December 17, 2017

Jesus And Kids

I was already feeling rather sick to my stomach. Maybe it was the fact that Ohio heat and humidity run hand-in-hand, and this day both were running in the mid-90s. Maybe it was the fact that I had only gotten three hours of sleep the night before—to go along with the three the night before that, and the night before that. Whatever it was, I about lost it all when I received the following email.

It appeared on my phone with this attention-grabbing headline: The Movement That Is Sweeping The Country! Disciple Like Jesus … For Parents.

I knew I was making a mistake by opening the email. Just hit delete, Jeff, and pretend you never saw it. Just walk away. But no, I took the bait. I opened the email.

Great sickness ensued.

“Not What Would Jesus Do … What Did Jesus Do?”

I get announcements for new books quite often, and most of them I just delete. I was not so lucky with this one. I kept reading.

Over 2 million teens, youth, and young adults from Christian families are leaving the church each year, never to return. Rather than talking about what would Jesus do, the authors talk about what Jesus DID DO. That is, the actual discipling techniques that Jesus used in His earthly ministry. Find out how you can turn your children, family—and church—around with the method that the Master used! 

Join the many people who have had a paradigm shift on this issue.

This is not just a book, it’s a movement!

I could ignore the grammatical error (Not, “Over 2 million”, but “More than 2 million”) and the mixing of italics and capitalized letters acting as speed bumps to my eyes. But I could not ignore these words: “the method that the Master used!” Method? Are we talking about Jesus here? What method did he use?

Not only do these authors think that Jesus had a 1-2-3 formula for making disciples, but they have now taken this formula and applied to parenting today’s “teens, youth, and young adults” from Christian families. (I can only assume they mean teens, youth and young adults in American Christian families. Do we know that teens, etc., in Somalia are leaving the church each year, never to return? What about young adults in Iceland? Or youth in Chile?) How convenient. We all know this is the whole reason Jesus reduced the Gospel to a method in the first place: To help parents keep their wayward kids in church where they belong.

But would this book actually be able to deliver on its promises? Let’s listen to what some of the endorsers have to say:

Disciple Like Jesus For Parents is a must-read for every parent in America. In an age when Christians routinely lose their children to depravity by the end of college, [the authors] show us how to stop the trend. Their practical application of Biblical principles of discipleship to parenting can rescue an entire generation from disaster. I urge parents to read this book and pass it along to every parent you know.”

So it is now routine and a trend for Christians to lose children to depravity by the end of college, is it? I suppose one way we could fix that would be to keep our kids from going to college. We could see if the church would have programs for them seven days a week—depravity-free programs, that is. Thankfully, however, these authors have come up with a practical application of biblical (small “b” is preferred, thank you) principles of discipleship for parents so we can rescue an entire generation from disaster. All with the white of an egg! Amazing.  What else?

“Biblical and practical, this model equips parents with the knowledge of how Jesus discipled His followers and the encouragement to disciple their children in the same way. In doing so parents will discover how they can provide the key ingredients their children need to live a life that glorifies God. They also will learn how, when and why it is important to protect their children from the wolves that seek to destroy them.”

I can’t believe that in all the years I have been reading the Bible I missed the model of how Jesus discipled his followers. And this model shows key ingredients parents need to help their children glorify God. I hope it lists the amount needed of each ingredient. I mean, a recipe that just says “flour, eggs, sugar” is not as helpful as one that says “one cup of flour, two eggs, half a cup of sugar.”  And oh those wolves…

“Disciple Like Jesus has offered me encouragement and inspiration for following in the Master’s footsteps, rather than trying to make my approach to discipleship up as I go along.”

Oh, we don’t want any ad-lib discipleship plans now do we? After all, Jesus had a model he followed. Principles. Plans. Bullet points. Checklists. All of which are now available in practical ways for parents to use to keep their American children from slipping into depravity and leaving the church.

The only problem is, this is all a load of crap.

First of all—and you can argue with me all day long on this—I do not see that Jesus ever showed one ounce of concern about how to raise children. That wasn’t even a point of discussion in his day. Life did not stop for half an hour each day so parents could listen to James Dobson tell them what they were doing right or wrong. Children under the age of twelve were counted on the same level as domesticated animals. They were just another mouth to feed. When they kiddies reached the age of adulthood—usually twelve years old—the boys went to work in what would be their “career” and the girls would be married off, if possible. If not, they were sold as indentured servants or slaves, both to bring some cash to the father and to give him relief from feeding and clothing them. When Jesus said we have to become little children to enter the kingdom, he was not saying we need to become sweet, innocent little angels. He was saying we need to see ourselves as worthless, because that is exactly what a child was—worthless to the family. And only when we see ourselves as worthless—see ourselves as dead—can we be given worth, raised to life. As long as we hold on to the idea we have something to offer to God we are living a fool’s life.

Back to parenting Jesus’ way. Where are these principles for discipleship we are told can be translated to help us keep our kids in church? Here is just a taste to whet your appetite. (These are taken from the web site www.disciplelikejesus.com.)

Limit entertainment; remember that following Jesus is all about teaching and ministering to others.  When you choose entertainment, make God glorifying choices.

Teach your children to teach; give them opportunities to teach the family.

Have family worship/devotions each day at home, in the car, at the park, wherever you go.

Be aware of modern day “wolves,” they are numerous. Take proactive measures to protect your children from these wolves. The best way to protect your children is to be with them wherever they go.

Ho boy. I think you get the idea. Don’t let your kids watch bad TV, listen to bad music, read bad books. You determine what is bad, of course. Be sure to do a lot of teaching, because that is the best way we learn. Have family devos every day—instead of your children enjoying time at a park, have them sit down so you can teach them. And fire up that helicopter—you need to be with your children wherever they go. Never, ever leave them by themselves to make up their own minds, to explore the world on their own. After all, we can’t trust them or the world to teach them the right things.

Yes, that will keep your kids in church where they belong. Jesus? Who cares about Jesus. We are using his principles to make our children into lifetime church members. Remember, Jesus had a plan and a model for all of his discipling. We just need to know his plan, not him. His always stuck to his discipleship plan.

Only he didn’t. As we read the Gospels, it seems Jesus makes up each “lesson” as he goes. If the situation calls for a scripture, he knows which one to use. If it needs a story, he makes one up. If it needs his silence, he doodles in the dirt. Thing is, and maybe I’m wrong in this (but I don’t think I am), I never see Jesus doing the same thing twice. There goes his model, there go his principles.

Ok, I will shut up for now. If you want to order Disciple Like Jesus For Parents, have at it. I’m sure there are good tips in there if you look hard enough.  But leave me out of that discussion. I am seeking the Jesus who had no models, no principles, no plan for making disciples. He could care less about conventions, traditions and “doing things the way they were supposed to be done.” He sat down with a Samaritan woman—two big no-no’s right there—and told her things she already knew. He shooed away many would-be disciples by saying things like, “I don’t have any place to lay my head,” “Don’t bother burying your dead father,” and “You need to eat my body and drink my blood.” And then came the capstone to his family values campaign: “If you want to follow me, you have to hate your parents, your spouse, your kids, your siblings.” Guess who won’t be invited to speak on any family-oriented radio program?

Jesus is not interested in making your family better, stronger, nicer. He came for those who are broken, forgotten, forsaken. If your kids aren’t turning out picture-perfect, congratulations: You’re normal. Yes, making disciples is the call of Jesus for us all. Yes, making disciples of your children is important. But the truth is there is no sure-fire plan to guarantee your kids will become sin-free. All we can do is introduce them to Jesus and trust the Master to walk with them in their life.

Comments

  1. I understand the concerns in this post, but I think we need to see it in context. The goal, although the “methods” and focus may be misguided, is to counter the other extreme that has taken place: parents expecting the church, and especially the youth pastors, to handle all things spiritual for their kids. All many parents think they need to do is just get them into the building once (maybe twice) a week!

    I think this book (I may be wrong) is an attempt to get parents to recognize their responsibility.

    • I would guess that it is another attempt to make money as most such programs/books/DVDs/studies are–under the guise of delivering help to parents. It also sounds like simple control to me–does that make disciples?

    • I have to say, going by those snippets, that it sounds like a recipe for driving your child out of the Church.

      24/7 monitoring of who they’re with, where they’re going, what they’re watching, what they’re doing, plus they have to churn out little progress reports on teaching their family, friends, and any misfortunate stranger they manage to corner in the supermarket or bus queue?

      No wonder when they escape to college they leave all that behind with a sigh of relief! It’d be like getting out of prison!

    • It seems like the goal is to get kids to stay in church after they leave home and not watch rated-R movies. If that’s the case, then the “responsibility” parents will recognize will be just that end- Jesus optional.

      Parents who think very highly of Jesus generally want their kids to as well, and it seems weird that those parents would expect someone else to do the discipling work. On the other hand, for parents that admire church activity programs for behavior modification, it probably really is their best option to drop their kids off at the building and leave it to youth pastors to do that work. After all, their jobs depend on people thinking highly of church.

      The second is more what this program (oops…”movement”) sounds like. A bunch of church-driven program-worshipping garbage. Problem: “Over 2 million…are leaving the church each year, never to return.” Yep, no mention of Jesus there. Writing’s on the wall from sentence one.

  2. Awesome! Love this!

  3. Sorry Jeff: your last paragraph is too honest, too straightforward, too uncluttered by churchianity and Jesus-blessed-method. Smear some cliche’s and manipulation on it and see me tomorrow …. also, I didn’t see any “purpose driven’ tags on it….

    on a more sad note: I’ve seen NO SHORTAGE of Jesus discipled THIS WAY books lately; many of them are some kind of pyramid scheme on stain glassed steroids….this topic is crying out for a thread all its own, but could Jeff take a whole WEEK of this ?? Probably not…

    Greg R

  4. “But the truth is there is no sure-fire plan to guarantee your kids will become sin-free. All we can do is introduce them to Jesus and trust the Master to walk with them in their life.”

    This is so true. I was talking to my friend, who has a 14 year old daughter like I do. We both recalled how much influence parents and other authority figures had on us when we were 16. Which was close to zero if not negative, in that something being forbidden automatically became more desirable. After a certain point, they are beyond your control and you can only hope you raised them right. And I am cognizant of the “preacher’s daughter” syndrome in which being too strict at home seems to create extra wildness when the kid escapes it.

    I think there is a season under the sun for everything, and the season between getting out of college and being married with kids is a season in which church just isn’t prominent. Ideally, we’re all gung-ho for Jesus our entire lives, but in reality our activity in a church is something that ebbs and flows through our lives.

    • JoanieD says:

      Fish writes, “Ideally, we’re all gung-ho for Jesus our entire lives, but in reality our activity in a church is something that ebbs and flows through our lives.”

      I agree, Fish. I think the best that parents can do is love and enjoy their children. They can certainly explain why the Christian faith is important to them and hopefully their lives will show some of that unconditional love that Jesus talked about. But they also need to expose their children to all kinds of art, culture, religions so that their children are not STUPID! Their children need to know how to make good decisions on their own and they cannot do that if the parents hover over them their entire lives. There is a fine balance here and parents who end up with children who love and respect them and treat others kindly deserve much praise.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And I am cognizant of the “preacher’s daughter” syndrome in which being too strict at home seems to create extra wildness when the kid escapes it.

      Preachers’ kids crack up in one of two ways. Either they conform completely their entire lives (and often become more “pure”) or rebel completely the first chance they get (like a rabbit escaping a trap).

      Marilyn Manson or Fred Phelps, nothing in between.

    • “After a certain point, they are beyond your control and you can only hope you raised them right. ”
      The thing is, they are *always* beyond your control. I have seen 5 year-olds toe the line when they are being watched and then completely disregard the “rule” at the first opportunity. At no point do we “control” their hearts or minds (the only important parts in this discussion). As the people with the most consistent contact with them, we do have influence on them. The difference between influence and control is that the *child* chooses their influences, where the parent chooses the control. If we live such that our children admire us, they will copy us, and thus be influenced. I have never seen “control” last a day past when parent was not around.

  5. David Cornwell says:

    Take it from an old grandpa. There isn’t a formula to raise kids. I guarantee you that two kids raised exactly the same way can turn out to be opposites in every way. They can break your heart regardless of method, prayer, teachings, and psychology. They can also make you very proud and give you deep satisfaction.

    Every parent is different and may do things differently. Honesty, love, kindness, forgiveness, hope,and prayer will count more than anything. Prayer will help you find a way, but will not always solve a problem or save a child. Talk to your children. Model Christian values. If you can, love your spouse.

    When you get old you will gain insights into many things.

  6. Damaris says:

    I’m curious if the book mentions Jesus’ “failure” with Judas. Did the method not work there? Where did Jesus slip up, that he only had an eleven out of twelve sucess rate? Gee, I’m not sure his is the model I want to follow, if that’s the best he can do. (Heavy sarcasm here.)

    Not that I want to follow this new method. I have a twenty-year-old daughter with the Navy in Japan. Do I really have to be with her all the time? (By the way, she goes to church there . . . How did we manage that without this wonderful new resource?)

    Anyway, I hear the point Rick is making. Many parents are desperate, and it’s true that there’s not much more tragic than seeing children fall. I hope that the people who are suffering can find something better than this sounds.

  7. Considering God has more wayward children than any other father in existence (including many who claim to be obeying Him), maybe we should send Him this book. That way He won’t lose so many.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      “A fanatic does what God would do — if God only KNEW what was REALLY going on.”

      Remember Job’s know-it-all buddies?

      • JoanieD says:

        HUG, I find it interesting in the Book of Job that Job’s three friends get berated by God in the end, but God does not mention the younger man, Elihu, who really didn’t seem to give Job any better answers than the older men gave him. So, perhaps God was giving Elihu a break ’cause he was a young’n. 😉

  8. As far as the “over [sic] 2 million teens, youth, and young adults from Christian families [who] are leaving the church each year, never to return,” well, I’ve heard numerous (and contradictory) statistics about that phenomenon, almost always as part of a diatribe against anti-Christian, “secular humanist” college education . But what if the real cause is that much of what goes on in the American church does not hold up to even a mild level of intelligent scrutiny?

    If we are training our children to perform tasks that give them no benefits, if our methods are actually counter-productive to our stated purposes of serving God and doing His will, we should not be surprised when the smartest of those students reject what they have been taught. And if they have been told repeatedly that the personal tastes and styles, the obvious refutations of Scripture, and the lack of relationship either “vertical” or “horizontal” that are demonstrated in their congregation’s weekly meetings are in fact “God’s best for us”, we shouldn’t be shocked if they reject God as well.

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but I don’t think that the 1,487.669th self-help book on the market is going to fix the problem …

    • Damaris says:

      You hit the nail on the head there, Ray A.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Sometimes children come back to the faith after a number of years. But often it is not exactly “the faith of our fathers.”

      • Sounds like me. My devout Episcopalian mom was pretty unnerved after I gave my life to Jesus at college — in an Assembly of God campus group. Took her about five years to adjust, but eventually we reached an accommodation.

  9. dumb ox says:

    Seems like one of the causes of kids leaving the faith in college is parental over-sheltering; they get their freedom and don’t know what to do with it. And one is naive to assume it doesn’t happen on Christian college campuses, too.

    It’s really odd how one hundred years ago, modernism and scientific theories were challenging Christian faith very seriously, and theologians like Bultmann, Neibuhr, and Tillich were finding bridges between science and faith. Why now is evangelicalism being challenged by this? Could it be that evangelicalism has been hiding behind the isolating wall of fundamentalism all these years, and now that wall has finally crumbled? Fundamentalism also walled out the theologians who were on the front lines so many years ago, so their efforts were of no benefit. Now it seems like evangelicals are starting from scratch in dealing with the challenge of science and secularism.

    With all our evangelical worship-tainment centers, music, movies, theme parks, and colleges, there is no place to hide from the influences of science and secular culture? How ironic…and yet so encouraging! There may be hope for us yet!

  10. dumb ox says:

    “When their kiddies reached the age of adulthood—usually twelve years old—the boys went to work in what would be their “career” and the girls would be married off, if possible.”

    Danger, Danger, Will Robinson: a lot of fundies out there right now are suggesting this very thing: marry kids off when they are still in their teens and encourage them to immediately start having children of their own, and everything will be just fine.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      As IMonk said years ago, much of what he saw in the Christian Courtship movement would not be out of place in Medieval Islam. Including the Quiverfull mandate/fatwa to outbreed and overwhelm the Infidel.

      • I think that’s unfair to Medieval Islam. Modern day, fundamentalist Islam yes, but Medieval Islam was a whole different boat. Very high rate of divorce and remarriage both for women and men and an encouragement for (at least upper class) women to go out and get a serious education that could be put to use, two things I don’t see in the Quiverfull movement, to pick a fish and barrel.

  11. “Jesus is not interested in making your family better, stronger, nicer. He came for those who are broken, forgotten, forsaken. If your kids aren’t turning out picture-perfect, congratulations: You’re normal. Yes, making disciples is the call of Jesus for us all. Yes, making disciples of your children is important. But the truth is there is no sure-fire plan to guarantee your kids will become sin-free. All we can do is introduce them to Jesus and trust the Master to walk with them in their life”

    Thanks for that quote. The whole shepherding movement (Tripp/spanking etc) coupled with Reformed covenant theology left me utterly disheartened when parenting my children and stole the joy out of parenting. Interesting perspective on the like a child verse (which serves as the inspiration for my blog).

    • Me too (disheartened).

      Thankfully, my husband and I discovered Dr Sears and have practiced attachment parenting with our kids. Although, I know of plenty of “Christian” parents who think we’re severely blowing it by not spanking our kids or making them cry it out when they were babies.

  12. Josh T. says:

    Maybe some kids are walking away from Jesus in college because their parents and church insisted that YEC (among other things) are the only views that a Christian can hold and still be a Christian. So they can’t believe the one thing, so they walk away from everything. I’m sure there are other reasons, as well.

    Something tells me that this book would appeal to parents who insist on such views for their children. In that sort of situation, I would think this teaching would be more likely to result in the children rebelling (against the views of over-controlling parents) rather than helping their walk with God.

    I heard a guest speaker at our church the other day bemoan the fact that national baptist leaders are warning of the decline of Christianity in the U.S. (coming evangelical collapse, anyone?). The gist of his solution was to (mis)quote 2 Chronicles 7:14 and talk about God’s people being serious about seeking him so that God would be able to heal our land. It’s too bad that his revivalist way of thinking completely bypasses much of what Michael Spencer has criticized, such that whatever solution or solutions the evangelist had in mind may actually be part of the problem’s cause (culture war, revivalism, wretched urgency, etc.).

    In the same way, I think books like this contribute to the very problem that they propose to help solve.

    • chaidrinkingfool says:

      “Maybe some kids are walking away from Jesus in college because their parents and church insisted that YEC (among other things) are the only views that a Christian can hold and still be a Christian. So they can’t believe the one thing, so they walk away from everything. I’m sure there are other reasons, as well.”

      Yes! I believe this is certainly problematic. Children who are raised with the view that their family’s way is the “best” way, the “most correct” way of being Christian…and are not told that frankly, other Christians genuinely hold different beliefs and have different practices, yet are still Christian, could believe they are losing their faith when really what they are doing is understanding what following Jesus means in a different way than their parents did.

      It makes me sad to see children whose parents are afraid that their child(ren) will start questioning what they are taught about who Christ was/is, what he came to Earth to do, and the best way to follow him. The children are allowed to think when it comes to math or English, but certainly not when it comes to Bible studies…

  13. I’m not really sure the book should even merit a reaction if it’s trying to compare Jesus’ teaching style with parenting children. Parenting involves teaching, but there’s s a distinct difference between the teacher/student relationship and the parent/child one. You don’t treat grown men who want to learn from you like children. That’s just insulting.

    At any rate, it just sounds like yet another program-driven curriculum that aims to clean the outside of the bowl and pray the inside gets some soapy water.

    I think that’s all I can say right now without taking a different tangent. But as for spanking (aka, butt-busting), it’s all in how a parent handles it, I think. I’d go into it, but I’m not sure this is the place to get into that. Let’s say that was never an issue for me because my dad handled it well.

    • Lukas db says:

      I’ve never understood the huge commotion people make about spanking. If you’re for it, you’re a child abuser; against it, and you’re destroying the God-given freedoms of Our Great Nation.

      Spanking is a legitimate option. But in a society hostile to it, you’re probably better off finding a different form of discipline, and will be none the worse for it. What’s the fuss?

      I like the bowl analogy.

      • I’ve never understood the problem, either, other than a misappropriation or abuse of that form of punishment that people backfired on. It’s seeing a legitimate abuse (beating the kid v. discipline) and taking the polar opposite just to make sure it doesn’t happen again. I think the truth is, people don’t understand the difference because they had an experience first, second, or third-hand where it was severely abused.

        I think on the other end, parents who do spank their children don’t appreciate being told how to raise their kids. I’m just a twentysomething, but I can understand that.

        Glad you liked that. 0=)

  14. Jeff Dunn, your words challenge my thinking. Keep it up. Thanks.

  15. I find myself half-agreeing, half-disagreeing. I agree that the book appears to be a programmatic approach that has more to do with American culture than with Scripture. I also shuddered at the various warning about never leaving your kids alone and about their descent into perversity if you do. Talk about a recipe for really driving your kids into a good neurosis!

    But, I doubt that you could fully back up your claims that Jewish kids were on the same level as domesticated animals until age 12. It is true that Jesus did not address much the issue of children, but, the few encounters he had with youngsters do point to a high regard for them. He forbids the disciples from keeping children away, he raises a young male and restores him to his mother, he raises the young girl (tabitha kum) and restores her to her parents, and, yes, he does call upon us to be like little children.

    The Old Testament also shows regard for children. The whole Passover liturgy is structured as a family worship. It even directly says that children are to be instructed during the Passover. Young Prophet Samuel is gently addressed by the Lord and asked to take a difficult message to his foster father, High Priest Eli. Finally, the last Old Testament prophet, John the Baptist, is given the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb.

    There are also rabbinic statements from the Talmud that delineate how the Old Testament is to be interpreted with regard to the treatment of children.

    * Never threaten children. Either punish them or forgive them. (Semahot 2:6)
    * Denying a child religious knowledge robs the child of an inheritance. (Talmud Sanhedrin 91b)
    * Every parent is obligated to train his/her children in the observance ofmitzvot, for it is written: “Train a child according to his way.” (Proverbs 22:6)
    * Mothers should introduce their children to the Torah. (Exodus Rabbah 28:2)
    * Anyone who does not teach his son a skill or profession may be regarded as if he is teaching him to rob. (Talmud Kiddushin 29a)
    * A father must provide his daughter with appropriate clothing and a dowry. (Code of Jewish Law, Even haEzer 71)
    * A father should be careful to keep his son from lies, and he should always keep his word to his children. (Talmud Sukkah 46b)
    * If a small child is capable of shaking the lulav correctly, his parents should buy him his own lulav. (Talmud Sukkah 28a)
    * Anger in a home is like rottenness in fruit. (Talmud Sotah 3)
    * Rabbah said that a parent should never show favoritism among his/ her children. (Talmud Shabbat 10b)
    * If you strike a child, strike them only with a shoelace. (Talmud Baba Batra 21a)
    * A parent should not promise to give a child something and then not give it, because in that way the child learns to lie. (Talmud Sukkah 46b)
    * The parent who teaches his son, it is as if he had taught his son, his son’s son, and so on to the end of generations. (Talmud Kiddushin 36)
    * The parent who instructs by personal example rather than mere words, his/her audience will take his/her counsel to heart. The parent who does not practice what he/she so eloquently preaches, his/her advice is rejected. (Commentary to Ethics of Our Fathers)
    * A father once came to the Baal Shem Tov with a problem concerning his son. He complained that the son was forsaking Judaism and morality and asked the rabbi what he could do. The Baal Shem Tov answered: “Love him more.” (Hassidic Tale)

    • The point I so poorly tried to make is this: We center our family lives around our children. We drive them to endless athletic events, practices, recitals, tutors, etc. We have to have family devos every night, no matter what else is going on. We read to and play with and care for our kids 24/7. In the time of Jesus, it was not so. Kids cared for their parents by doing chores no one else would do. Children were not pampered, they were put to work. When they reached the age of adulthood (12 years old in most cultures then), they began to acquire rights as adults. Before then, they were loved and cared for, but not made king or queen of the house like they are in many families today.

      • As parents to young children, your statement reflects many around me. People simply do not have time….I was reminded of the quote by Pascal: “Man finds nothing so intolerable as to be in a state of complete rest, without passions, without occupation, without diversion, without effort. Then he faces his nullity, loneliness, inadequacy, dependence, helplessness, emptiness. And at once there wells up from the depths of his soul boredom, gloom, depression, chagrin, resentment, despair.”

      • My husband and I have been discussing this a lot. I recently read Untamed by Alan and Deb Hirsch and was challenged by a chapter in that book called Refocusing the Family about arranging your family life not around making sure your kids get every advantage, but around Jesus, and doing the things Jesus did. I’m on board in my head, but putting it into practice is harder.

      • Jim Park says:

        Reminiscent of American farm life of a century and two ago. The Hebrews were agrarians and their life patterns were, in many respects, similar. Farm life provides our roots and models, though we tend to remember them with an all-too-rosy cast. Insanity and isolation was a part of mid-west farm life, too. You needed 12 kids to get the work done. Maybe 6 or 7 would survive to adulthood.

        Life in this globalized and hi-tech culture of ours demands some different approaches to child rearing, me thinks. Interesting that Jesus inveighed against the patterns and paradigms of the corrupted, multi-cultural urban influences prevalent in Jerusalem.

        Discipleship in the first century Hebrew culture didn’t happen until the male youth had come of age …and then only the best and brightest were chosen. Being accepted into a yeshiva was like being granted admission to college. Discipleship had little relation to child rearing, as I see it. Wrong analogy. Different set of rules required.

    • JoanieD says:

      Thank you so much for this, Father Ernesto!

    • Lukas db says:

      An excellent reply, Fr. Ernesto. We moderns have a persistent tendency towards chronological snobbery – to see our ancestors as backwards, primitive and foolish. Frankly, it drives me crazy. I’m not saying this is what Jeff Dunn was doing – his later comments elaborate a bit on this – but that is the impression many will take away from what he said in this post.

      Modern Western culture has a great emphasis on the understanding of other cultures – so long as they are contemporary cultures. As soon as we get chronological rather than geographical distance from us, people suddenly become misogynistic, violent, and ignorant. ‘Medieval’ has become a synonym for ‘barbaric.’ Do we need so desperately to convince ourselves of our time’s superiority, to qualm our fears that perhaps – just perhaps – our ideal of Rationality and Progress isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        An excellent reply, Fr. Ernesto. We moderns have a persistent tendency towards chronological snobbery – to see our ancestors as backwards, primitive and foolish.

        Repeat after me:

        PRIMITIVE DOES *NOT* MEAN STUPID.

      • cermak_rd says:

        But people in the past did oppress women. They did enslave others. They did human sacrifices. They did an awful lot of really awful things that we don’t do today. The average peasant was a lot more ignorant than we are today, just look at the literacy rates. So there is some room for chronological elitism. I would not choose to live in any other time (unless I can go forward, then I definitely want access to the jetpack) because any other time has not had women have the rights I have today in this society.

  16. Thanks for this post. Faith and discipleship reduced to a formula is just never sustainable, yet American evangelicalism, particularly its marketing, seems to thrive on propagating this kind of thing. From the outside, or even the edges (my perspective), it just looks silly and irrelevant, and that is sad to me because it degrades the witness of the church in a world that desperately needs it. Life is complicated and messy and rarely has easy answers, and true faith is the same way. Following Jesus is hard but also joyful, painful but also blessed, sacrificial but also sometimes abundant in the most unexpected ways. And sometimes kids just don’t turn out like you’d expected. Does the book actually use any biblical families as models? Most of them were fairly dysfunctional by evangelical standards.

  17. I am so glad I came into this discussion late because so many others have said what I would like to say, and have said it so well.

    As I read Jeff’s piece, “cringe” is the best word to describe how I felt. Anytime I hear the word “disciple” used as a verb, I squirm in my shorts.

    Starting at age 17 I was “discipled” and continued to be “discipled” for the subsequent 15 years by the Navs. By the end, I existed as a cliché spouting religiobot—as if I had survived a virtual frontal lobotomy. Thank God for second chances at life! I thank Him too that He has the grace to allow me to rediscover reality once again . . . as if were a novelty.

    As a father of five, who came to his senses half-way through the parenting years, I find the paradigm of building walls around our kids, of using guilt manipulation to control them and ignorance as haven of ”safety,” as repugnant. Unfortunately the book sounds like it could have been dictated from the pulpit of the church I am presently attending or from many of the parents I attempt to sup with. I stand alone in my resistance to those notions of child rearing. I am deeply thankful to find others here who either didn’t drink the Cool Aid, or did (like me) and now have spewed it from their mouths.

    Did I see that one of the authors (Melton) is also a business motivational speaker? Reminds me of Olive’s (Little Miss Sunshine) dad.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      What is the difference between Christian Discipling and Cult Brainwashing?

      In practice, it’s often “If WE do it, It’s Discipling. If THEY do it, it’s Brainwashing.”

      AKA doublethink & blackwhite.

      JMJ/CHristian Monist got his head seriously messed up by the Navs’ “discipling”; check out his blog sometime for details. I had something similar happen to me in the Seventies, but to a lesser extent. To this day I cannot hear “Praise the LORD” without hearing it as “Long! Live! Big! Brother!”

  18. Why stop with parenting? Let’s apply Jesus’s methodology of discipleship to everything, from training employees in the workplace to athletic programs and even modifying the behavior of our pets. I can see it now — “Walking With Jesus On A Leash: Seven Biblical Principles For Instilling Christlike Character In Our Furry Friends.” I’d be willing to bet good money that it would sell.

    • Melanie says:

      RonP … I can barely contain myself. Have you met my cats? As the owner of some particularly unstable cats with definite behaviour and, I suspect personality disorders, I can see this title flying off the shelf. I love my pets all the more knowing that they are exactly what God intended them to be. No artiface or pretension to be something ‘other’ than who and what they are. I would not want to change them ( well that is not exactly true … it would be great if one of them could actually walk on her leash instead of collapsing on her back like a hypnotised chicken, but that is another story). If I wanted wind-up pets.. or children for that matter, flesh and blood ones would not do. Formula creatures dont yet exist. Thank God.

  19. Wow, Jeff, you’re even more cynical than I am. One reason I loved Michael’s writing it that he addressed topics I was cynical about, but he did so in an honest, straightfoward way, without the cynicism. However, I picked up some of this cynical tone in “Mere Churchianity,” and was a little troubled by it. While Michael had strong, often chafing words on the issues he addressed, he never seemed to be looking down on anyone in a “holier-than-thou” way. But it’s in “Mere Churchianity,” and I now wonder if you had something to do with that.

    Also, using “over” rather than “more than” isn’t a grammatical error. It’s a style choice. If you check the style guides out there, you’ll see that either is acceptable. Such nitpickiness, particularly when it isn’t warranted, is tiresome.

    • No, Ally, Michael was able to be cynical, if that is what you want to call it, all by himself without any of my help.

      As to the grammatical issue, I guess I just stick to what I was taught a long time ago. Styles get looser over time, For instance, do you feel comfortable using “Google” as a verb, as in, “Google this”? I don’t.

      Thanks for reading…

      • David Cornwell says:

        Some of the new usage is sloppy. Good form should be a standard especially for Christians. The company where I was employed for a few years had to enact some style and form standards for email because people fell back into their haphazard internet usages. Ally may be correct about “over” and “more” but in my opinion this is not being nit-picking. It sort of reminds me of my old high school English teacher.

        Now, I’m sure that someone will be able to pick up grammatical mistakes and other types of errors in what I write also. So it sort of scares me to be critical.

        And I do understand what you Ally was saying about cynicism. But sometimes it seems to be the only way to get to the truth and is very tempting.

        • David Cornwell says:

          And I see an error in the last paragraph above! This goes to show that one shouldn’t be hasty.

      • Actually, some English rules have become more strict over time. The less / fewer “rule,” for example, is a more recent invention. So-called grammar rules only have the power that we grant to them, and for as long as we grant that power.

        Do you say “I need to Xerox this”? “They faxed the order”? “I e-mailed it”? How about “ten emails,” even though mail used to be exclusively a non-count noun?

        Comfort is idiosyncratic, but English language keeps moving. We obviously don’t use King James English today, testifying to the fact that this language keeps changing. Unlike French, English experiences no government agency regulation, so it moves however its users allow it to — its users who don’t feel compelled to adhere to the opinions of language priests of yore. 🙂

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          English is the fastest-mutating of any human language, and one of the most flexible.

          It began as a bastardization of Norman French and Anglo-Saxon trade pidgin for Saxons & Danes, then accreted words from every language it came across.

          • One might say that, yes.

            One might also add that, historically speaking, “one of the most interesting things about Milwaukee is that it’s the only American city to elect three Socialist mayors.”

          • Lukas db says:

            It’s also one of the hardest to learn, and has the largest vocabulary of any language.

            I’m so glad I learned it natively.

      • My pleasure. The evolution (or devolution as it were) of the English language is pretty fascinating. It’s amazing how many “rules” we have that were simply pet peeves of one language maven or another. I have a bit of a hobby of researching the origins of things like this, which why I felt compelled to mention it.

        I guess I always sensed a humility in Michael that wasn’t apparent here. I enjoy your posts for the most part–this one just seemed a little harsher than was warranted. My opinion, for what it’s worth, which probably isn’t much! 🙂

        Take care.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        For instance, do you feel comfortable using “Google” as a verb, as in, “Google this”? I don’t.

        English has a long history of converting nouns to verbs. The example I was given was Shakespeare in Measure for Measure, where the Duke returns incongnito to check up on “how my regent is Duke-ing.”

    • I make my living as a technical writer. “More than” is the better choice when talking about numbers or a count of anything because it’s more accurate and won’t get confused with a preposition showing position. Language changes for sure, but words still have real meaning and some are more accurate than others. And as for cynicism, I have to say that I understand it and even find it healthy in reasonable doses, though it can be overdone for sure. Peace. 🙂

  20. Paul Willingham says:

    Jeff:

    Thank you for your comments on this book, and by extension, the hundreds of similar tomes that continue to flood the bookshelves. Thanks for continuing the iMonk tradition of cutting through the crap, as you put it. Too bad that your warning won’t be posted above the bookstore display, as sady, the very people who should read your warning, won’t and will rush out to buy it..

    I am a seventy plus grandfather of three children and eight grandchildren, Age has added some much appreciated hindsight over the years. When our kids were in college, my wife and I knew that our kids were not regular (that’s parental optimism) in their church attendence. With wisdom beyond our years, we reluctantly left them in God’s hands. We learned much later, that while not attending church they were involved in campus groups like Inter-Varsity and Campus Crusade.

    Today, they are all active in local churches (denominations totally unrelated to the one they were raised in), involving themselves in music, teaching, children’s work and leadership. In retrospect, we are thankful to God for giving us the common sense, without a library of DIY books, to raise our kids to make their own decisions (some of which we didn’t like or approve), experience failure and learn from it, and let the Holy Spirit nurture the seeds we prayerfully and hopefully planted.

    This book and it’s kin are a continuing manifestation of the American love affair with the miracle drug, miracle formula, miracle fix, which requires no effort on our part. Just swallow it, apply it, rub it in and all is well. Too many Christians are also subscribers.

    PW

    • David Cornwell says:

      We learn a lot as grandparents. Sometimes we can even share, in a kind way, our wisdom with our children who now struggle with their own children. One of my daughters talks to me all the time about her parental challenges.

      I think I’ve made too many comments on this subject, so will try to stop.

  21. Having attended a Christian college, I’ve seen where many parents send their kids in the expectation that it will be an extended and reliable baby-sitting service. Especially for women, who are encouraged to obtain their MRS degree by graduation. Drop in heavy doses of Bill Gothard to properly send them on their way. The alumni and directors are always there to ensure faculty members discourage serious thought that may lead to questioning. I guess the lesson there is, love and pray incessantly for your children. But in case that isn’t enough, it is probably because you failed to have them insufficiently doctrinated.

    • Sorry, 2nd last word s/be “sufficiently”. See, that’s what a christian edjashun done for me, ;-).

    • Lukas db says:

      That wasn’t my experience with Christian college. I think my major (Biology) helped, though, as most who studied it were pretty intellectually open, having to learn about evolution and all. And there were definitely groups that locked themselves into a bubble like the one you described. Mostly they were comprised of people who had dropped out of their original major and began to pursue the difficult and demanding course of study required for Youth Ministry.

  22. Wonderful essay, and right on the money. This is a helpful perspective for me as a youth minister who is open to these types of temptations every single day. Give them Jesus. Feed them Jesus. Don’t waste your time with Christian Rules And Principles ™.

    And thanks for that interpretative blurb about “becoming as children.” I found your take on that very convincing and I’ve never heard that before. I have always wondered what Jesus meant by that and found it on some level disturbing that I knew I was missing the point there. But now it all seems clear! This is why I keep coming back here. Keep up the great writing, you are feeding many of us.

  23. I am encouraged to see college ministries mentioned in some of the comments. Since they are attempting to impact students at such a critical time (not to mention faculty and an overall culture), we need to give them as much attention and resources as possible.

    Benson Hines at Exploring College Ministry has a good blog looking at things from the inside:

    http://exploringcollegeministry.com/

    as does Steve Lutz at The Sentinel:

    http://stevelutz.wordpress.com/

    Let’s not overlook the numerous & crucial college ministries.

  24. Jeff,

    Here! Here! Couldn’t agree with you more.

    If you want parenting advice, read the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

    Love your children no matter what.
    No matter what they do, think, feel, believe or say.
    Love them no matter whom they love, even if it isn’t you.
    Love them no matter what they squander.
    Love them despite their choices.
    Love them no matter how far they run.

    And before they ever come home, forgive them without speaking a word of condemnation or retribution. Let not a word of earthly justice escape your mouth.

    And when they do return, embrace them. Kill the fatted calf and rejoice. For they were dead and now they’re alive.

    Anything less than unconditional love and forgiveness, any attempt to orchestrate your children’s life, reinforces the lie that the world is the source of Providence. It says that we are responsible for earning our place and acceptance in the world. Hell, it reinforces the lie that our lives are our jobs. That’s nonsense. My life is God’s job. My job is to do God’s will. And eat ice cream.

    God’s got your kids. And they’re in much better hands than they would be otherwise.

    It was nice meeting you last weekend, Jeff.

    Take care,

  25. Lukas db says:

    why does every generation of parents believe firmly that the younger generation is going to hell in a handbasket? This sort of book just preys on that fear.

  26. Just saw this over at Out of Ur:

    “Why evangelical churches lose fewer young people than liberal churches.
    “For evangelicals, if children and youth are not enjoying church, it is the church’s fault and evangelical parents either find a new church or try to improve their youth ministry. For liberals, the tendency is the reverse; if youth do not find church interesting it is their problem.” -James Wellman, author of Evangelical vs. Liberal: The Clash of Christian Cultures in the Pacific Northwest”

  27. Jeff, you said

    “When Jesus said we have to become little children to enter the kingdom, he was not saying we need to become sweet, innocent little angels. He was saying we need to see ourselves as worthless, because that is exactly what a child was—worthless to the family. ”

    It’s an interesting analogy, and for me it helps illuminate a passage like Matthew 11:25-30. Can you tell us where you got that idea regarding kids being ‘worthless’?

    Seems like some (many?) evangelicals like to compare the ‘little children’ to sweet little angels, all cute and soooooo adorable. Even if everyone’s experience is that the sweet, adorable, cute little children can be little brats part of the time 🙂

    Yet, no one argues for Christians to be like little brats in order to get into the kingdom.

    I’ve never seen the analogy regarding kids being worthless…so if you don’t mind, would you point me to where you have seen that analogy? Thanks.

    • I’d love to, but to be honest, it pretty much came out of my misguided and tiny head. If I got it from somewhere else, it has been assimilated into my own treasure-trove of knowledge, most of which would fit into an Altoid’s tin.

      Seriously, I think I worked thru this on my own. If I remember otherwise, I’ll let you know…

      • I have to confess, that interpretation of Matthew 18:3 made me very uncomfortable. I don’t find any indication in the Bible that God views children as worthless. Instead, I see passages where children are referred to as a delight, as evidence of God’s favor and as creatures who need special care. Indeed, in verse 5, Jesus equates himself with the child by saying, “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.”

        I don’t see anything wrong with the church’s traditional interpretation of this passage. We need to be childlike in terms of being without pretense, trusting in God, and being willing to follow authority in obedience. We are not worthless – we are created in God’s image. We’re sinners, yes, but we are of ultimate worth to Jesus Christ.

        • I did not say that God sees children as worthless, but that the society at large at the time did. We come to God as children knowing we have nothing to offer to him. Nothing. We do not come saying, “See how well we trust and obey?” We don’t trust and we don’t obey enough to warrant God even turning his head in our direction, let alone forgiving us. But when we come as those who know they have nothing–zero–to offer to him, then he gladly stretches out his arms and gathers us to him. That is how we are to become as little children.

          Of course we are of ultimate worth to Jesus–he made us. It is we who shrug off that worth and try to go it on our own, with our own value and worthiness. That is the “adult” in us. Become a child–know you have nothing to offer to God. That is the key.

          • Perhaps a more accurate interpretation of Matt. 18:3 is that one becomes vulnerable like a child. (It also fits the context better. What prompts Jesus’ saying is an argument over which disciple will be greatest.) In the ancient world, children were seen as vulnerable (and often expendable, contrary to our society where children are, in some families, ‘the greatest’). They had no rights, no ‘value’ of their own, and in a society without governmental support, children were essentially at the mercy of their parents/family. That doesn’t mean that their parents didn’t love them (cf. the ‘Prodigal Son’). It does mean that without parents, or a family ‘support system’ one was in a very bad way. An orphan would likely starve to death if some other family member didn’t take them in. That is why the Bible has much to say about the ‘orphan and widow’ – both were the most helpless and vulnerable members of society. See, for example, the work of Bruce Malina (e.g., ‘The New Testament World: Insights from Cultural Anthropology’).

            When Jesus said we are to be like children, it is not the traditional (western) idea of innocence and trusting (as Augustine rightly said, the ‘innocence of infancy depends on the weakness of its limbs, not its character’). Jesus meant that casting one’s lot with him, in that particular cultural context (as well as many today), would likely mean cutting ties with the only ‘support system’ available – family. When Jesus talked about taking up one’s cross, denying oneself, abandoning possessions – in other words, placing one’s allegiance to him before all else – he included ‘hating’ one’s family. Placing one’s allegiance on Jesus, to a first-century Jew, meant placing oneself in the same position as a child – essentially cutting oneself off from that support system. Jesus, however, did promise that a new ‘family’ would be provided (Luke 18:28-30).

  28. It seems to me the premise of this book boils down to one thing: fear. And the solution for fear always seems to be control. Hype up the fear factor and follow it with the control factor. Orchestrate every aspect of your child’s life, right down to their thinking. No wait, don’t even allow them to think – that in itself is dangerous. In short, we edge out the Holy Spirit big time. IMHO, this hyper-controlling style of parenting is what would make a child walk away from their faith when they hit adulthood (which would no doubt be delayed as long as possible).

  29. As someone who has experienced a de-conversion personally, allow me to share my thoughts. I hesitate to do so, but maybe it will help some of you to understand. My mother to this day thinks that I was somehow brainwashed in college, as if some evil professors got ahold of me and convinced me to become an Atheist. This could not be further from the truth. I was raised in a very fundamentalist Independent Baptist church, mainly by my grandparents, my parents went sporadically but were nominal Christians. They were young and having fun and doing their own thing. Today they are both church going Christians but my mother is definitely the more religious of the two. They are divorced, by the way. My dad goes to church and believes in the teachings, I think, but mostly out of moral considerations and because he thinks it’s a good thing to do. I started having my doubts in my teen years, several years before attending college. And I only attended college for two years, before joining the US Navy for 6 years. There was much more depravity in those six years than the college experience could even aspire to, I can assure you, but no one is accusing the military of churning out Atheists.
    It wasn’t any depravity in college that did it. I lived at home, was extremely shy and didn’t party. I was a good boy. My problems with Christianity were, and are, intellectual ones. AS I said, no professor told me to be an Atheist. It was a matter of learning things, having my eyes opened to how big this world is, mainly in the Navy, learning science and the ‘fact’ of evolution, learning about the history of Western Civilization, all these things led me to finally put the card out of the entire edifice that sent the whole thing crashing down. I could no longer profess to believe in something that I didn’t. My mother still has problems with it to this day. I just tell her to pray for me if she is so concerned. There have been times where I think maybe I can reconcile my rational brain with irrational Christian beliefs, but it never works for long. I am at peace now with my non-belief. I am not an Atheist though. Rather, I am an Agnostic, I believe Agnosticism to be the only honest answer to an unanswerable question. No one knows whether or not God exists, all anyone has is faith. Knowledge precludes faith, if you KNEW that God existed the same way you knew that the air is blue, it wouldn’t be called faith. You have faith, I don’t. I lost my faith a very long time ago. One of the reasons though that I feel drawn to this website though is because there does appear to be at last some level of thoughtful dialogue, that not every Christian has totally thrown their mind to the dogs. But.. I still think that some of you are on a path that will ultimately take you to where I’m at. It’s just taking some of you longer and the reason is because you are deathly afraid to let go of some of your core beliefs. You know that some of them don’t make much sense but you are on a quest right now to rationalize them as best as you can, to try and update Christianity for the modern age. Wouldn’t it be so much simpler to just let the whole facade go? Let it go. Once you do, everything will make much more sense to you.
    Anyway, just my thoughts and I am aware that I strayed a bit from my stated objective. I just want you guys to know that the reason why so many Christian children come home from college as Atheists is because they are smart and can no longer mesh irrational beliefs with how they have learned the world really works. yes, evolution vs YEC has a LOT to do with it. It did for me. My mom even threw away my Origin of Species book by Darwin once when I was home. That only served to reinforce in my mind though that I was in fact right. Darwin was not an evil man, he was an honest man and he wrote things as he saw them.
    But it also wasn’t just evolution, it was also learning about the history of western civilization and how Christianity fit into that picture.
    Has anyone ever stopped to wonder why the world’s brightest people, whether scientists or professors, almost always seem to be, if not Atheists, at least Agnostics? It’s not because they were brain washed or evil men steeped in depravity. It’s because they are using their brains. It’s always struck me as odd that if there is a God, then he obviously gave me the brain that I have, yet Christianity calls on me to not use it, to call it evil and depraved to try and think rationally.
    Anyway, if you cut through the resentment I harbor towards my Christian upbringing, I hope that someone can find something useful in something I may have said.
    If your children come home from college as Atheists, be proud of them, they are incredibly smart individuals and brave to buck conventional wisdom. They are not depraved. And if you think they are wrong in the conclusions they have come to, then just like I tell my mother, pray for them.

    • By the way, both of my sisters attended college and actually finished ,both of them receiving degrees, my younger sister is starting her MBA soon. Neither of them became anything close to Atheists. In fact my one sister married a Baptist preacher.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Brian. I think I’d like you if we ever met.

      I would take issue that all the smartest people were agnostics or atheists, but I don’t want to argue. I would also offer that human beings are more than just brains, and smart is not always the best or most defining human characteristic.

      You say, “But.. I still think that some of you are on a path that will ultimately take you to where I’m at.” I don’t know, because I don’t know enough about your expereince, but it may be that I and some others here have been on that path, kept walking, and reached somehwere slightly different from where you are. But we do share the path — better than staying at home all the time.

    • No one knows whether or not God exists, all anyone has is faith. Knowledge precludes faith, if you KNEW that God existed the same way you knew that the air is blue, it wouldn’t be called faith.

      Brian, you have hit on the core of following Jesus. Faith. I think you are closer to being a Christian than you know, just as many who call themselves Christians could more accurately be called agnostics. In any case, it is an honor to have you as part of our family. I hope you will continue to read and comment often.

  30. Damaris, I had to go back and check because I was pretty sure that I did not say that all the smartest people were Atheists or Agnostics and I didn’t. I DID say that it seems that the vast majority of them are. I could name a bunch of names but that would be pointless. I stand by what I said and my question remains. Why is that? My family thinks of me as very smart, yet no one listens to me or anything I have to say. If the smartest people, not me, the scientists, philosophers, etc are saying that there’s something wrong with most religious belief then shouldn’t we be paying attention to them?
    Thanks Jeff. Believe it or not I have heard that before. I’ve been told before that I have more faith than I give myself credit for and it sounds nice but I don’t think it’s true. My problem is exactly that I do NOT have any faith.

  31. HA!!!!!!!!——
    Just saw this !——-Haven’t even read all the posts—–I’ll come back to it later——

    I—-we—–my husband and I——spent the entire 18 years of my son’s life thinking we were following the “formula”——
    Church, bible study, homeschool, Christian School——you name it!!!!!!!!
    Then we watched it implode in a MOST spectacular way !!!!!!!!!!!
    We were totally blind-sided——–after all—–hadn’t we done ALL the “right” things??????

    Then —– in the midst of what appeared to be disaster——-with us scratching our heads—–hapless and devastated (yeah—-right where God wanted us—-at the end of us and the beginning of HIM!)
    GOD stepped in and began to change EVERYTHING!!!!!!!
    And it had NOTHING to do with anything we had THOUGHT it had to do with—-
    HE began changing hearts, eyes and lives ——- starting with US—– in ways we could NEVER have imagined or even thought to want or ask for!
    We wouldn’t have ever asked for anything this painful or difficult.

    And it continues—–The story is just beginning——
    The ONLY thing I know now????—–
    Our lives are in His hands—-He and He alone does and will do the work—–
    there is no Bible study, retreat, camp, church, book , formula, program that will substitute!

    Yet every time I see my mom she insists “If only you would MAKE him go to church more, everything would be fine!”
    LOL———I praise my Lord——-that now ,at the least, we know better than THAT!!!!!!

    • Making someone go to church will not produce faith, it will only produce more and more rebellion. A person has to come freely and of their own choosing or not at all.

      • Brian—–
        I agree totally with your statement!
        Changed lives and tender hearts, hands reached out in love ——these are the things that impact others——–the things that only God himself can do in a life—–
        to often these same things are not demonstrated within our church walls—-or our own lives—

        As professing Christians it seems we so often miss the boat entirely—-
        and I say “professing”——–
        I think there are many “professing” that believe they are Christians just cause they have always been “good”. Going to church their entire lives, Christian Schools, doing the “right” things—–encouraging or even “demanding” that others do the same——-
        But they don’t know Jesus——-and they can’t help others know one they themselves don’t know!
        And they don’t even know that they don’t know!!!!!!
        It would be funny —if it weren’t so sad——-

        We too have found it difficult to remove ourselves from the kind of “Christianity” you describe.
        The damage has been great and the path away from it, at times confusing.
        My own husband is still lost within the struggle.
        I am only beginning to understand many of these things, by God’s grace and mercy.

        I pray that someday , in God’s way and time, you might come to know, REALLY know, the one who does not ask His people to check their brain at the door!
        Many of us are just like you——
        You are among friends here!

  32. I have lived for many years in the ‘Bible belt’ where home schooling and Bill Gothard are considered ‘gospel’ and sure-fire formulas come with a money-back guarantee (the pastor of a large Southern Baptist church we used to attend said he would refund anyone’s tithe if God didn’t bless them 10 times over). My wife and I always felt guilty (and were considered ‘carnal’ by some) for not home-schooling our daughter. She is now 25, always went to public schools, and so far has stayed out of prison. She has a B.A. in religion and philosophy (her choice of study) and is a teacher in a – gosh! – public school (as is her husband). We tell everyone she was a ‘maintenance-free child’. She even managed to stay in church, and seems to like it too. We had no formula, and certainly take no credit – we just had fun and did things together. God blessed us with a good child with a good heart.

    We have several friends who followed Gothard’s rules and even home-schooled their kids (to shield them from all that evil in the world). But when they got to the same conservative college our daughter attended their faith began to unravel as they realized the world (and the Christian faith) is not like the make-believe world they learned about in their home-school cirriculum. Now the parents torture themselves over their ‘failures’ as parents and wonder what part of the formula they failed to execute precisely.

    Like Jeff Dunn, this makes me sick too. The sad irony is that these formulas almost always accomplish just the opposite of their claims: they drive kids away from the faith more often than not. The bigger irony is, as Jeff correctly notes, child-raising was not a ‘prominent’ theme in Jesus’ ministry, and is not anywhere else in the New Testament either (and, other than some attention in Proverbs, little is found in the Old Testament). Perhaps the ‘formula’ for raising kids is the same ‘formula’ for everything else about the Christian life – do your best (with God’s grace) to love God and your neighbor, rely on God’s grace, confess your sins (or, if you prefer, your ‘failures’), show grace to others (especially your kids) and enjoy the life that Christ has given us. Oops – that sounds like a formula (I feel the urge to write a book . . .).