Thursday, March 10, 2011

A call for Christian families to return to Christ...

It has been awhile since last I posted a book review. I'm not sure if this one counts as an official one since I've yet to complete this book. But I'm well over half-way through it and what a rich trove of wisdom it has been for me!

I have been blessed by Voddie Baucham's teaching on family before, but I hadn't gotten around to reading one of his books until now. His purpose for writing this book was to address and offer Biblical instruction for the horrifying reality of "Christian" children from Christian families departing from the faith. Maybe "horrifying" sounds a bit strong to describe the condition of today's "Christian" youth, but it's simply the sad truth. Baucham gives his readers a "lay of the land" by quoting some statistics:

"Between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teens are leaving the church by their second year in college."

"a number of researches have discovered that the overwhelming majority of our teenagers who still attend church and identify themselves as Christians have belief systems that mitigate their claims. According to researcher George Barna, 85 percent of 'born again teens' do not believe in the existence of absolutely truth. Over 60 percent agreed with the statement, 'nothing can be know for sure except the things you experience in your own life.' More than half of those surveyed believed that Jesus sinned during His early life."

Voddie goes on to quote more research statistics, but he makes a point that most would find shocking:

"...we should not be surprised that young people are fleeing the church in droves. Why would anyone remain faithful to an organization with which they largely disagree? How could anyone remain faithful to a belief system that is relegated to the outskirts of their lives? The problem is not that these children are leaving Christianity. The problem is that most of them, by their own admission, are not Christian! Hence their leaving makes complete sense. The apostle John put it best when he wrote:

"They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us, but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." (1 John 2:19)"

Baucham doesn't apologize for the "can of worms" that he opens within the first chapter. His goal is simply to awaken Christian parents to this reality and begin to turn them to the One who can equip them to raise their families in multi-generational faithfulness.

I went to bed quite depressed the first night that I picked up this book. It's not just the fact that I was reading this reality in black and white, but that I've witnessed it, experienced it, and known countless souls who are part of those numbers. Real, living souls.

Voddie Baucham writes, "Shelves are chock-full of books about new, innovative approaches to youth ministry. Others say the answer is to get them earlier and lay a better foundation by focusing on children's ministry. Still others believe the answer is to integrate the two areas do that the transition is smoother and better coordinated. This book argues for neither approach.

I believe we are looking for answers in all the wrong places. Our children are not falling away because is doing a poor job - although that is undoubtedly a factor. Our children are falling away because we are asking the church to do what God designed the family to accomplish. Discipleship and multi-generational faithfulness begins and ends at home. At the best, the church is to play a supporting role as it "equips the saints for the work of ministry" (Eph 4:12)."

"This book is an effort to put the ball back in the family's court and to motivate, correct, encourage, and equip families to do what God commands concerning the next generation. The Bible is clear about what God expects out of the home and about how it is to be accomplished. Unfortunately, most Christian did not grow up in a home that taught these truths. Thus, we continue to repeat the 'sins of the fathers.'"

Baucham is honest enough to admit his mistakes. He and his wife lived ignorantly of this truth for some time and they made mistakes in the early stages of their marriage and their children's lives. However, in his pursuit of the Lord, he was awakened to the calling and the purpose of his role as husband and father. His passion and heart for the reformation of the family is clear as he shares his experiences and meetings with broken fathers and mothers, whom he has met along his speaking tours to preach the the message of multi-generational faithfulness. He tells story after story of parents grieving over their lost children and parents who invested everything they could invest into their kids, but had completely left out every bit of spiritual substance from their lives. His words on this echo like a battle cry:

"We cannot stand idly by while our children leave the faith in droves. We cannot simply shake our heads and accept defeat. We must fight for our sons and daughters."

"There are many worthwhile pursuits in this world, but of them rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord and keep His commandments. I desperately want my sons and daughters to walk with God, and I am willing to do whatever it takes, whatever the Bible says I must do in order to be used by God as a means to that end."

Through the following chapters, he begins to lay a foundation and build upon it. He gets wonderfully practical while remaining Biblically-focussed. He discusses making Christ Lord over your life and family life, having a God with "no rivals", and thoroughly covers examples in Deuteronomy with encouragement and instruction from Ephesians (instructing readers how to watch their walk, to be good stewards of the time, understanding God's will, constantly yielding to God's Spirit, and ordering their relationships by the book).

In addition, he devotes an entire chapter to love, clearing up false, worldly views of what it is and contrasting it with Biblical, Spirit-born, Christ-exalting love. He also explains how such love in Christ overflows into and transforms the family circle. He then moves on to establishing a Biblical world views and talks about why children need it - knowing what you believe about God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics. In that same chapter, he makes some helpful pointers about watching out for legalism. Although he fully believes that "parents must diligently protect their children from ungodly influences," he makes it clear that setting "limits and rules are insufficient in and of themselves." He furthers this point in the chapters that follow, which address teaching and living the Word at home. Now, these have been some of my favorite chapters because of the way that he turns the reader to Scripture to learn how children are to be brought up in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph 6:4). He comments on Deut 6:7 ("You of them (God's words) when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up."): "Moses makes it clear that multi-generational faithfulness is an all-day everyday process."

