Archive for March, 2010

According to George Barna, there are approximately seventy-five thousand books that have been published on parenting in the last ten years. Authors from Dr. Spock, Dr. Leman, Dr. James Dobson, Dr. John Townsend, and a host of other secular and Christian authors with PhD’s, and other initials behind their names have written books on parenting; even entertainers such as the Facts of Life actress, Lisa Whelchel have written books on parenting.  I recently saw on Fox News an interview with a Killer Whale trainer who has written a parenting book using the techniques for training whales! I wonder when the Dog Whisperer will write one on parenting using dog training techniques. I guess shock collars are out of the question.

Obviously, there is a tremendous need or there would not be so many books written about parenting.  However, all of the seventy-five thousand secular and even Christian books do not measure up to the parenting book that God has written, the Bible.  No matter how biblically solid a Christian parenting book is, it does not and cannot replace the Word of God. The Word of God is he authority on all of  life, including raising children. It must be the first book we turn to.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ~ 2 Timothy 3:16-17

What is Scripture’s purpose? To make a believer competent and equipped for every good work.

Competent for what? Equipped for what type of good work?

In this case, it can certainly apply to making every parent competent and equipped to raise up your children in the teaching and admonition of the Lord.  The task of parenting that God has given us is beyond our own wisdom and abilities to do, so He has given us His Word to make us competent or adequate to His task. In addition, His word will equip us with the tools, the wisdom, and strength to train up children.  Is this not true?

Scripture will teach, rebuke, correct, and train us if we only study it, thirst for it, crave it, and we obey it.  The precious gold nuggets are not found on top of the ground; rather, a miner must dig deep into the ground in order to get the gold nuggets. It is the same with the Word of God; we must be in, deeply in, the Word of God daily, as much as we crave food on a daily basis. We should crave the Word of God in our parenting, how to teach children, how to discipline, and how to get to the hearts of our children. The Word of God is sufficient.

12For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. ~ Hebrews 4:12

Read that verse again. Did you see it? Do you believe it? God’s Word, the Bible, gets to the root problem and issues of our lives, our parenting, and the issues of our children.  If you want to know what makes your child tick, then start with the Word of God. It will describe the fact that your child’s nature is sinful before birth, and that folly is bound up in the heart of a child. It will describe appropriate ways for instructive and corrective discipline. It will reveal your child’s unique idols that his heart is manufacturing, as it will mine and yours. It teaches us what instruction we must give our children in order to be godly. If this verse is true generally of life, then it has to be true as it relates to parenting. The Bible is a book that has parenting principles and application in it. It will not, however, reveal these precious golden truths to the lazy, only to those who, like the wise miner, dig deep into the rich soil of God’s Word.

Lou Priolo in his book, Teach Them Diligently, asks these hard questions of us as parents and leaders at Trinity:

  • How well do you know the Scriptures yourself?
  • How often do you refer to the Bible in the course of normal conversation with your children?
  • How adept are you at teaching and relating Scriptures to them in everyday life?
  • How effectively do you use the Scriptures to reprove (convict) them of their sin? (Do you reprove in such a way that causes them to revere God’s Word or to disdain it?)
  • How consistently do you use the Bible when you correct them?
  • How do you use the Bible to train your children in righteousness to help them to do better in the future? I would add: what training goals do you have for each of your children? How are we preparing them with the necessary knowledge and tools to walk with the Lord?

This list is to challenge us, not make us give up because we don’t know enough. We all need to know the Scriptures better, and increasingly apply them to our family lives. It’s not about where you are, but the direction and progress you are making in having His Words in your heart. 

The inerrant, infallible Word of God is our authority for all of life. It is sufficient to bring about our sanctification including parenting. We commit as a church to equip and disciple parents and children with the precious Word of God, how to use it to grow as a parent, and how in turn to disciple your own children. It is the primary text book, and user manual for parenting. It must be the book that we put ahead and by which we judge all other parenting books.

One last encouragement:  Start today to examine Scriptures relating to parenting and children. Do your own study, and see what God’s Word says about our tasks as parents and as a family. Start with Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which is called the Shema. What does this passage say about what we are to teach? Who should it affect first? How and when are we to teach His Word to our children?

