Over the last 40-50 years we have seen the decline of the family unit. The family is the foundational social unit of society and the church. When the family goes they go. Among many other reasons, the primary reason the health of families is on the decline is because the leaders of those families – men – are not leading their families. Unhealthy men produce unhealthy families which produce an unhealthy society and church.
Amidst the decline of men leading their families Voddie Baucham Jr. has written a new book titled Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes. Family Shepherds is a clarion call for men to lead their families as shepherds. It is a book about “the transcendent truths that govern Christian fatherhood (p. 13).” This is a book about calling men to shepherd, thus spiritually lead, their homes and not to abandon this responsibility to the pastors/elders of the church.
Taking cue from Deut. 6 and Prov. 4, Baucham rightly states that the discipleship of children by their parents, and fathers in particular, is primary over the discipleship ministry of the church in their lives. This home based discipleship model continues into the NT in verses like 2 Tim. 1:4-5; 3:15 and Eph. 6:1-4. In order for healthy and productive home based discipleship to take place it must stand on something. From Titus 2, Baucham utilizes a three-legged stool approach to a healthy church and home discipleship: (1) godly, mature men and women, (2) godly, manly leaders and (3) a biblically functioning home. Baucham states, “There is thus a synergy between strong Christian homes and strong churches, with the ministry of the family shepherd serving as an indispensable element in the health, well-being, and future of the church (p. 36).”
Four-Fold Role of a Family Shepherd: Discipler, Evangelist, Trainer & Disciplinarian
With the father as the families primary shepherd (with the help of the mother as well) there are four main areas in which he carries out his responsibility. First, he is an evangelist before he is a disciple. As the shepherd of the home, fathers are to constantly seek ways to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ upon the lives of their children in a loving and winsome way.
Second, he is a discipler of his children. In response to the leave-it-to-the-church and its professional’s attitude towards discipleship, Baucham rightly argues that discipleship of the family begins at home and the father is the leader. To this Baucham writes
As a result of this growing professionalism, there’s a general idea that anything that needs to be done for the advance of the mission of the church has to be done by a paid specialist. The consequences of this attitude are myriad. And there’s perhaps no area of the Christian life that has been affected more negatively than the ministry of the home (p. 68).
The primary means through which this discipleship is to be accomplished is the catechism as the “means of teaching Christian doctrine in a concise and repetitive manner (p. 64).” In conjunction with catechism is the practice of family devotions (prayer, Bible reading and song). “Those who neglect the spiritual welfare of their families are therefore derelict in their duties in the same way a hired hand would be if he were caught sleeping on the job (p. 76).” It is through catechism and family worship that family discipleship takes root and development.
Third, the family shepherd is a trainer. Baucham goes hard after what he believes to plague modern theology of child rearing – a Pelagian view of the nature of man. Pelagianism believes that man was created morally neutral and so is each person since Adam. We are not inclined to good or evil. “Starting with a right understanding of our child’s problem will lead to a right assessment of our child’s need (p. 119).” To Baucham, and I would agree, Pelagianism is theologically unsound and detrimental to biblical child training and discipleship.
The final role of the family shepherd is that of a disciplinarian. Baucham relies heavily on the work of the Puritan Cotton Mather and puts forth two kinds of discipline. First, there is formative discipline. This is the act of impressing upon the child the need for salvation and what it entails. This includes the need for salvation from sin, the consequences of sin and the only hope of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. The second type of discipline is corrective discipline. This is the kind of discipline that seeks to restrain a child from doing wrong. Corrective discipline is both verbal through loving rebuke and physical through wise spanking.
