To be honest, I approached this book with guarded-optimism, curiosity, and skepticism. I began to realize that my presuppositions were not original and Dr. Baucham was upfront and open to addressing these criticisms and offer biblical and logical responses. There are many compelling points raised by the author that I had not thought of before, and others that I had experienced over-exaggerated responses to in the past. For instance, until recently I had viewed formal, planned, daily family worship as an obscure and out-dated Puritan practice. While my family and I do spend time praying and in the Word, we had not implemented a more formal time of worship into our schedule. After reading this book, I feel more confident that this practice would be appropriate for cultivating my family.
The first portion of the book, that was discussing the problem at hand, is not new to me or to most people who have been around youth ministry in the Church for any amount of time. Anyone who is honest can clearly understand the challenges of trying to cultivate spiritual appetites in students whose parents are disconnected from their spiritual development. The challenge of idolatry such as academics and sports is not foreign to my experience, and has served as an increasing frustration for myself and many of the youth workers that I know. However, Baucham did challenge me to realize that the answer to that problem is not just a prophetic confrontation of those issues, but moreover a need to point families back to the biblical mandate for parents to take responsibility for their child’s spiritual growth. This is a tough dynamic to think through, and I am still a bit flustered by the seeming impossibility in most churches to even acknowledge that there is an idolatry issue at play in some of our core families.
When the author transitioned to discuss how the family should honor God in their homes, I was challenged by my own tension in the public school, private school, or home school debate. Although he did not begin with this issue, I am aware of his stance, and I could tell at the onset of the chapters that were focused on the home that he was an advocate for this. Along with many others in the Southern Baptist Convention, I have concerns about the evangelistic consequences that would be experienced if there were a mass exodus of Christian children from public schools. However, I have also struggled with the idea of someone else taking full responsibility of educating my child. Baucham addresses this issue head-on when he makes the point that most Christian children, as supported by research statistics, are falling away from the faith at worst, or are succumbing to the culture surrounding them, which is of equal severity. He placed further emphasis on the role of education in the development of worldview, which has forced my wife in I in a position of submission to once again having hard conversations about these issues.
One area of critique is that I know that Baucham is a highly sought after itinerant preacher who does very well financially. He is able to limit his travel to eight to ten days a month, which places him at home for two-thirds of the time. While I, too, travel full-time and preach, and I am able to sustain my family and work at home, so that gives me the ability to understand where he is coming from. However, he does not address the challenges that a working father faces in leading his family in his home. The author does acknowledge the tension some, but arguing that the only solution is to work less, may not be a reality. Therefore, I think it would be interesting if Baucham could offer a follow-up work, perhaps as a compilation with working fathers, those with “real jobs” that could substantiate these assertions and testify to the fruit of their efforts. I believe that this will help the skeptics who dismiss his assertions based upon the flexibility of his vocation.
I must applaud Baucham in his biblical prowess as he walks slowly through the biblical mandates found in Deuteronomy 6, Proverb 31, and Ephesians 5. While I would expect nothing less than biblical astuteness from Baucham, I was refreshed to see that he did not lean on proof-texting verses out of context. He addressed these passages with great skill. While they were overly illustrated at times by seemingly repetitive anecdotal stories, the overall theological assessment was not only orthodox, but also accessible to the layman.
His chapter entitled, “Enjoy The Gifts Without Forgetting The Giver” one of the only points of contention is that I feel was a bit of a self-justification was In this chapter I think he missed slightly on his application of prosperity found in the Old Covenant and ignored the appropriate interpretation in view of the New Covenant. Admitting that he and his wife have built two houses so far in their time together, and that he has admittedly done well financially, does not necessarily substantiate the litmus test of biblical prosperity.
By no means am I accusing Baucham of being a ‘health and wealth’ prosperity teacher, but I do think that he missed the covenantal implications of the Old and New Covenant. In lieu of going into a full theological diatribe I will make a few brief observations. First, the covenant rewards of the Old Covenant could be paraphrased as stuff and land, however, the covenant promise of the New Covenant is Christ Himself as the reward. Secondly, I am not advocating an abolishment of the Law, but I do believe Jesus when He claimed to have fulfilled the Law (see Matthew 5:17). Thirdly, I would lean on the Old Covenant as a foreshadowing of the promise to come, and the use of the Law to point out our sin and need for a Savior (See Romans 7:7 and Galatians 3:19-22). Therefore, in reading his chapter on prosperity, I sensed a bit of self-justification, which I am fairly confident that he would deny, as his common posture both in preaching and in writing is does not convey one of humility and “teachability”, but of stubborn (or confident depending on the listener/reader) and at times appearing prideful in his convictions. These observations do not in any way diminish the truth Baucham presents, nor does it lower my respect of the man, but I do challenge him to think through his own position in view of what he is teaching in this chapter.
Overall, this book has been extremely helpful in helping me to put to words some of the underlying frustrations that I have been experiencing with the Church and the break down in families. It also offers sound, biblical insights into how a family is to order themselves and pursue God as a covenantal unit. I am also grateful to Baucham for being willing to address such a controversial and unpopular view and argue from the Bible its veracity and necessity. This book has challenged me to slow down and think through these issues, to discuss the future of family integration with the other elders at the church, and to force my wife and I to have much to pray and talk about. Whether one agrees with Baucham or not, this book should be read by all who care about the Church, the family, and the youth who are abandoning the church in droves following graduation from High School.
I would recommend anyone who cares about their Family and the Church to read this book carefully, prayerfully, and have honest discussions.