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Core Value # 4: Family Equipping:  God has called the church to equip parents to lead their families spiritually.  (Ephesians 4:11-16; Acts 2:42-47)

Ephesians 4:11-16 

11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

As aforementioned in our teaching and posts on this blog, we are calling the families of Trinity Baptist Church to rise up and lead our respective families spiritually.  Through Scripture (see previous blog posts), we have tried to demonstrate the responsibility and privilege of parents to raise their children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This responsibility rests primarily on fathers, but where there is no paternal spiritual leadership; mothers and guardians should assume this role.  The goal of this spiritual leadership should be to see the children grow to a saving faith in Jesus Christ, to grow the child to spiritual maturity and to mobilize them to Christian adulthood.  While the family ultimately has the duty to lead them, the church has a responsibility to equip the family to lead.  If we, as a church, merely call families to this responsibility and do not equip them, we have failed as pastors.  As seen in Ephesians 4, pastors and teachers are to equip the saints for the work of the ministry.  The work of ministry partly involves leading one’s family.  This is why in the qualifications of eldership, a pastor’s family life is so important.  In order to lead the congregation in this endeavor, the pastors need to be leading their families as well (1 Timothy 3:1-7). 

In the family equipping model, leaders (i.e. Timothy Paul Jones) describe the Biblical model of Family Discipleship as a river with two banks.  The river is the child and the two banks are the church and the family.  Just as the two banks partnership helps maintain a course and perimeter for the river, so should the partnership of the church and home be for the child. There is a partnership to seek to accomplish the goal of  bringing a child to salvation and spiritual maturity (the results depend upon the Lord).  We believe, the church has a responsibility (seen in Ephesians 4) to assist in this evangelistic and discipleship process.  Therefore, we see our responsibility in three primary areas:

1.  To Challenge—We will seek to keep God’s vision for the family before the people of Trinity Baptist Church and to hold individual families accountable to seeking to be faithful to God’s Word.

2.  To Encourage—No family is perfect and no family has everything figured out (including our staff families).  Our responsibility for encouragement will be manifested by seeking to provide models and resources that inspire and motivate families, and also to point them to Jesus Christ, the One whose blood covers all of our shortcomings. As we fail, we must look to Christ.  The truth of the gospel keeps us both from pride and from despair.

3.  To provide a spiritual greenhouse that fosters family leadership—We desire to provide ministries and events that will encourage family unity and discipleship, not replace it.  We believe that Scripture permits age-segregated ministries for the purpose of spiritual growth at certain times during congregational life.  Also, we hope that an environment of encouragement is produced from the Word of God being taught, true worship being experienced and authentic Christian community being lived out together (Acts 2:42-47).

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” ~ James 1:27

The Lord intends for the family to be the primary environment for spiritual growth and the parents to be the primary teachers for their children. The church is the place where the whole family is equipped with knowledge and training for life and godliness. There is basically no division between church and family. One flows into the other.

Our church’s primary focus is to equip the family. In other words, the church is not a surrogate parent to primarily teach children the truths of God, while the biological parents do everything else.  The church is an equipping center where we equip not only children and students, but we primarily equip parents who then are the God-called teachers of their children. 

However, what about those children and students whose parents do not lead their children spiritually? What about the child who is dropped off at church on Sunday mornings or Wednesday nights, while their parents show no desire or interest in the things of God? What about the child or student that depends on another family to bring them to church, because his/her parents would not? 

If our main focus is to put parents in the driver’s seat of discipling their children, what about these “spiritual orphans” whose parents are unregenerate, ungodly, apathetic, and even antagonistic toward Christ and his church? 

Take a moment and put yourself in the shoes of these precious “spiritual orphans” who love Christ, faithful to the body of Christ, and yet must come alone because their parents are lost or don’t care to involve themselves in their child’s spiritual life.  Can you imagine the embarrassment, shame, or feelings of “aloneness” they might feel when they see their friends and their parents share together spiritual blessings and connections; being able to talk to their parents about struggles spiritually.

What happens to them? “The simple answer is they’ll continue to experience church and discipleship just as they would have if we’d never developed a strategy integrating church and home.” (Shift, Brian Hayes, p. 131).

We must intentionally minister to these children and students. How?

1)      Our teachers and volunteer leaders must know their students and their family situation. They must compassionately and intentionally reach out to them in order to be the example of Christ in their lives. These students may need extra phone calls or emails; extra encouragement from God’s Word, and reminders to be steadfast. Plus, they need to understand the gospel as it relates to their family, along with the importance of prayer with them, for them, and leading them to know how to pray.  They may simply need a ride. Most of all, they need godly models.

2)      Our teachers and volunteer leaders must reach out to the parents of the children they teach by establishing a relationship with them, and truly ministering to them.  The common ground is their child.  What are the needs of this child’s parents? How can I as a church leader help meet those needs? How can our church assist these parents? What are some ways that I can begin to build a relationship with them? To love them as Christ loves me. I must have the heart of Christ even as He looked into the crowd and was moved with compassion because the people were like sheep without a shepherd. We must have that same motivation of compassion for our children and their parents.

3)      Teach our own children and our students to be aware of their friend’s parental situation. Teach them to pray for them, and find ways to minister to them. Make sure your child includes them in their activities, the church’s activities, and looks after them. They may simply need a ride. Additionally, teach our children to look after those in the children and student ministries that are “spiritual orphans” even if they are not close to them.  Christ calls us to love and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.

4)      As parents, we must be aware of these children and students who lack any spiritual foundation at home. We must be willing to open our doors and invite them for Sunday dinner. When they hang out with your children at your home, take the time to talk about spiritual things, and model Christ-likeness.  Be aware of your child’s friends and their home life.  They may have loving parents, but they are lost. This is where you can step in and be the example of Christ for them. Additionally, you must reach out to their parents with the gospel by building bridges and finding common ground so that you may minister the gospel of Christ.

5)      Our children and student ministries will intentionally look for ways that we can best minister to these children.  There may be times when we turn to you and ask for your help to mentor these precious children.

We cannot de-emphasize our priority and strategy to equip parents simply because we will have children who do not have parental involvement. Instead, we must work hard and intentionally to love them, minister to them, and reach out to their parents with the grace of Christ.  “Never underestimate the God factor. God takes kids from apathetic, traumatic, and even tragic homes and turns their spiritual lives into a triumph.  When a child needs primary faith influencers and Mom and Dad shirk their responsibility, the church (Trinity Baptist) will lead the way” (Shift, Brian Hayes, p. 131).

As a partner of Trinity Baptist Church, it is your responsibility as well as mine to reach out to these “spiritual orphans.” Its not simply the teacher’s responsbility, or the student pastor or children’s pastor, its yours. So, say it with me: “Its my responsibility to minister.” It does not matter whether you are single, married with or without children, a senior adult, or a student, we are the body of Christ, and we are called to be faithful stewards of all that God has given to us.

How to Treat Your Children so That They Have Good and Right Thoughts about God

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Core Value #2: Primary Faith Influencers

  • Primary Faith Influencers:  God has called parents to be the primary faith influencers of their children. Biblically, the primary role of leading the home rests on the father. Where there is no male spiritual leadership, the mother should assume this role.

(Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Psalm 78; Ephesians 6:4; 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12; Malachi 2:15; 4:6)

Faithful to Raise Godly Offspring…Who is Responsible?

 In Malachi, God refused to accept the offerings of His people. Why? Because of the condition of their families! Husbands and wives were divorcing and being faithless to one another. God is speaking to His people about the condition of the family! With this as context, the Lord states His intentions for marriage and the family in Malachi 2:15:

 “Did He not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

The Lord seeks godly offspring. He created the family (Genesis 1-2) as the place in which children would grow to be nurtured in the ways of the Lord. The family is the primary environment in which God intends to raise godly offspring.

The simple question is this:  Who are the ones primarily responsible to raise up godly offspring?

There is only one biblical answer which emphatically places this great task on the parents, and fathers in particular. Here are just a few verses regarding God’s emphasis on parents as the primary teachers of children.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Exodus 10:2

Exodus 12:26-28 speaks of explaining to your children when they ask about the symbols of the faith (the Passover in context).

 “And teach them (the statutes of the law) to your children and your grandchildren…and that they may teach their children so.” (Deuteronomy 4:9-10)

 “You shall teach them (God’s words) to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 11:19)

 “He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children.” (Psalm 78:5-6)

 Isaiah 38:19

 “Fathers…bring them up (children) in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4)

 2 Timothy 1:5 – Timothy was discipled in the Word in the absence of a saved Father. His mother and grandmother taught Him the Word of God.

However, this has not been the case in the past, nor I would add in the present Christian church. Far too often, we (the church and parents) have relied on Sunday School, children and youth ministries, and “professionals” in the church as substitutes for the home training of our children. 

The Historical and Current State of the Problem:

1)      Parents, and specifically fathers, have become disengaged from the task of discipling their children.

2)      Most churches have encouraged this by the belief that all discipleship has to take place in the church building two days a week, and that teachers and ministries in the church can do a better job of training our children.

 However One of the Tragic Effects of this is noted below:

“Barna reports that one of every two teenagers abandons  the church during college…61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged…”  – Fowler, Raising a Modern Day Joseph. 27

This is shocking to me? Is it to you?

What are we intending to do:

Our children and student ministries are taking steps to follow the biblical truth that parents are the primary teachers/disciplers of their children. The children and student ministries are here to equip the saints (parents) to do the work of the ministry (their children).  We want to inform, involve, and equip parents to be the primary teachers of their children. The church is obviously an integral part of this process of discipleship, but we must place the focus on parents.

We will be taking steps to communicate these important truths from Scripture, and planning ways we can best equip our parents and families.

Gospel Focus:  Jesus and the cross must come to have first place in everything, including family life and all aspects of church ministry.

And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. ~ Colossians 1:18

 Too often Christians only see the gospel as it pertains to salvation. The gospel: the truth that we are sinners before a Holy God who has sent His Son to die on the cross to pay the penalty of sin, and on the third day, he arose from the dead with power over sin and death.

 However, the cross of Christ must be the very center of our lives beyond our new birth.  We can never, ever move beyond the cross. Yes, we must grow in our walk with Christ in knowledge and understanding, but this can never mean that the cross of Christ becomes elementary to us.

 The cross of Christ is the center, “the blazing center” of the gospel as John Piper states.  The cross of Christ is the “ethic of the gospel. It models the behavior that God wants his people to imitate” (Gospel-Powered Parenting, Farley).  Without the cross, we have no other truth from God, much less power to live out God’s truth in our daily lives.

 The cross of Christ is the key that continues to unlock areas of growth in Christ; it is the key that the Spirit of God uses to remove our idols. The gospel continually reminds us of our utter dependence on God; it reminds us that we daily depend on His grace and mercy.  The cross of Christ reminds us that if we are to be his disciples, then we must totally and wholly submit our lives, our family’s life, and our church’s life to His Lordship. Through the cross of Christ, we learn how to forgive, to sacrifice and expect nothing in return, to keep us humble, and to uplift us in our world of woe.  It is radical, continual transformation of our lives.

 Jesus said:  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me (Luke 9:23). 

We are to take up our cross daily! The gospel must have its daily fruition in our families, in our finances, work life, recreation, relationships, in all decisions, joys and sorrows, and in the mundane moments that make up our lives.  It compels us to disciple our own children. It compels us to disciple other believers.

 The Gospel is the power for our parenting. What does this look like?

  •  We must not focus on simply having moral children. 

Tedd Tripp states: “A change in behavior that does not proceed from the heart is not commendable, it is condemnable.” The arrows of our teaching and discipline must be aimed directly at the heart of children.  Those arrows must be dipped in the blood of the gospel teaching our children that they have idol producing factories in their hearts that can only be changed by the grace of God, and that everything which proceeds from their mouths and their actions stems from their hearts. If we focus on assuming every child is saved, and getting correct responses and approved behavior, then we are producing hypocritical Pharisees who are good and clean vessels on the outside, yet filthy on the inside.

  • We must be Christ-centered, not children-centered.

Tragically, too many Christian families are more children-centered than Christ-centered.  When this is the case, we compromise the cross.  I have seen it way too often where families will compromise their faithfulness to the body of Christ, stop or cut their tithing and giving, stop praying as a family, all because of the activities of their children. 

Two brief but REAL examples:

  • Christian family attended a Pop Warner football meeting with their coaches. When the coaches told them that practices and games would be on Wednesday nights, this “dedicated” Christian family stated: “Well, there goes church.”  This is a family who does not understand the gospel!
  • Another Christian family became sporadic in attending church after years of faithfulness, and seeing growth in their children when the parents were carting their children to music lessons, dance, and sports activities.

       We are child-centered when we compromise God’s Word for our children’s activities!

   William Farley states:  “The symptoms of God-centeredness are numerous…”

  • Willingness to say “no” to a child when it is in the best interest of the child.
  • A marriage in which Dad and Mom are united before their children, even when they disagree about a parenting direction.
  • Willingness to make our marriages more important than our children.
  • Willingness to be different; God-centered homes will be radically different.

 Finally, William Farley lists Seven Ways in which the Gospel Affects Parents:

  1. The gospel teaches Christian parents to fear God.
  2. The gospel motivates parents to lead by example.
  3. The gospel centers families in their male servant leaders.
  4. The gospel teaches and motivates parents to discipline their children.
  5. The gospel motivates parents to teach their children.
  6. The gospel motivates parents to lavish their children with love and affection. The gospel defines what this love looks like.
  7. The gospel is the solution for inadequate parents.  We are all woefully inadequate as parents. Gospel-centered parents understand this and run to the cross daily for grace, forgiveness, strength, and hope.

Quoted above and highly recommended for every parent and leader is the book:  Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William P. Farley

Jesus and the Gospel must have preeminence in the life of our Family ministry, church, and in the lives of our families.   The Gospel has the power to save, yet it is also the “blazing center” of our sanctification. We are called to be disciple-makers. Parents discipling their children; believers discipling other believers. Growing people is what God has called each of us to do, and the Gospel is the fuel. Are we Gospel-centered as a church? Our households?