The discipline, training, and discipleship of children is, quite literally, a 24/7 job. It requires a humble, patient, loving parent who is secure in their walk with Christ to pour into a hungry, fussy, tired, and defiant child. Although he places emphasis on prayer, I would say my only complain about his book is that he did not devote an entire chapter to prayer and intercession for children. Parents must grasp the centrality of prayer in their lives before they can dare think about taking up the task of raising a child. If that's going to mean rising two hours earlier than your children in the morning, then so be it. A mother is either going to stand on the inexhaustible wisdom, strength, and grace of God or the frailty of her own flesh.

Learning to live the Word should (ideally) start in one's single years, but Voddie knows well the pangs of having to learn along the way with a wife and children. Nevertheless, from the years of diligently seeking, he became humble enough to receive correction and then became able to apply and give it. He says that raising our children in discipleship cannot be done without first asking for and receiving their hearts in discipline and training. Otherwise, there will be no trust and respect built for them to willingly receive discipleship. This opens up a clear path into understanding how to build in the right order with one's own children. It's a reminder to redeem the time and not to reject the countless opportunities you have as a parent to win their trust and love. In the same way that our Heavenly Father pursued us in laying down the life of His Son, we are also called to lay down our lives to win our children's hearts. This is not the job of the church, youth ministry, a trusted babysitter/nanny, other friends, family - this is the calling of a father and a mother! And it takes up the entire lives of the parents! How I pray that God would continue to sanctify fathers and mothers to take seriously the souls that have been entrusted to them and correctly raise up their children in the fear of the Lord.

The chapters from his book are so incredibly full of Biblical principles and helpful methods in how to begin taking action in your home. He even devotes an entire chapter to family worship that I am looking forward to reading! I am thankful that there are leaders in the Church speaking on the reformation of the home and fighting for the restoration of the family. A few years ago, this message probably wouldn't have pulled on my heartstrings as much as it does now. The difference between then and now is that the Lord is faithful to lead His children through His refining flames and give us His heart for lost souls. An ever-increasing passion of mine has been for the reformation and restoration of Christian homes. The more I read, hear, and witness the state of modern families, the heavier it becomes on my heart.

I have been discipling a 12 year old girl for little over 5 months now. She is one of those numbers in the statistics listed above. There are many obvious factors that have contributed to why she is where she is now. However, the main point is that she desperately needs Christ, but she has absolutely no desire for Him. I was excited to begin mentoring/discipling her when asked by one of her parents, but over these months, I have faced the reality of the condition of her heart. Although she silently sits for each devotional and lesson, she is completely unwilling to receive discipleship. It is evident in her easily-distracted, bored gaze and her cold silence. Why? Because her heart was never first won by her parents. Because Christ was never displayed to her through those around her. Because, to her, Christianity is just a set of rules, not a vibrant life with the Lord of lords! Because she doesn't KNOW Christ!

I know the condition of her heart because I once walked the same way. Everything and everyone else in the world was far more appealing to me than Jesus Christ. This girl would rather be listening to the latest Lady Gaga hit than hear someone share with her about the Gospel and how worthy, fulfilling, and satisfying Christ is. The only way that I am able to truly fight for her soul is to continue interceding for her.

A friend of mine on Facebook posted a link concerning the state of the Christian home that truly resonates with what Voddie Baucham preaches. This is part of an excerpt from that link, Saddest Letter I've Ever Read, in which a young woman shares her heart with her pastor:

Our parents did not spend time teaching us to love God. Our parents put us in Sunday Schools since K4. Our parents took us to church every time the doors opened, and sent us to every youth activity. They made sure we went to good Christian colleges. They had us sing in the choir, help in the nursery, be ushers, go soulwinning. We did teen devotionals, and prayed over every meal. We did everything right. And they made sure that we did.

But they forgot about our hearts. They forgot that the Bible never commanded the church to teach children about God and His ways. That responsibility was laid at the feet of our fathers. Unfortunately, our fathers don’t have time for us. They put us where we are surrounded by the Bible. But they didn’t take time to show us that God was important enough to them to tell us personally about Him. So to us, Christianity has become a religion of externals. Do all the right stuff, and you’re a good Christian. So, some of us walk away from church. Some of us stay in church and fill a pew. Many of us struggle with stuff that our parents have no idea about because they hardly know us.

Lord, turn the hearts of the Father's back to their children! Malachi 4:6


Vanessa said...

Most of the girls I grew up with in Sunday school stopped going to church in high school, and now the number of Christians my age here in my town is incredibly small. It is a tragedy that parents have surrendered most of their parenting responsibilities to institutions.

You should post this to YLCF ( later this month as part of their "March of Books". This is a great review!

Nolan said...


Dakota said...

Hey, I just came across your blog by doing a bit of blog-surfing and I'm glad I did! I've added myself as your newest follower, and I hope you'll check out my Christian devotional site as well.

Have a blessed day!

In Christ,
Dakota - A Look at Life from a Deerstand