Something is missing in evangelical circles and that something is our children. Statistics show that children raised in evangelical (and I use that term as loosely as the statistical studies do) families are leaving the church at an alarming rate. In his book, Family Driven Faith, Voddie Baucham addresses this issue head on, placing the blame for these departures squarely at the feet of the parents. He begins by bringing the problem into focus by presenting the above mentioned statistics and illustrations from his own experience as a father, pastor and speaker. In today’s society, parents have failed to instruct their children what the Bible teaches, but have instead abdicated this responsibility to the church, the Sunday School, and the youth group.
Basing his book primarily on Deut.6:4-9, Baucham encourages Christian families to accept the responsibility that is theirs in raising children. We shouldn’t be satisfied in teaching our children how to accomplish things in school, sports, society, etc, but rather to instill the faith of the gospel in them through active, purposeful parenting and biblical discipleship. The responsibility of discipleship rests with the parents and should include instruction in such things as maintaining a biblical worldview. As Baucham states, “Teaching our children to think biblically in these five basic areas [our view of God, man, truth, knowledge and ethics] will go a long way toward establishing a foundation for biblical thinking in their lives” (pp.76-77).
While overall the book has many good, insightful things to say, the chapters focusing more on the family unit as a family (as opposed to the family unit as a part of a church) were quite good. The chapter on creating and maintaining a family worship time in the home is especially good and perhaps worth the price of the book by itself. In it, he discusses the need for a family worship time and gives the following seven very practical and sound steps to establishing this worship time (pp.139-142):
- Family worship must be born of conviction.
- Family worship begins with the head of the household.
- Family worship must be scheduled.
- Family worship must be simple.
- Family worship must be natural.
- Family worship must be mandatory.
- Family worship must be participatory.
He follows these seven steps with seven blessings that are a result of family worship (pp.142-148):
- Family worship honors God.
- Family worship will draw your family closer to God.
- Family worship will draw your family closer to one another.
- Family worship will lay a foundation for multigenerational faithfulness.
- Family worship will expose spiritual weaknesses in your home.
- Family worship will serve as a training ground for smaller children.
- Family worship will make corporate worship more meaningful.
There were a couple of things I especially appreciated in this chapter. The first was his pointing out that family worship serves as a training ground for little children. It took Sarah and I a little while to realize this. We would be trying to train Jeremiah to sit still in church, but weren’t requiring the same thing when we had our family prayer time. As a result, Sunday mornings were rather difficult to say the least. Once we started training him to sit and listen during our family prayer time, we found that his “sitting still” abilities were improving in church also.
The second thing I appreciated in this chapter was what he said about family worship laying a foundation for faithfulness in future generations. His statement that “Children who grow up in homes that had daily family worship will see it as the norm” (p.144) rung true for me. I can still very distinctly remember our family devotions we had while I was growing up. As each child was able, we would take turns reading the Bible, reading a little Bible story geared towards children, and praying for missionaries. The impact of this family tradition will perhaps never be fully known, but I am forever grateful for my parents teaching me the importance of family devotions.
Beyond this chapter, the author had some good things to say regarding the interactions within the family, the importance of the father leading in the home, and the vast importance of teaching children the Bible. Unfortunately, I found much of the book to be long on illustrations & sage platitudes but short on Biblical explanations or defense. For example, on pages 159-161, he discusses the need for men to prioritize our families, but he fills almost the entire two-page section with his illustration, devoting only one single, small paragraph to basically saying “Don’t sacrifice your family on the altar of prosperity.” He encourages men to ask the tough questions, but doesn’t give guidance as to what those questions are. Much of the book follows this style of being wide in its scope of topic, but quite narrow in defending the author’s stance.
Further, I found much of the book echoing the style of many an evangelist I’ve heard that would use illustration after illustration to back up his point or soapbox issue, but not going into Scripture to defend it. Even when he states, for instance on p.161 regarding the question, “Should Mom work outside of the home?” that we should first “seek to understand what the Bible teaches on the matter,” nowhere in the following 5-page section does he even bring what the Bible says into the equation. The one time he does quote Scripture, it is seemingly in support of women doing what they must do to be a Proverbs 31 woman, even working outside the home.
Perhaps the area where he misses the mark on a greater level is when he discusses the family in the context of the church, mainly in the last two chapters. He is very correct when he states his case that the current situation in American churches is incredibly bleak when it comes to what our children are learning. His question, “What role does the church play in the process [of discipling children]” is exactly the question we must ask ourselves. He focuses much of his effort in arguing against the current approach to family ministry and specifically youth ministry. However, in arguing against the current approach, he throws the baby out with the bath water, so to speak, in rejecting the segregated approach entirely. The three problems of the current approach he lists aren’t very well argued from Scripture, if at all. In discussing the first problem, that there is no clear biblical mandate for the current [i.e., segregated] approach, he doesn’t present an argument at all, but rather spends the section seemingly excusing those who do follow the segregated approach. In fact, as he correctly points out, Scripture doesn’t mention anything one way or the other on the topic. (Arguments for or against the regulatory principle is a whole other topic entirely!)
The second problem as he sees it, that the current approach may actually work against the biblical model, is a good argument. But here again, this same problem could be applied to any approach used. Any approach may work against the biblical model, but that doesn’t mean that it will. His argument from Titus 2 regarding older women teaching the younger assumes that this teaching is done in the context of a Sunday School class. His question, “How can the older women instruct the younger women if everyone is in a Sunday School class with people within nine months of their own age?” is a bit of a straw man argument. Further, the same question can be reworded “How can older women teach the younger women if they are not meeting together in a setting conducive specifically for this purpose?” Here again, he fails to draw upon Scriptural support to argue against the segregated approach.
Ironically, in the last chapter and perhaps without meaning to, he twice contradicts everything he said about the segregated approach being wrong. Up to this point, he has made statements such as “We do not divide families into component parts….We see the church as a family of families” (p.191); or “Another distinctive of the family-integrated church is its insistence on the integration of all ages in virtually all of its activities.” (p.193) But then on page 197, he begins an illustration of something that happened at a Father’s Council meeting, a monthly meeting just for men! The purposes of these meetings are for “fellowship, prayer, vision casting, church business, etc.” How can a church who supposedly includes the entire family in everything justify such meetings? Perhaps it is because they see the importance of a “segregated” time for men to learn how to lead. But this then begs the question, “If a segregated approach is unbiblical, where do they get the biblical support for such meetings?” and secondly, “Why are these types of meetings deemed wise, but yet meetings of older and younger women are not, or even youth meetings?” The second contradictory example is found on p.209 where, in discussing the fact that many homeschool families are not evangelical, he recommends that a church start a Sunday School specifically geared toward homeschoolers. This does not line up with what he espoused earlier regarding the segregated approach.
Overall, there are many things in the book that need to be said and said repeatedly and loudly. Unless we as Christians in general wake up to the reality that our children are not learning of God through either our direct teaching nor by indirect example through our lives, what hope do we have of their continuing in the Christian faith? I would recommend this book (with some reservation) since there are several things that can be learned from the book, especially in the area of family worship, which I thought was the best chapter in the book. However, unless our teaching and beliefs are lined up solidly with Scriptural support, we are simply following another fad or method, no matter how great it sounds.
(Note: I wrote this review about a year ago, but I’m posting it again as part of Crossway’s Homeschool Book Review Program. Thanks to Amy at Crossway for sending a review copy which I’ll be giving away in July.)
Filed under: book review, Christianity, Crossway, dad stuff, family, parenting | 2 Comments »