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About the Author
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THE LAY OF THE LAND
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It's 10 o'clock. Do you know where your children are?" If you are part of my mom's generation, you recognize that saying. You probably heard it each evening before you watched the nightly news. The idea was simple enough: parents ought to make sure their children are in the house at a decent hour. Who would argue with that (other than a teenager wanting to stay out late)?
Today the question should be asked this way: "Do you know where your children are spiritually?" Is little Johnny biblically literate? Does Sally know the difference between virginity and purity? Are your children on the road to responsible Christian adulthood, or are they part of an alarming new trend that has seen the overwhelming majority of so-called Christian children walk away from the faith?
As I was writing this book I had the privilege of preaching a series of sermons at Palm Beach Atlantic University. In the Thursday morning chapel service I preached a message on biblical manhood. I basically walked through Ephesians 5:25ff, and issued a challenge to the young men and women to live up to and expect nothing less than the biblical standard when considering marriage. It was a powerful experience. I knew I had hit a nerve.
After the message I had an opportunity to talk to a number of students who had never heard such a challenge. Even faculty and staff members walked up to me and said, "I wish my father had shared that with me twenty years ago." Several young ladies asked if they could speak with me privately. A number of young men remarked, "You really raised the bar." The campus was buzzing.
One young woman who was obviously wrestling with what she had heard sat down next to me during lunch, took a deep breath, and began to share her heartbreaking story. She was a twenty-one-year-old junior who was wrestling with a serious relationship. She said that she loved a young man very much, but he was none of the things that the Bible clearly taught a prospective husband must be. She began to fight back tears as she asked, "What am I going to do?"
As I probed, I discovered that she had been seeing the young man for over two years. The two of them were "very serious," and although she did not say so, I would be very surprised if they did not have a sexual relationship. She had obviously been agonizing over the future of this relationship long before my sermon, but what she heard that morning pushed her over the edge. However, the relationship was so serious and had lasted so long that she wondered if she needed a support group to help her get over it. I asked her if she knew any mature Christian women who could help her through this difficult time; she did not. I asked her if she was part of a Bible study or a small group; she was not. I asked if she was attending a church; she was not.
I spent half an hour with this young woman. At the end of that half hour I tried to think about her situation from the perspective of a father whose daughter is just a few years younger than this young lady. Immediately my heart began to break. This young woman to whom I was speaking had grown up in the church. She came from a good family. In fact, her family was so committed to her and to her future that they sent her off to an expensive, private, Christian university. However, just a few years after leaving home she was not attending church, had invested two years in a relationship with a young man who had also abandoned the church, and had developed a worldview that was anything but biblical.
Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. According to researchers, between 70 and 88 percent of Christian teens are leaving the church by their second year in college. That's right, modern American Christianity has a failure rate somewhere around eight (almost nine) out of ten when it comes to raising children who continue in the faith. Imagine the alarm if nearly 90 percent of our children couldn't read when they left high school. There wouldn't be room enough at school board meetings to hold all of the irate parents.
While these numbers are astonishing, they should not be surprising. Over the past several years a number of researchers 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. Researcher George Barna, for example, discovered that 85 percent of "born again teens" do not believe in the existence of absolute truth. Over 60 percent agreed with the statement, "nothing can be known for sure except the things you experience in your own life." More than half of those surveyed believed that Jesus sinned during His earthly life!
Christian Smith and his research team at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill conducted the largest study of teen religion to date. Their research was published in a book called Soul Searching. The National Study of Youth and Religion discovered that while U.S. teens are very religious, their religion is largely ambiguous. This ambiguity is due in large part to the lack of time and attention devoted to spiritual matters compared to other activities. Smith notes:
Our research suggests that religious congregations are losing out to school and the media for the time and attention of youth. When it comes to the formation of the lives of youth, viewed sociologically, faith communities typically get a very small seat at the end of the table for a very limited period of time. The youth-formation table is dominated structurally by more powerful and vocal actors. Hence ... most teens know details about television characters and pop stars, but many are quite vague about Moses and Jesus. Most youth are well versed about the dangers of drunk driving, AIDS, and drugs, but many haven't a clue about their own tradition's core ideas. Many parents also clearly prioritize homework and sports over church or youth group attendance.
