At New Beginnings, we want 2014 to be “The Year of the Faith Talk.” We want our people to take ONE SIMPLE STEP to see extensive change in our homes, church, and community. I just challenged a large group of our parents to consider taking what I call the “1.5.3 Challenge.”
1 Faith Talk = 1 night each week
5 Bible Stories = 5 nights each week
3 Prayer Times with spouse = 3 nights each week
That’s where I get the “1.5.3 Challenge.” I believe marriages, relationships with your children, discussions, attitudes, behaviors, spiritual growth, whole families, whole churches, whole cities and cultural issues can see dramatic change if this were to take place across the board starting in one home after another.
Here’s a good definition of Family Equipping:
Family Equipping Model: “The process of intentionally and persistently realigning a congregation’s proclamation and practices so that parents are acknowledged, trained, and held accountable as the persons primarily responsible for the discipleship of their children.”1
Notice the progression.
Acknowledged. Equipped & Trained. Engaged. Encouraged & Accountable
FAILURE TO FANATIC—BUILDING A LEGACY
Apathetic Anderson—Let me introduce you to “Apathetic Anderson.” It’s not that Anderson is mean-spirited or moody in dealing with his children. It’s not that Anderson is emotionally or physically abusive to his children or wife. In fact, he’s been a great physical provider. He has worked long and hard at his career to provide an above average home and lifestyle for them. We all know Apathetic Andersons. Simply put, they abdicate their role in spiritual parenting with apathy, passivity, and uninvolvement. Each day, there is a loss of possible intimacy and spiritual depth that is passed over with their wife and children. Not surprisingly (except to Andersons), the children begin to develop desires to be known and understood by peers more than by Apathetic Andersons.
Walk with me as we watch Apathetic Anderson move from a FAILURE TO FANATIC by implementing a very simple process.
- STAGE 1: BLISSFUL IGNORANCE — Apathetic Anderson has never heard and never been shown in the Bible that it was his responsibility to spiritually lead his family. He simply assumed it was the children’s minister or youth minister's job. He was BLISSFULLY IGNORANT.
- STAGE 2: ACKNOWLEDGED & EDUCATED— Apathetic Anderson then became aware of the Biblical responsibility that God lays out in Deuteronomy for all parents—not church staff. HIs pastor taught through Deuteronomy 6 showing that this was the main thing God wanted passed down from generation to generation from parents to children. Now he feels guilty, convicted, and fearful. Guilty because he sees he’s sinning against God in disobedience (omission). He’s convicted by the Holy Spirit to live according to this truth that is new to him. But he’s fearful because he’s never seen life done this way. He’s never seen a model of it. He’s never experienced this in a home. He is now ACKNOWLEDGED and EDUCATED through God’s word on the issue.
- STAGE 3: FEARFUL RELUCTANCE TO…SEMI-FAILURE: He’s intimidated. He’s no Bible scholar.
- What if his young kids ask questions he can’t answer? What if he makes mistakes about the Bible? Will he lose even more respect from his wife and kids if he messes this up too?
- So he’s reluctant to take steps of change. He’s also afraid of failure because he doesn’t know of a concrete, simple, workable plan that that he can pull of in his own home. But one of his pastors assures him that we only fail if we continue to abdicate our role and continue in passivity and apathy as spiritual leaders of those we’re responsible for. So he now knows God’s commands on it and he desires to become obedient—but he’s RELUCTANT. Often, the most difficult thing to do is that thing which we knew, all along, we should have been doing.
- STAGE 4: EQUIPPED AND ENGAGED—He picks up a 15-week “Faith-Talk Guide” at his church’s Family-Equipping area. He now has simple, short, already prepared Bible studies that are less than a page long. They include simple questions he can use and even modify for different aged kids. He’s also picked up a “Faith Map” and stuck it on the fridge to keep the PROCESS in front of the family.
