a clear path to the ways of God.

What do you mean “the home should be a holy place”?

Phil and Diane Comer: Continuing with the Lamp and the Light, we explain how the Hebrews would have instantly understood this metaphor in their everyday lives. This same lamp that represents the father in the home, was used to light the Holy Place in the tabernacle: the place where God meets with us.

In the same way, the home is to be a holy place where our children can draw close to the light and love of God.

By creating an atmosphere that’s safe and loving, where each member of the family is treated with respect and tenderness, where forgiveness is sought and granted quickly, your children are able to find a refuge from our conflict-riddled world that knows so little about the way of Jesus.

Unpack the chapter titled, “Goals versus Values.”

Phil and Diane Comer: The point of chapter 6, Goals versus Values, is to remind parents that as followers of Jesus, we have one primary goal for our children. We find it first stated in Deuteronomy 6:5, that our kids would “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

But we have many values! Some of those will be good, biblical values, but others will be legitimate ways we hope our children will adopt as their own.

The danger happens when we forget and allow the goal to be overshadowed by our values.

What’s the biblical difference between punishment and discipline?

Phil and Diane Comer: Great question! Godly discipline is formative, not punitive. The Greek word translated discipline actually means to instruct, chasten, correct, educate. While the word for punish refers to penal infliction and retribution.

Punishment says, “You get what you deserve.” It’s characterized by rejection and humiliation. Discipline, on the other hand, says, “Let me help you change.”

The long-range intent of godly discipline is to equip your child to obey God over his own willful impulses and compulsions.

What is The Box you speak of in the book and why is it important?

Phil and Diane Comer: The Box is simply a tool parents can use to ensure the emotional, spiritual, and relational thriving of their child. It’s based on the idea that parents can intentionally create an environment in which their child can flourish—even (and especially!) when discipline is needed.

The Box brings Jesus into the situation, as well as godly discipline. It reminds us to order our child’s world so he or she can succeed at what we’re asking of them. And then it adds all the fun, affection, and affirmation we daren’t forget lest bitterness creep in to infect our child’s tender heart. We urge parents to tighten all four sides of The Box simultaneously during those inevitable times of testing. Rather than grow sullen and withdrawn, your child will lighten up with relief.

What are a few of the items on your list of Ten Things You’ve Got To Teach Your Kids?

Phil and Diane Comer: We urge parents to create a list of ten values they want to not only pass on to their kids, but even see become real in the way they choose to do life. Then, by a process of reverse engineering, we start teaching and training our kids in these areas long before it’s time for them to leave home.

Perhaps the most unexpected item on our list is #10: A Biblical Theology of Suffering. Who thinks of that when their child is three? Or even 13? This value comes from Diane’s story. How she began to inexplicably lose her hearing when she was 26, and how she almost lost her faith in the process. All because she had a faulty theology of suffering that didn’t allow the concept that a good God would allow her to go deaf. She wrote her story in He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy with God by Learning to Listen.

How should parents guard against showing love and grace to a rebellious child to such a degree that it becomes destructive enablement of the child’s rebellious behavior?

Phil and Diane Comer: Ruth Bell Graham wisely reminded us that, “God has trouble with his kids too!” Yet his is a love that watches and waits for us to come home. We urge parents to become compelling leaders rather than tyrants when their teenager questions the boundaries they’ve lovingly erected. And to discipline out of close relationship with their child.

God tells us that his discipline is a sign of his everlasting love for us! He then adds the beautiful admonishment to respond to discipline with earnest repentance (Revelation 3:19).

Which tells us that there’s a time to hold the line with our children in the great hope that they will ‘come to their senses’ (Luke 15:17).

What do you have to say to parents of grown children who are now wayward?

Phil and Diane Comer: Pray! Stay alert to the Spirit so that you can be used by God to pray your child back to Jesus. Pray specifically and biblically. Passages like Ephesians 6:10-18 and Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 3:14-20. This is God’s heart for his people!

At the same time be discerning and wise, using the “gracious words” (Luke 4:22) that so disarmed people who came into contact with Jesus.

What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?

Phil and Diane Comer: Where do we start? Diane is relishing Ephesians 3:19 in the New Living Translation. It’s Paul’s prayer for the people he loved: “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

As a worship leader, Phil’s favorite verse for the past 40 years has been Psalm 28:7 (NASB): “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart exults, and with my song I shall thank Him.”

What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App?

Phil and Diane Comer: We couldn’t have finished Raising Passionate Jesus Followers without it! This is our go-to resource for finding just the right verse, then following the lead of the references to explore further. Diane keeps the App handy on her phone, while Phil uses it every time he prepares a sermon or teaching. The work you’re doing at Bible Gateway is a gift for parents, teachers, preachers, and anyone who wishes to study the Scriptures in depth.

Raising Passionate Jesus Followers: The Power of Intentional Parenting is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

Bio: Phil Comer, with assistance from his wife Diane and his son, John Mark, was the founding pastor of Westside: A Jesus Church, a large and vibrant church that welcomes millennials in Portland, Oregon. After handing the lead role over to his son, he and Diane launched Intentional: Raising Passionate Jesus Followers conferences as a way of teaching and training the hundreds of young parents in their church who were now raising families of their own. With his 40 years of pastoral experience and counseling, and lessons learned through his own parenting, he and Diane are bringing parents hope and practical help to accomplish their God-given task of raising children who will walk with God in vibrant fiath. Phil has also worked with Luis Palau ministries around the world. He and Diane have been married for over 35 years and have four grown children.

Diane Comer is an author, speaker, and co-laborer with her husband Phil in planting Westside: A Jesus Church, a large, vibrant, and growing church in Portland, Oregon. She and Phil have also founded Intentional, a conference for parents whose great hope is to raise passionate Jesus followers. Diane mentors young women growing in their faith and seeking to become better parents. She is also the author of He Speaks in the Silence: Finding Intimacy with God by Learning to Listen. Diane and Phil have been married over 35 years and have four grown children and a growing family of delightful grandchildren.

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Filed under Books, Discipleship, Family, Interviews