As a result, Smith and his research team found that "The majority of American teenagers appear to espouse rather inclusive, pluralistic, and individualistic views about religious truth, identity boundaries, and the need for religious congregation." In other words, the culture of secular humanism appears to have co-opted America's Christian teens.
Thus 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)
I realize that I just opened a can of worms, but this can needs to be opened. What if Christian parents are going through life convinced that their children are regenerate when in fact they are not? What if our sons and daughters are merely going through the motions as they walk through life as goats among the sheep or tares among the wheat? What if that four- or five-year-old we baptized because he or she was able to look out at the congregation and parrot the words, "Jesus is in my heart" was just saying what he or she had been conditioned to say?
Unfortunately, this is far from unusual among Christians in our culture. Thom Rainer's research among Southern Baptists (arguably the most "evangelistic" denomination in America) indicates that "nearly one-half of all church members may not be Christians." This is not just disturbing for SBC churches — it is indicative of a much larger problem. Thousands, if not millions, of people have been manipulated into "repeat after me" prayers and "if you ever want to see that dearly departed loved one again ..." altar calls without a trace of the Spirit's regenerating power.
My goal here is not to get parents to doubt their children's salvation. I am simply trying to sound a desperately needed alarm. It is as though Christian parents in America have been lulled to sleep while the thief has come in to steal, kill, and destroy our children right under our noses (see John 10:10). I didn't write this book as an expert with all of the answers. I am just a minister who has seen this alarming trend over the past decade and a father with a desire to see his family characterized by multigenerational faithfulness.
Two Sides of Life
There are two sides to my life. One is personal, the other professional. On the one hand I am a preacher, a writer, an elder in a local church, and a professor. This side of my life is rich, full, and rewarding. This is the place where people call me doctor and reverend. It is this side of my life that has taken me all over the country preaching, teaching, and lecturing. This is the side of my life that puts food on the table and brings me before thousands. It would be easy for me to get caught up in the professional side of my life. However, there is another side of me, a far more important side.
The most important side of my life is the one where I bear my most cherished titles — husband and father. There is nothing in this world that means more to me than the fact that I am Bridget's husband and Asher, Jasmine, Trey, and Elijah's father. Whenever I say that, I can almost hear people thinking, "Shouldn't your relationship with Christ mean more to you than your family life?" I guess in an ultimate sense that is the case. However, my family is the primary place where my walk with Christ takes on flesh. It is one thing for me to have a personal relationship with Jesus. However, if I spend hours reading the Bible and praying and invest the lion's share of my time ministering to others while neglecting my role as husband and father, my relationship with Christ is out of balance or, worse, inauthentic.
It is my relationship with my wife and children that gives my walk with Christ legitimacy. Jesus made this point clear in Matthew's Gospel:
But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (22:34-40)
If my wife doesn't qualify as my neighbor, who does? How could I possibly make an argument for the integrity of my walk with Christ if I can't love my closest neighbors?
John puts an even finer point on it when he writes:
The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:911)
Here again the Bible makes it clear that my earthly relationships are the proving ground for my heavenly one. If I love God, it will be evident in my love for my brothers and sisters (especially those who live under my roof).
In fact, my very status as a minister of the gospel is contingent upon how well I conduct myself as a husband and father. While there are many qualities a minister must possess, there are but two skills required of those who would serve in positions of pastoral leadership. First, one must be able to teach. Second, he must manage his household well (see 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1, and 1 Peter 5). In other words, if I am not a good husband, I am not qualified to lead God's people. Moreover, if I have not performed in an exemplary fashion as I strive to raise my children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, I have no business shepherding God's flock. "If a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?" (1 Timothy 3:5).
Unfortunately, this is a foreign concept to most Christians in our culture. Most pastoral search committees never even bother to meet a man's wife and children, let alone observe him at home or question those close enough to know how he teaches the Word to his family, leads them in family worship, disciplines, instructs, and encourages his children, or loves his wife.
This may seem like a separate issue, but I assure you it is right on point. The fact that we no longer require exemplary family life from those who lead us is indicative of the fact that we have dropped the ball on this issue from the top down. In fact the term preacher's kid has become a euphemism for the poorly behaved, rebellious, oft-neglected sons and daughters of our leaders. If our leaders are failing as husbands and fathers, what hope is there for the rest of our families?
