Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham, Jr.

Jonathan here, taking over Carrie's blog for the day to post a book review of my own. (After doing this a couple of times over the years, I must confess I'm amazed by her ability to write and communicate so much, considering the time it takes me to piece together a few paragraphs!)

So, anyway. I'm here talking about Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homesby Voddie Baucham, Jr. As a quick disclaimer, this is a title I picked out of my own volition, and was not foisted upon me by my wife (who's usually the source of my reading recommendations. Don't act surprised.)

Christian husbands and fathers in this day and age have big shoes to fill, with the heavy responsibility of leading families in a world that presents no end of vices and distractions. To compound the challenge, it's not an easy job to learn by finding role models and watching them. One could figure out how to be a good football fan without much difficulty, simply by attending a game or two and observing behavior. But much of the character that make up a good "shepherd" of a Christian home is not put on display for all the world to see, and doesn't draw attention to itself.

As a result, the role of the father as family leader is one that is not often talked about, and, despite the enormous impact it has on countless lives, often its core principles go so unrecognized that, as fathers, "we do not know what we don't know". One reason I find this book commendable is because there aren't many other places this message is being preached – even in church, where it's received much attention historically, men are now often left un-challenged with regard to the leadership of their family. (Indeed, some churches can be counter-productive in this regard when they offer so many kids' programs and women's activities that fathers are left with nothing to do but practice the aforementioned art of being good football fans.)

Mark Driscoll has noted, "Before a man can be a good father, he has to be a good Christian." Baucham's book does justice to this principle, and correctly represents a gospel-centered foundation for family life. My behavior and attitude toward Carrie and our children should be, above all else, infused with the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is what scripture demands of me (Deut 11:18-19, Eph 5:25-27) and is inherent in my calling as a "family man". However, this is easier said than done. (A fact which my family has ample evidence of.)

The book proceeds to apply the truth of the gospel in three areas of life:
  • Marriage. Considering the primary attention given to marriage in scripture as a picture of the union of Christ and the church, this is a good place to start in applying the gospel. Baucham addresses God's purposes for marriage, explores how they should be lived out in our relationships, and identifies competing agendas (e.g. feminism) which can affect the clarity of our perception of what a biblically centered marriage looks like.

  • Upbringing of Children. Again, rooted in a scriptural definition of the nature of children in a family and how the gospel applies to them, this book identifies many practical aspects of what our child-rearing should resemble. Discipline and training is one particular area of emphasis, where attitudes held by Christians are often heavily influenced by worldly philosophies or, as is sometimes the opposite case, a more fundamentalist distortion of the gospel like the behaviorism espoused by Michael & Debi Pearl. (This section I found to be particularly interesting and well-written.)

  • Lifestyle – that is, our relationship to our vocation/business, church, government/politics, and our use of time. Much good advice to be found here for guys struggling to balance the various daily responsibilities demanding our attention.
The book wraps up with some special notes regarding widowed, divorced, and broken homes, and offers some suggested tools and resources in the shepherding of families.

Baucham's presentation is frustratingly clear and practical. "Frustating" because I would love to blame my own shortcomings on a lack of knowledge, resource, or clarity, and Baucham does not leave me that excuse.

The learning process in which I, as a husband and father, am developing some ability to lead a family has been like embarking on a personal road trip... to Argentina. Thankfully, scripture exists as an infallible map, the Holy Spirit serves as a GPS, and books like this act as road signs. But, that means that when I drive merrily by a highway notice announcing, "Welcome to Alaska," there is no one to blame but myself.

Praise God for the mercy he extends to us, as a patient Father who works through our lives to gradually shape us into the character of Christ. I'm grateful for how He has used the days and situations of our lives to gradually effect change, and for being able to grow by the instruction of others. In that, books like this fulfill a great purpose.

And so, as my GPS would say, "Re-calculating..."

Crossway Books was kind enough to send a copy of Family Shepherds our direction in exchange for the sharing of an honest opinion. In this case, you get Jonathan's opinion - which is the better one to have in this particular situation.


Melissa said...

I would love to have this book in our home, for both of us to read.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

DH has read (more like studied, really) this one in the past few weeks. Are you familiar with Chip Ingram's ministry? He has a recent audio series on marriage that is excellent.

Annette Whipple said...

Well, Jonathan, Carrie seems to rub off on the rest of us to create better reviews. I literally LOL at the idea of Carrie NOT recommending books to you.

I will add this to our list of books that we'd like. Or that I'd like to share with my husband.

B said...

I listened to a Baucham sermon a while back. I can't say it motivated me to read anything he's written. But this book does sound like he makes some good points.

BerlinerinPoet said...

I wasn't surprised. Good review! Seems like a really helpful book for men.

"Fathers are left with nothing to do but practice the aforementioned art of being good football fans." hahahaha

Stephanie said...

Well written review!! I can't wait to read this and I will pray my DH feels led to as well.
Caniad--I must admit I like Bauchums writing style and "lectures" more than his sermons, so don't be put off! I recently read Family Driven Faith and saw him speak on the book and really enjoyed both!

RN said...

It is an excellent book, but I wish that Voddie had gone a little futher into things such as more specific things to incorporate into family worship (suggestions of which hymnals? Which confessions to study from? Which books to use?)

Also, there was virtually nothing about the role of the father as the homeschool headmaster. This is something that I see often neglected in Christian homeschool families, where Dad's just defer this duty to the mom alone, and that's just wrong.

Carrie said...

RN - Interesting. I'm personally glad that Baucham wouldn't go so far as to lay out an exact suggested plan for family worship. I think it wise of him NOT to because if he started doing that then he'd likely start garnering a following which you could liken to Bill Gothard or Vision Forum or any other groupie gathering or following that people tend to gravitate to so that they will not have to be discerning for themselves.

I do agree with you though that dad's should play a role in the homeschooling of his family. But that, too, shall look different for each family.

Susanne said...

Great review. Sorta wish this book would have been around more like 20 years ago when we could have used it as a resource for our young family. But it sounds like it's a good one to pass on to grown children with families of their own.

jer said...

A must read!!! Fathers should not slack on their roles and will find reason in this book and examples in a more important book than than this...dont make me tell ya what that is!!!

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