Monday, December 29, 2008

Pastoring and Parenting

"But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.

...For you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory." -1 Thes 2:7-12 (ESV)

Three things stick out to me in this text, one in which Paul compares his role as a pastor with that of a parent. The two are obviously distinct from each other, but Paul seems to suggest that there are a lot of similarities between the two. Here are the three things I think we can learn from this text:

(1) Effective pastoring (not just by staff, but by all church leaders) and parenting both involve a maternal aspect. Paul refers to a "gentleness" that marked his ministry--a gentleness that most of us can remember being embodied by our mothers. Moms have an innate desire to comfort and care for the immediate needs of their children. They show an empathy and concern for their children. This is an absolutely necessary component of parenting and pastoring, because without experiencing compassion and concern, people will rarely listen to the counsel that parents or pastors have to offer.

(2) Effective pastoring and parenting both involve a paternal aspect. Paul said that like a father, he "exhorted, encouraged, and charged" them to live a life worthy of God. I read recently about how while mothers are more concerned with their children's immediate needs, fathers are primarily focused on the "end-product." This is so true and important to ministry in the church and in the home. We must not coddle those we are leading, but warn them, teach them, and set high expectations for them. We must teach them the gospel very clearly and teach them the expectations that God has of them.

(3) Effective pastoring and parenting both involve a sharing of our lives AND of the gospel. The motherly instinct is to be affectionate and to share our lives with those we lead (listen to their hurt, hug them, encourage them, etc.). The fatherly instinct is hopefully to teach them the gospel and push them toward greater maturity and obedience to Christ in the long run. But Paul says we must do both to be effective leaders. We must come alongside those we lead, genuinely desiring to know them and comfort them. But we must also go before them and lead them toward growth and maturity.

In our homes and in our church, let's follow Paul's example and strive to provide both of these to those we are pastoring and parenting!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Learning from a Football Team

You've got to read this story by Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly. It'll bring a tear to your eye; at least it did to me. There are lots of things that people say Christmas is "about." Some of them are just hokey or sentimental. But I think that the team described in this story is closer than most to celebrating what Christmas truly was about--Christ coming to give hope, love, and forgiveness to those who otherwise had none. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas is....Disturbing?

As usual, C.J. Mahaney has really made me stop and think. Read his most recent blog post here:

Monday, December 22, 2008

"The (Ongoing) Talk"

I know that this might seem a little out of place considering that most everything revolves around Christmas celebrations this time of year (and rightfully so)...But I wanted to share a video with you that I found that deals with the issue of lust and how fathers can start to handle having "the (ongoing) talk" with their children--particularly their sons. It was made by a ministry called Freedom Begins Here. They are a group dedicated to helping churches and individuals start to actually deal with pornography and sexual sin in people's lives. This problem has reached a point in our nation where we really don't have the option of keeping silent about it and just hoping and praying that our children won't fall victim to such temptations. Here are some stats that they offer on their website:
• Sex is the #1 thing people search for on the Internet
• There are over 420 million Pornographic Internet pages
• 12 to 17 year olds are the largest consumers of Internet pornography
• 42.7% of Internet users view pornography
• The pornography industry is larger than the revenues of the top technology companies combined: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, Apple, Netflix and EarthLink
• 2006 Worldwide Porn Revenues = $97.06 billion
• 7 of 10 lay leaders in the church admitted to visiting adult Web sites at least once a week.
• 4 out of 10 pastors said they did the same.
50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography.

These are alarming and should help us see reality better. So I just wanted to put this video out here to hopefully encourage you as parents to engage your children in ongoing conversation about lust, pornography, temptation, sex, etc. They will learn about it somewhere, and it's best to teach them from a loving encouraging biblical perspective in the home--rather than leaving them to the self-seeking pleasure-now culture around them elsewhere. Here's the video for all you parents:

RENOVATED: A father-to-father discussion on talking to your son about sex. from Freedom Begins Here on Vimeo.

Let me know what you think. Any thoughts about how you might need help as parents? Any helpful ideas or suggestions that have been beneficial between you and your children? Post or email me:

Monday, December 15, 2008

Teach the Gospel Through Discipline

I recently read these two entries on the blog of a man I greatly respect and admire, Dr. Russell Moore. In them, he addresses the issue of parental discipline and how it provides an opportunity to teach our children the gospel. They're a good read:

Here are some significant quotes from them that made me think (if you don't have time to read the whole thing):

"A parent disciplining a child, for instance, communicates to the child the discipline and judgment of God in ways deeper and more resonant than any Sunday school lesson (Heb 12:5-11). A parent who will not discipline a child for disobedience, or who is inconsistent in doing so, is teaching that child not to expect consequences for behavior....In short, a parent who will not discipline is denying the doctrine of hell....At the same time, a parent who disciplines in anger or with harshness teaches a judgment of God that is capricious and unjust. An abusive parent, worst of all, ingrains in a child’s mind a picture of God as a ruthless devil who cannot be trusted to judge justly."

