“There are many worthwhile pursuits in this world", admits Voddie Baucham Jr, "but few of them rise to the level of training our children to follow the Lord and keep His commandments." Then the author’s convictions literally burst through the pages: "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.”
But what will it take to do 'whatever the Bible says' with regards training our children to walk with God? This is the question that Family Driven Faith - a sane, insightful, and at times provocative volume - seeks to address. Baucham's answer is that the Christian community must return to the ‘biblical’ vision of parenting: a vision that entrusts parents with prime responsibility for nurturing their children's faith and enlists the 'home' as the strategic location for that training.
Baucham's sketch of this biblical vision is articulated winsomely and presented logically. The opening two chapters (“The Lay of the Land” and “A God with No Rivals”) offer a diagnosis of contemporary parenting troubles – not least in the church – and in particular addresses the root malady of 'idolatry.' This all too common ailment within the walls of Christian homes and hearts is often nurtured by parents, who encourage their children to pursue the gods of Sports, Academic Achievement and Money.
For a remedy, chapters 3 and 4 prescribe a good dose of Deuteronomy 6. Through Moses speech to the Israelites on the verge of the Promised Land centuries ago, parents today are reminded of their twin priorities. First, they must love God with all their hearts; and second, love their neighbor as themselves. Of course, this must all be a genuine devotion to God's glory and our family's ‘neighbour’s welfare - not heart hypocrisy - as chapter 4 goes on to warn us.
If all of this seems too abstract, chapters 5 through 8 get down to the nitty-gritty. What does a home free of idols, committed to loving God and each other really look like? Baucham responds that the home should be a place where parents are 'teaching' (ch 5) and 'living the word' (ch 6), where family worship is central (ch 7), and where wealth, achievement and status are peripheral (ch 8).
Naturally, since Baucham is considering biological family as the driving force for child-faith development, it is only lastly (ch 9-10) that he addresses how this vision might impact upon the church family. What would our churches look like if 'multi generational faithfulness' were the priority of parents as well as pastors? And what are the obstacles that must be overcome to getting there?
All throughout these ten chapters of captivating melody, Baucham strikes many intriguing notes – notes which could easily sound the departure for books in their own right:
· the necessary pre-eminence of the husband-wife relationship over that of parent-child.
· the subtle, yet increasingly prevalent anti-child culture within the modern day church ('You have how many children?!!')
· the odious threat of legalism within families who practice family devotions; or
· the urgent need for churches to take seriously the biblical qualification for leaders of managing 'the household well' (how many search committees inquire about the quality of a prospective pastor's family devotions?)
In addition, some of Baucham's points are bound to be downright contentious with some. Most controversial is his conviction that the a-typical, age-segregated, church youth ministry often mitigates against the biblical approach of parents taking prime responsibility for their child’s spiritual development. Furthermore, Baucham lifts the lid on the discordant subject of home-schooling, challenging the Christian community to either adopt this approach in greater numbers, or at least show more sympathy toward those who employ it.
Whether you agree with Baucham or not on these matters, one thing you will appreciate is his candid dialog with would-be objectors. All the ideas in Family Driven Faith have been road-tested over many years and seminars before finally being committed to print. The author truly has heard your objections and frequently offers counterpoints to them throughout the book.
This apologetic approach, along with the practical suggestions at the end of each chapter, makes Family Driven Faith an excellent ‘discussion starter’ among parents about marking out their homes as ‘God's territory.’ If we take Baucham seriously, it may also be a serious point of departure for church leaders, as they seek to think biblically about the discipleship of children. For Baucham's central point cannot be easily parried. Scripture does call for parents to take responsibility for training their children in righteousness. The biblical vision for children is not primarily a church driven faith, but a family-driven one.
But will the contemporary church continue to ignore this obvious fact? Or will Baucham's biblical prescription increasingly shape the pattern of church ministry in the years to come?