Family Shepherds Marriage
Not only is it important for family shepherds to disciple their children, it is also necessary to disciple their wives by loving them as Christ loved the church. The key to a healthy family and children is a healthy marriage. Baucham focuses on three things for marriages: purpose, primacy and male headship. The purpose of marriage is not for happiness but holiness. Loving your wife as Christ loved the church is seen primarily through self-sacrifice (Eph. 5:25-33). The primacy of marriage is seen when a husband identifies himself with it and not his temporary career. Financially providing for your family is a man’s responsibility but when it gets in the way of fulfilling your discipleship role at home then you need another job. Finally, male headship is important to the role of a family shepherd. Here Baucham touches on some of the arguments in favor of egalitarianism (male headship is cultural, a result of the curse and was a temporary injunction, a display of inequality and fosters abuse) and shows why they are false. Baucham connects male headship as necessary for the logic and mandate for family shepherds:
If male headship is merely preference, we have no right to argue for it as an essential element of family shepherding, we have no right to argue for it as an essential element of family shepherding. It, however, it’s a truth based on God’s decree and design, we have no right to argue for anything else (p. 101).”
A change in the direction and focus of your life is never easy but it also requires a change in the habits of your life. Taking serious the biblical injunction for men to shepherd their families requires a change of habits as well. This begins by being a member of a healthy church where the whole family can be involved in the life and ministry of the church. This will also require a person to reevaluate the use of their time. You may have to play less golf, watch less t.v. and go to fewer guy’s weekends. This is a change in priorities. This shift in life direction will also change the way you see your work in this world.
This book is a gut check for all family shepherds. That statement implies that all married men are by definition family shepherds whether or not they are exercising their responsibilities. While there is much to like in this book there is one omission and one concern.
First, while I recognize that this book is primarily about the role of the man in the home it would have been beneficial to have a chapter on how a woman helps the man shepherd his family. From Titus 2 there is mention of the role of women to disciple the younger women but more needs to be said in how they work together. The leadership of the man must be balanced with the help of his wife.
Second, Baucham makes it clear early on that he is writing to combat the wrong assumption of much of the church, and many fathers, that the church is the primary discipler of the family and that it takes place within the framework of Sunday School, children’s programs, youth ministry and nursery (p. 17, 35). Baucham is clear, “It is fathers – not youth ministries, children’s ministries, or preschool ministries (none of which find warrant for their existence in the pages of Scripture) – who are charged with this duty of discipling the next generation (p. 35-36).” In a section called “Separation at Church”, Baucham argues that the age-segregation in ministries that takes place in church is the cause for usurpation of the spiritual authority of family shepherds. This is the result of the influence of how we live our lives at home. Bauchman believes that this segregated discipleship model determines “the trajectory of their spiritual development completely independent of their parent’s input of knowledge” which results in the fathers “complete absence in the spiritual development of his children (p. 43).” Thus, it is not the fathers, “but the children’s minister and youth minister who decide what direction his children’s discipleship should take.” The “father did not catechize his children, or lead them in family worship, or communicate a clear vision for their spiritual development (p. 43).” Yes and no. Baucham bases this on the assumption that most churches have multiple services where each family member attends a different time slot and they are also serving in some way such that no two members of the family can worship side by side. While this can happen in a mega church in which more than one service is held this seems like an overstatement of experience for many church goers when the average church size is less than 2000 with one Sunday morning service. Yes, there are churches and pastors who teach that they are the primary means of discipleship in the life of its members. But, it is not implicit within these structures and positions that this has to be the case. Baucham himself notes that there is a synergistic relationship between the church and home so why can’t this happen within these ministries and positions? Why does their existence imply the forfeiting of the fathers shepherding role in his home? It doesn’t. That would be the primary fault of the father. All ministries within the church and home should be working together for the discipleship of the whole body. Speaking specifically to youth pastors, many churches are switching to family pastors who still have a youth ministry but also focus a lot of their attention on pastoring families to disciple their children. They work side by side. There is a dual responsibility to the task of discipleship at home. The church is to teach it, preach it and disciple men to accomplish it. Men are to do it and seek the help of the church to accomplish it.
Those concerns laid, there is much in Family Shepherds that is necessary for men to read and do. This book is for all men and would provide a great tool to use to help them see the necessity of exercising their God given role as shepherds of their families.
NOTE: I received this book from Crossway and was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.