Going Deeper with God: “Training Up” Disciples (Proverbs 22: 6)

El Shaddi bannersIn Eat this Book, Eugene Peterson teaches us to chew on a passage of scripture, digest it, and then put it to use in practical ways. Our early Christian fathers and mothers called this process Lectio Divina. In this passage we learn about “training up” disciples.

Proverbs 22: 6; Making Disciples

“Start children off [train up]  on the way they should go,
    and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”


As regular readers of this blog know, I am fascinated by Eugene Peterson’s wisdom about scripture and his poetic way of writing about it.  Recently, I learned this amazing fact from one of the sermons in the book As Kingfishers Catch Fire:  the admonition to “train up” a child in Proverbs 22: 6 literally means “to rub the gums of a newborn child with oil before it begins to suck its mother’s breast.”

Peterson says that this intimate expression for welcoming a child into a new and sometimes harsh world later was used for dedication rites for houses and Temples.  Later it came to describe what we do for infants and children to get them started right in life. Peterson adds that “train up” in the original language of Scripture carries overtones of warmth and celebration. And intimacy – for what could be more intimate than a mother nursing her child?

Intimacy is a word that has been hijacked by the world to refer to sexuality. The word intimacy means “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.” It is the kind of feeling that infuses close families, long-time friendships, welcoming neighborhoods, and groups and communities that serve others. Of course it should also be the glue that holds disciples of Jesus together!  Peterson makes the point (see quote below) that making disciples is not so much formal church programming.  It is more the encouragement of welcoming friendship with which we greet every person we meet, with which we treat every member of our church, and with which we view our helping and advocacy roles in society. “Training up” is not  just for children; it is a  life-long process; it is how we make disciples.


♥   Think over the idea of “intimacy” in the church.  Intimacy requires and expects honesty, vulnerability, forgiveness, and a listening spirit. Does your church promote intimacy? How can you make that happen?

♥ Peterson urges us to pack up our advice, our quasi-counseling, and our intellectualizing of relationships and instead engage with others in a way that shows them Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to poke you when you give advice or counsel or try to prove a point and instead give you an opening to instead care for another.

♥  Has it ever struck you that all our growth experience from a child to a senior citizen are for the purpose of maturing our relationships with God and others (as Peterson notes below)? Reflect on your pivotal growth experiences. Have they impacted your relation- ships with God and with others?  Share that story in person or in writing with a friend or group.  


“Training up has little to do with advice giving, counseling or analyzing. Rather it is initiated through person example and caring.  It means that every time you  engage in an act of faith in Christ, you are training another person. Every time you love another in obedience to Christ’s command, you are educating someone else.  Every time you forgive someone because Christ forgave you, you are assisting materially in the Christian growth of that person  Every time you hope because Christ has promised his help, you are opening up new possibilities of growth in another person. 

. . . . The most significant growing up that any of us do is growing as a Christian.  All other growing up is preparation for this growing up. Biological and social, mental and emotional growing are all ultimately absorbed into growing up in Christ. The human task is to be- come mature, not only in our bodies and emotions and mind, but also in our relationships with God and other persons.  . . . We are in this growing up business together, training and being trained to live maturely in Christ”( Eugene Peterson, As Kingfishers Catch Fire, pages 192-193).

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