One Man's Journey
My wife, Bridget, and I were married my sophomore year in college. I had just turned twenty years old. In fact, I didn't even have a driver's license. I remember that because I had to go get one in order to apply for a marriage license. We were two youngsters setting out on an incredible journey. We had no idea how difficult things would be, nor did we realize how soon our difficulties would begin.
When the two of us set out on this journey, we knew we wouldn't have much help. Neither Bridget nor I come from ideal family backgrounds. In fact, over the past two generations on both sides of our family there have been twenty-five marriages and twenty-two divorces, a fact that is even more astonishing when you realize that our marriage is one of the three that hasn't ended in divorce. It didn't take long for us to realize that we were going to have to look elsewhere for role models.
Ultimately this book is about our journey. I have gone from a clueless twenty-year-old kid trying to figure out how to stay married, to a semi-clueless, battle-hardened thirty-eight-year-old veteran father of two teenagers, a toddler, and another one coming soon, and our family has been richly blessed in the process. I have seen the difference that observing the biblical model can make. I have watched God bring other young couples to our door seeking advice because of the evidence they see in our lives.
More importantly, I have seen God use us in our family as those around us have watched Him work. One of the greatest compliments I have ever received (twice) came from two of my younger female cousins. In two separate discussions about marriage and family they both said to me, "I don't just want to get married — I want what you and Bridget have." I was floored! When I look at our family, all I tend to see are the flaws, those places where we fall short and need to do better. However, God sometimes uses those around me to remind me how far He has brought us.
Bridget and I have spent years trying to figure out how to keep three commitments. First, we are committed to staying together and thriving as a couple. Second, we are committed to investing in our children with a view toward multigenerational faithfulness. Finally, we are committed to doing whatever we can to reproduce the first two commitments in the lives of others. This book is just a feeble effort to keep the third commitment.
A Wide-screen Family in a Full-screen World
My family and I love movies. We mark our calendars when a new family film is scheduled to be released and do our best to get to the theater on the day the movie comes out. We also love to watch movies at home. Our DVD library is quite extensive. In fact, we sometimes have friends come by to borrow movies from us instead of running down to the local video store. We also have several friends and family members who come by from time to time for a Movie Night.
Sometimes, however, we have a bit of a problem with our less media-savvy visitors. There are times when Movie Night turns into Fight Night as debates break out. I'm not talking about debates over whether to watch a comedy or a drama; our disagreements are far more fundamental than that. I'm talking about the dreaded wide-screen versus full-screen debate. You see, we are strictly a wide-screen family. In fact, we have taken movies back to the store after discovering that we mistakenly picked up the full-screen version. However, some of our friends and family are convinced that the black edges on the top and bottom of the screen are indications that they must be missing something.
The most intense and longest running wide-screen versus full-screen debate was the one between my brother-in-law and me. This debate went on for years! Moreover, the debate persisted even after I had more than proven my point.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Family Driven Faith"
Copyright © 2007 Voddie T. Baucham, Jr..
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 The Lay of the Land 11
2 A God with No Rivals 33
3 Learn to Love 51
4 Give Him Your Heart 71
5 Teach the Word at Home 91
6 Live the Word at Home 109
7 Mark the Home as God's Territory 131
8 Enjoy the Gifts Without Forgetting the Giver 151
9 The Coming Revival: Is the Church Ready for Family Driven Faith? 171
10 A Radical Departure from the Norm 193
Recommended Reading 223
Study Guide 225
What People are Saying About This
“Voddie Baucham has written an insightful and convicting book challenging parents to prioritize the spiritual development of their children. Only read this book if the salvation and sanctification of your children is of the utmost importance to you.”
—Tony Evans, Co-founder and Senior Pastor, Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship
“Every Christian parent ought to read Family Driven Faith. I’ve never encountered a book on family life that compressed so much biblical teaching, provocative thinking, sound theology, and practical help in one volume.”
—Donald S. Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean, School of Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; author, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life and Family Worship
“Sending young people out into the world without a biblical worldview is like sending an athlete onto the field without a playbook, says Voddie Baucham. Yet few Christian parents even hold a biblical worldview to pass along to their children. Family Driven Faith gives parents winning principles to disciple children who will grow into spiritually mature adults capable of influencing all spheres of society.”
—Nancy Pearcey, Author, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity