Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where are the Shepherds of the Family? A Book Review of Family Shepherds

            Since May of 2011 I have had the privilege of reviewing 14 books on various topics and of different genre, and from various publishers.  I am honored to have this opportunity, and humbled that my opinion is of value to you who have read my various book reviews.  I owe a special thanks to my friend and Christian Brother, Dave Jenkins, who was willing to contact Crossway and let them know that I would be honored to review for them as well.  Thank you Brother.  Dave and I have a lot of similar interests in books, and the book I’m writing on today is no different.  I have just finished reading Family Shepherds by Dr. Voddie Baucham Jr. 

            Dr. Baucham is a pastor at a Church here in my area.  He serves as the preaching pastor at Grace Family Baptist Church out of Spring, TX.  It is possible I have met Dr. Baucham as he is a shopper at a Christian retail location where I work.  I don’t recall if I have or not, but it is exciting that there is a chance if I haven’t I someday may.

            I usually select books that interest me to review for the various publishers.  I figure if I am going to take the time to read a book then it should be something that can give me some practical guidance for where I am at in my life.  Family Shepherds falls well within this category.  As a husband and father of five I am always trying to see the best way to serve and to lead my family in the path of righteousness and to deepen their love for our LORD and Savior Jesus Christ.

            Deuteronomy 6:4-9 is a passage that every father/family shepherd should know, for in it we see the very foundation of why we should be the family shepherd. 

            Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.  You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of you house and on your gates. (Englsih Standard Version 2001)

            One of the key words in this passage is the word “command”.  God did not ask us to teach our children, He commanded that we do so.  It is with this premise that Dr. Baucham begins to write Family Shepherds.  In Family Shepherds Dr. Baucham breaks the roles of the Family Shepherd into four key areas.  These four key areas break down like this; first, family discipleship and evangelism; second, marriage enrichment; third, the training and discipline of children; and finally, the need for lifestyle evaluation.  Since my job is to get you interested in the book we are only going to take a look at a couple of these areas momentarily, and then you’ll have to read the rest.

            I write out this key passage from Deuteronomy not just to challenge you, but to challenge myself.  This is how I felt as I began to read this newest book from Voddie.  How am I doing in discipleship and evangelism? Is my marriage stronger now than it was ten years ago? Am I training my children as I ought, teaching them the need of salvation for the deliverance of their sin, or am I teaching behavioral/morality changes without the necessary authority and need of Christ as LORD of their lives?  Dr. Baucham quotes Charles Hodge, a well known theologian in the mid-nineteenth century (Baucham, Voddie 2011) who said: “The character of the Church and of the state depends on the character of the family.  If religion dies out in the family, it cannot elsewhere be maintained.” (Hodge 1871)  If fathers are not doing the job God entrusted them with, then we are only leading to our own demise. 
            In his section on Family Discipleship and Evangelism Dr. Baucham discusses the benefit and purpose of having a family catechism.  The idea of a catechism has been part of the Church for probably centuries, and was used by Catholic and Protestant Theologians alike.  To be honest when I first saw this chapter on catechism I was about ready to skip it.  However, I decided to read it because I was curious about what Dr. Baucham’s thoughts where on this idea.
            First, for those who maybe aren’t familiar with the term catechism let me first use Dr. Baucham’s explanation.  “It is simply a pedagogical method employing questions and answers to teach a set body of knowledge.  Ultimately, it is a means of teaching Christian doctrine in a concise, repetitive manner. (Baucham, Voddie 2011)  Although a very foreign concept in today’s modern day Protestants the catechism was used by great Protestant theologians such as Martin Luther and Jonathan Edwards.  I am blessed to have in my possession a copy of Luther’s small catechism that belonged to my father.  My wife and I are in discussion in to implementing a catechism in our house thanks to this section of Family Shepherds.
            Another powerful section of Family Shepherds is the section on the training and discipline of children.  This is a very hotly contested area especially in light of the post-modern day view of “love and tolerance”.  So often we hear people say we shouldn’t judge, we need to let our children make their own decisions, so forth and so forth.  To the secular world the very idea of a “family shepherd” is counter-intuitive, yet as we see crime rates grow, never has something been more important than the role of fathers raising their children.
            In Christianity especially there are two authors who have addressed the specific topic of discipline and training of children; Michael Pearl and his book To Train a Child and Tedd Tripp and his book Shepherding a Child’s Heart.  Again I own a copy of both of these books so when I came to chapter 10 I came to it with an understanding of both of the trains of thought represented by these two authors.  Between these two authors there is a major difference that I noticed as did Voddie.  First Michael Pearl has the philosophy that “training doesn’t necessarily require that the trainee has reason; even mice and rats can be trained to respond to stimuli.” (Pearl 1994)  However, Tedd Tripp starts off his book this way, “The Scripture teaches that the heart is the control center for life.” (Tripp 1995)
            One doesn’t have to look very far to spot the vast difference between these two authors.  Michael Pearl believes you can teach behavior through stimuli while Tedd Tripp points to the fact that the heart is the control center of a person’s life which means to train them up you must address the heart.  In Family Shepherds Dr. Baucham says this, “We must have a grasp on our children’s greatest need if we ever hope to see it met.” (Baucham, Voddie 2011)  I would be lying to say that this did not strike me right between the eyes.  So often when I train or discipline my children, I’m not focusing on the control center of their lives, their hearts, I’m focusing on what makes me happy. 
            If we as fathers are only focusing on behavior or morals, then we do not love our children as Christ loved us.  If we are focusing on behavior or morals then we are not training up our children to love the LORD with all of their heart and all their soul and all their might.  Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Englsih Standard Version 2001) Matthew 12:34 says, “You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Englsih Standard Version 2001)  If we as fathers do not address the heart of our children, and strive to lead them to saving faith in Jesus Christ, then we are shepherds who have failed.  Dr. Baucham quotes the great Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (Baucham, Voddie 2011) who said, “How few are there who are thorough in maintaining order and government in their families! How is family-government in a great measure vanished! And how many are as likely to bring a curse upon their families, as Eli.” (Edwards 1835)
Dr. Baucham is a huge proponent of the age-integrated congregation. What this means is that his Church does not practice such things as nursery, children’s church, youth group, or even Men or Women’s Bible studies, although they do have a monthly Men’s meeting. I do not agree with Dr. Baucham on this of course, and in fact want to point out what I see as a slight contradiction in his book.  First, he says this:
Virtually all the debate over the discipleship of young people begins with the assumption that church structures and programs such as the nursery, children’s church, Sunday school, and youth group are foundational discipleship tools and whatever happens must take place within that framework. (Baucham, Voddie 2011)
I disagree with this assumption, and would in fact argue that these programs and church structures are helpful, and can serve as a supplemental, not a foundational discipleship tool.  More so I believe that Dr. Baucham contradicts himself only three pages later when he says, “We do not rely either on the pulpit or on the home.  Both institutions are charged to play their role.” (Baucham, Voddie 2011)  This being said however, I do find this to be a book that every Church leader, father, mother, and Church staff should read.  I agree with the premise that discipleship ultimately rests in the home.  As one looks at the direction society is taking there is no doubt in my mind that it is time for the father to be his family’s shepherd. 
From where I stand, even though I may not agree with everything that Dr. Voddie Baucham believes I still see this book as a must read, and gladly rate it 5 out of 5.  I’m honored to have added this book to my library and look forward to reading through it again and again as Dr. Baucham helps teach me and all men how to be Family Shepherds.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Crossway as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Works Cited

Baucham, Voddie. Family Shepherds. Wheaton: Crossway, 2011.
Edwards, Jonathan. "Christian Cautions: or, The Necessity of Self-Examination." In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, 1:183. New York: Daniel Appleton and Co., 1835.
Englsih Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, 2001.
Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Vol. 3. New York: C. Scribner, 1871.
Pearl, Michael. To Train Up a Child. Pleasantville: NGJ Ministries, 1994.
Tripp, Tedd. Shepherding a Child's Heart. Wapwallopen: Shpherd Press, 1995.

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