"Parental discipleship and discipline ought always to have repentance and restoration in view, picturing a God who is both just and the justifier (Rom 3:26). Discipline should be swift and fair with quick reconciliation between parent and child. Long periods of 'time out' do not communicate the discipline of God; they communicate the isolation and exile of hell."

"If 'time out' in your house is a tool to prompt thinking, while the child waits for swift discipline and restoration, then have at it. If 'time out' is a means of punishing the child by removing him from the fellowship of his family, then you’re removing him from the very means of discipleship he (and we) so desperately need."


These are interesting thoughts--especially the ones about time-outs. I'll admit I haven't really evaluated time-out as a means of discipline in the home, but I think he makes some good points with his argument about not using time-out as a primary and extended means of isolating children in punishment. Anybody disagree? Agree? Let me know your thoughts.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Teach the Gospel through Christmas Songs

Over on our personal blog (, I posted recently about how I am trying to read through the lyrics of some Christmas songs this month. And I wanted to encourage all of you as families to take time to do this together this season. You and your children are familiar with many Christmas songs, but a lot of times--if you're like me--you don't take the time to really think through the words and see how insightful they can really be. So I think it'd be a great activity to each day the next few weeks as a family to read part of the Christmas story together (reading a short portion of Luke's account each day could take a few weeks), briefly discuss it, pray together, then choose a Christmas song to sing together, but be sure to point out something simple that it reminds us about the gospel before you sing (our sin, Christ's divinity, Him coming ultimately to die on the cross, etc.).

Here's an example of something I thought about when reading through "O Little Town of Bethlehem":

The third stanza is as follows:

How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heav'n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still
The dear Christ enters in.

Phillips Brooks, the author, is playing on the idea of Jesus' birth coming rather "silently"--although I don't know how "silent" it truly was with the angels proclamations and the shepherds spreading the word. But it is true that the whole world wasn't completely fascinated or awed by Christ's birth at that time. So in a sense, while angels were singing God's praises and marveling at the birth, the world rolled on as usual...Brooks is reminding us that Jesus invades the hearts of sinners like you and me in the same silent way when we are "meek" and repentant. The world may not take much notice of the change or appreciate it (they moved on from the birth of Christ rather quickly it seems--except for King Herod), but it is real none the less.

The last stanza goes like this:

O holy Child of Bethlehem!
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in,
Be born in us today!
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Immanuel!

Brooks very simply helps us sing to our Savior and invite Him to daily live within us. Of course, He never leaves us. It is not as if the Spirit of Christ has to be born in us again day after day after day. But Brooks is poetically having us ask Jesus to "abide" with us daily and to help us cast out sin from our lives daily. So in that sense, He can be born in us each day and influence us afresh. This idea of "abiding" is a rich biblical teaching that John especially focuses on and one that we can certainly be reminded of at this time of year where we celebrate Christ's first entrance into our world and into the lives of humanity.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Teaching Our Children

"...(the average current American) family has, at best, a transitory togetherness. People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together. Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life. Educational TV marks the high tide for family intellectual life." -Allan bloom in The Closing of the American Mind(57-58)

This quote was in a book that I've been reading recently. In this particular chapter, Professor Bloom was describing how the average family has lost its effectiveness in educating children. He provides an accurate critique here I think. Many families, including my own if I am honest, often resort to a "transitory togetherness." At times, even in our family of two, we go through days where we eat together, watch tv together, take walks together, etc. But the tendency of our family of two--and of every family--is toward those interactions being shallow instead of deep. Surface level. Detached. No real meaningful conversation to help each other learn. As the husband and leader of my family, I am sorry to admit this is the case. But I doubt I am alone.

I'm sure the pull toward "transitory togetherness" becomes even stronger when more and more people are added to the family. Education takes a back seat, because busyness reigns supreme. Games, practices, concerts, church programs, television, meals, and other activities keep families busy. But parents must be sure to actually educate their children. Parents have a God-given responsibility to teach their children to think, to answer life's greatest questions, to impart wisdom, to teach them the gospel. These can be done informally of course, but if you were to evaluate your family's time, how much is devoted to busyness and how much is truly devoted to the educating of your children?

A great way to start is by having family devotionals each day where biblical conversation provides regular opportunity to impart wisdom and help your children learn to be good thinkers.