- He and his wife decide on one night, Sunday nights, as their new “Family Faith Talk” nights. They plan on spending 10-15 minutes going through the simple Bible story, the main idea of the Bible passage, three or four easy questions that everyone can answer, a fun included activity that ties into the Bible lesson, and a time of prayer together. Anderson is now EQUIPPED with tools and a workable plan for his family inside the home. He now ENGAGES in their first “Family Faith Talk.”
- STAGE 5: FORGETFUL FAILURE— Apathetic Anderson did great last week. He had responded to God’s word and led his wife and children through a Faith Talk and prayer time. They had planned on 10-15 minutes, but surprisingly, the kids really loved the Bible story and the four questions promoted about six other questions that mom and dad were able to answer. They even used the same lesson to start more discussion the next two evenings at dinner. It went great! Except—this week—he totally forgot to have the Faith Talk on Sunday night. It completely slipped his mind. And it wasn’t that it was not a priority—it’s the reality that it takes time and repetition to get anything to become a natural part of our schedules (diets, exercise, rest, etc). But now he felt like a failure. To make it worse, on Thursday, his five-year old asked, “Daddy, are we never going to do that Bible time again? Was it only one time?” Anderson now feels like a FORGETFUL FAILURE. How many other things has he started and not followed through with over the years? He fears this whole “Faith Map” and specifically “Faith Talks” will fall in the same category—even though it went really well.
- STAGE 6: ENCOURAGING ACCOUNTABILITY—Apathetic Anderson brought up his feelings of failure as he met with one of the pastors and some guys in his D-group. They quickly reminded him that THIS IS A PROCESS. He didn’t fail simply because he started and forgot the next week. It’s like Michael Jordan shooting basketball. He’s going to miss (fail) on a lot of shots. But in the end, he’s known as a success because everyone remembers how consistent he was in making lots of shots. No one looks back and sees him as a failure and remembers him as “the guy who missed thousands of shots!” Everyone remembers him because of all the shots he made that counted. His group simply asked some questions about what he and his wife could do on Fridays to make sure they had the simple plan scheduled as a priority on Sunday. That way they wouldn’t forget or let other things marginalize their “Family Faith Talk.” He is now ENCOURAGED and HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
FROM FAILURE TO FANATIC
- STAGE 7: LEAVING A LEGACY—Apathetic Anderson now spends just a few minutes on Friday or Saturday preparing for their Sunday “Family Faith Talk.” They make sure they set the time and communicate it to the children so everyone is anticipating their Faith Talk. They are now scheduling the priority of diligently teaching their children on God’s greatness. The next month, Anderson doesn’t miss a Sunday Faith Talk. The kids are now asking questions throughout the week about what they discussed on Sunday. Over the next six months, they missed only two or three Faith Talks on Sunday evenings. It became an enjoyable process where the family grew closer to God and one another.
The story doesn’t end there. Fast forward twenty-five years later. Ole Apathetic Anderson’s four kids are now grown with small children of their own. Two of them live in the same city. The other two live about four hours away in another city. Some weeks, the two young parents who live nearby have Anderson and his wife over on Sundays after church. They have lunch together, go outside and play catch, go for a family walk (now proud grandparents, two of their offspring and their spouses, and six grandchildren), and finish the day with grandpa Anderson leading both young families in some of his favorite Faith Talks he’s collected over the years.
And during the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, 4th of July) when grandparents and nearby families all travel to their other kids homes four hours away—they even try to have two or three nights in a row where they have a huge “Family Faith Talk” with grandparents, all four siblings now married, and twelve grandchildren.
Apathetic Anderson is now a captivated fanatic about Family Faith Talks focusing on this Jesus who redeemed he and his family.
That is how a person goes from failure to fanatic with a simple, workable plan to intentionally leave a spiritual legacy!
This is the type of environment and vision we’re asking God to create at New Beginnings.
Sankie P. Lynch
1. See Timothy Paul Jones Family Ministry Field Guide.