I’m not sure there is anything more “risk-taking” than having 8 of your grandchildren at Hoover Dam at once!
In a recent interview, Francis Chan, favorite pastor to many millennials, was asked to give a “warning to the church.” Echoing his previous teaching that “Christians are making an idol out of the family,” Chan believes too many couples are not taking risks and are endangering the spiritual health of their children by homeschooling or placing their children in Christian schools. He called for parents to “seek first the Kingdom” and practice what he calls “radical, adventurous, Holy-Spirit filled” living.
I have often warned families who are committed to the family integrated church movement’s agenda for family life to not become isolationists and to be careful to not idolize a paradigm. After listening to Chan’s comments, I think many of his ideas are exactly why some homeschooling families have abandoned traditional churches for the family integrated model. Chan has totally missed the mark of what it actually means to be a Christian family! Here is my admonition to Chan and those who found this article appealing:
Scripture tells us that married couples are not free to pursue other ministries in the same way single people do. It is a fact. “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 7:32-35) Those who feel called to “risk-taking” need to examine whether or not they are actually called to marriage and family life. Raising a family requires commitment and stability.
Reconsider what it means to “be radical” and whether or not Chan’s definition is really a goal we ought to have as Christians. Chan says the church “has almost squashed the desire of young people to be radical.” He then defines radical as going overseas, moving into the inner city, and not “living in a bubble.” In reality, the most radical thing a Christian mother and father can do in the 21st century is to be in a committed, faithful marriage to each other for life and to raise children in an environment that loves and adores children and nurtures them in a Biblical worldview. As we demonstrate the one anothers to those in our homes and then to others we welcome into our family circle, hearts and lives are changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Maybe diapers, dishes, and daily devotions aren’t exciting, but, as parents, it is our calling. Living faithfully is the true adventure!
We must identify our true mission field. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He said “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Our commission begins in our “Jerusalem,” in our homes. Jesus also warned us “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) If we have been given children to mentor and disciple, we cannot overlook them in lieu of a different, more action-packed mission field.
Years ago we knew a man whose parents were foreign missionaries. He described how, at the end of each summer, his parents loaded him and his siblings on a boat that traveled up-river to a boarding school. He vividly remembered being a little boy of 5, crying and waving good-bye as his parents told him God had called them to sacrifice their children for the Kingdom, that this separation was God’s will. Decades later, two of those children had committed suicide and the others were not believers. This story has played itself out over and over again as Christians practiced a skewed view of their true mission field.
“Jesus was going through all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matthew 9:35-38) For parents, the harvest is our precious children who are, in this growing culture of relativism and death, in desperate need of shepherds to watch over them. In this application, the few workers Jesus talks about are the parents who have neglected their first mission field.
God placed us in families. This is one of the most powerful truths we will ever know and experience. Family is the training ground for adult life. Everything important we learn about loving Jesus and loving others we first learned in our homes, for good or for bad. It is to be the place of comfort and rest and sanctuary for each member who struggles. It is where we practice confrontation and argument and debate. It Is where we give and receive forgiveness. It has been God’s design since the Garden and though many social experiments have attempted to replace it, none have been successful. It is God’s first, best plan. Choosing to give it top priority does not make us slackers in the Kingdom, it makes it obedient and faithful stewards of God’s most valuable gifts.
God expects parents to *mentor their own children. The one another verses of Scripture are God’s commands to us in order to build the body of Christ for His glory. It is in the moment by moment of living those verses that we mentor the children God has given to us. The fruits of living faithfully are multiplied exponentially through future generations as our children mature and grow and begin their own family adventures.
Faithful family life opens the door to evangelism. Those who are called to foreign missions and include their children in the work know how powerful their example of family faithfulness can be. One of my missionary friends told me that she is often reticent about meeting new people but that her small son, who is a lively and energetic people person, has opened doors for sharing the Gospel many times. Being the one family on the block where mom and dad are always available and who actually enjoy being with kids will draw neighbor children from near and far! Involving children in service and ministry to others along with us while maintaining the necessary protection they need and deserve prepares them with confidence!
One of the disturbing trends among Christian celebrities is an agenda of challenging others to pursue “more” in their relationship with Jesus. When asked to define “more” it is often described in nebulous ways or nonsensical terms that result in feelings of defeat and inadequacy for those who are already overwhelmed with daily family life. Often they call Christians to be “radical,” but the “radical” stuff is dangerous for children, neglects them, or even expects them to make choices well beyond what should be expected of children. Sometimes “more” is even heretical. But Jesus called us to faithfulness and He is the one who asks “more” of us in the process.
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more. (Luke 12:28)
*For a more detailed explanation of what family mentoring requires, see Chapter 2 of The Joy of Relationship Homeschooling ~ when the one anothers come home.