Monday, November 19, 2012

The Shepherd Leader at Home, by Timothy Witmer

Jonathan here -- Carrie's husband -- reviewing a book written for, well, husbands. I recognize husbands make up a severe minority in readership of this blog, so the rest of y'all will just have to bear with me.

The Shepherd Leader at Home: Knowing, Leading, Protecting, and Providing for Your Familyis a new title by Timothy Witmer, published by Crossway, which I was especially curious to read after seeing its endorsements by J. Ligon Duncan, J. I. Packer, Sinclair Ferguson, and other theologians I have respect for. The last few years have seen more than a few books on marriage and family come off the presses, and I was interested to see what particular insights this one held. (Note the uncanny resemblance of this book's title to Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham Jr., another review I posted recently. Linked to my thoughts.)

This title is a follow-up to Witmer's earlier book directed at elders and pastors, The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church, which I've heard good things about but not read personally. Both titles approach the subject of Christ in the role of shepherd, emphasizing lessons that we, as leaders in the home or the church, can apply to our own conduct and relationships.

Witmer divides the book into four sections, highlighting the responsibilities of a good "shepherd":

  • The Shepherd Knows His Family. This emphasizes the generous way Jesus spent his time in the presence of his disciples and others, building close, trusting relationships. Obviously, this was necessary for the disciples as they learned to be imitators of Christ. In addition to sacrificing his time spent with them, Jesus also frequently turned the conversation to issues of spiritual significance, rather than just maintaining surface-level friendships. This is a quality that we husbands can, and should, develop in relationships within our own families.

    Witmer turns immediately to his (lengthy) practical advice on the subject, mostly comprised of references to his own experiences and a series of tips for effective communication. (This didn't particularly strike a chord with me, but that's probably just me.)
  • The Shepherd Leads His Family. This section opens with the example of Joshua's famous line, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." (Josh 24:15) and Psalm 23's description of God's leadership over us:
    He leads be beside still waters.
      He restores my soul.
    He leads me in paths of righteousness
      for His name's sake.
    Witmer does a good job identifying what Christlike leadership should look like (compared to the "Clean up your room!" commands of a drill sergeant, and the equally ineffective desperate pleas of a father who's lost any semblance of influence over his family).
  • The Shepherd Provides For His Family. In this (the shortest section, at about 20 pages) we are exhorted to give our families a balance of "material provision" and "spiritual provision". Many temptations seek to turn our attention as fathers solely to one of these types of provision, at the expense of the other. Both are necessary for the well-being of a family.
  • The Shepherd Protects His Family. In this, Witmer considers the issues confronting our families in the context of today's culture that rages against God in almost every way, and seeks to identify what steps we can take to protect our marriage and children from being led astray. This area of responsibility is one that has seen much neglect in the Christian church, and the book gives a clarion call to fathers to show love by exercising protection over their families, publicly and privately.
The Shepherd Leader at Home is a quick read, at about 150 pages, and it's more down-to-earth and conversational in style than an academic treatment of the role of fathers like what you might find in more theological literature.

Still, I found it to have some helpful reminders, and will probably come back and re-read it occasionally as my own family dynamics change over time.

Thanks, Crossway Books, for sending a copy to me in exchange for my honest thoughts.

1 comment:

Barbara H. said...

Looks like a good resource and maybe a good wedding or new baby gift.

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