If you don’t want to read the entire post reviewing this book, please consider this key message:
Almost 90% of the children who grow up in evangelical churches leave the church at age 18 and never return.
As parents, it is our responsibility, not the church’s, to teach our children about Jesus, to mentor them, and to effectively pass on the faith. Kids can easily see hypocrisy. They may not tell us about it but they are always watching us and, in the end, they will remember most our example, not your words. We must walk the walk of our faith. We must reclaim our kids from the world and claim them for God!
Pipes, Jerry and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. USA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999.
Dr. Jerry Pipes is president of an organization that offers training and workshops on family development. He has authored several books relating to both personal growth and building successful families and has produced many more booklets and training processes, with a total of over 18 million in print. Dr. Pipes has traveled the world for over 30 years, speaking to millions of people about the Gospel and the family. He completed his Doctor of Ministry at Luther Rice University and Seminary and is married with two children.
Victor Lee is a writer by profession. He entered full-time ministry in 1995 (p. 130). In addition to being a contributor to and editor of numerous Christian publications, he has written sports and special event evangelism materials that have been widely distributed (p. 130). He serves as Minister of Single Adults and Evangelism at First Baptist Concord, Knoxville, TN and lives with his wife in Wake Forest, NC (p. 130).
In Family to Family, the authors seek to provide biblical and practical principles upon which Christian families can build to develop healthy, on-mission families that seek to serve out God’s purpose for them. Pipes and Lee begin by sharing a rather startling statistic that indicates almost 90 percent of children who grow up in evangelical churches leave the church at 18 and never return (p. 1). They follow this with two stories; one which represents a focused, mission-oriented family and the other representative of the all-too-typical hurried, unfocused family. The authors describe common characteristics of the hurried family and then offer their own definition of a healthy one. These contrasted examples and illustrations allow the reader to reflect on where his or her family currently stands and sets the stage for introduction of the authors’ suggested methods to develop healthy families with a strong biblical foundation.
Borrowing a concept from the business world, Pipes and Lee suggest the initial step in providing focus for a family is to develop a mission statement. The authors maintain that the process of involving the entire family in creating a family mission statement draws them together and serves to remind everyone what the Bible teaches about the purpose of the family (p. 24). They contend that having a strong mission statement based on God’s Word provides both a centerline and guardrails to a family on their road through life and a compass that will keep them pointed in the right direction toward achieving God’s purpose for them (p. 25).
Next, Pipes and Lee point to Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to ensure parents understand it is their responsibility, not the church’s, to teach their children about Jesus, to mentor them, and to effectively pass on the faith (p. 43). They provide suggestions on sharing the Gospel with both children and teens, focusing on how to determine if someone is ready to receive Jesus. The authors devote a significant portion of the chapter to both the importance and practice of mentoring and the keys to successful family worship.
In the following chapter, the authors put plans into action. They reference a well-known author’s relationship-building method known as Concentric Circles of Concern to suggest ways to involve the entire family in engaging, mission-oriented service to others (p. 73). Pipes and Lee augment this section by providing tips for effective evangelism as a family unit, along with a section on evangelism to families with special needs children (p. 74, 84).
The authors devote the next section to integrating family evangelism with the church. They point to the importance of linking people they interact with to a church environment, in order to aid in growth and maturity as Christians (p. 92). In addition, the authors suggest the potential of coordinating with other church efforts in bringing a larger evangelistic presence to local neighborhoods and communities (p. 92). Pipes and Lee also point to the strengths of involving the family in church-sponsored mission trips and make suggestions on how to best prepare for these events (p. 94-95).
The authors devote the last chapter to focusing on sharing the message of Jesus Christ effectively. They stress the importance of prayer and submitting to the power and direction of the Holy Spirit in becoming successful conveyers of the Gospel. The authors maintain that developing relationships with lost people is crucial in creating opportunities to share the Gospel. Finally, the authors provide direction and instructions on presenting the message, to include the value of one’s personal testimony and recovery stories. The chapter ends with some suggestions for how families can make practical application of this chapter’s contents and boldly spread God’s Word to the world.
Family to Family closes with the authors calling upon readers to take up the challenge of building a healthy family that seeks to carry out God’s purpose. They urge parents to take back their families from the world and reclaim them for God. Pointing once again to the biblical mandate for families to get behind the Great Commission, Pipes and Lee make a final plea for parents to bring back the proper direction and purpose for their families and to glorify God by carrying out His plan.
Pipes and Lee waste no time in tying the idea of healthy families to a firm biblical foundation. Their chapters reference Scripture early and often in creating the justification for the development of families around key principles found in God’s Word. Their commitment in appealing to Scripture effectively grounds their methods and may serve to bring a sense of confidence to readers that they can trust in Pipes and Lee’s suggestions as having been developed from a biblical mandate.
A key strength of the authors is that they pen their book in a manner offering the most appeal to a wide swath of the Christian population. Although both writers are heavily steeped in the Baptist tradition, they manage to write in a way that transcends denominational differences in seeking to draw all Christian families around a biblically-principled lifestyle that glorifies God and is fulfilling to believers. Throughout the book, the authors maintain and reinforce their theme that successful families are committed to knowing and living God’s Word . They do this without appealing to any specific denominational preferences, but rather by allowing the Word to speak for itself.
Additionally, Pipes and Lee make effective use of compelling real life issues to prepare the reader for the practical solutions that will speak to those issues. They carry this format throughout the book and it manages to remind the reader why he or she needs the solutions and readies him or her to receive them. This also serves to break up the instructional material and maintain reader interest.
One point of concern with Family to Family is its focus on building a healthy family without truly speaking to all members of the family. Since the book is clearly written for and to parents, a great opportunity to bring the entire family around a book whose stated purpose is bringing the family together on a God-centered mission has regrettably been missed. Granted, parents bear the majority of the responsibility in raising a family and Pipes and Lee do well to recognize and capitalize on this. However, the book itself is quite brief and rather short on details. Its authors acknowledge this and claim it is not intended to be a quick fix (p. 4). That being said, perhaps it would have been better suited for its intended purpose and more widely read by audiences of all ages if they had offered specific sections geared toward communicating this same idea of family to young people.
Additionally, the authors have apparently not made use of significant research in the fields of psychology and sociology as applied to family development. While it is understandable that Pipes and Lee want to stay consistent to their theme of a biblical mandate for family development, they seem to have done so to such an extent that they do not acknowledge and refer to solid research that could lend itself to helping families communicate and interact more effectively. Although much of this has been secular research, it does not have to be in opposition to the author’s theme. Rather, it could be offered as complementary to their claims, offering academic support for the practical applications and exercises recommended by the authors.
These criticisms notwithstanding, Pipes and Lee offer a refreshingly sensible parent guide to modeling a family in the way God intended. It has been especially interesting to this writer, who has the task of raising two young children in a strong Christian home. The authors have offered practical assistance to this end and backed it up with Scripture to support and encourage this writer and other interested readers who appreciate the difficulties of developing a healthy Christian family in an all-too-often anti-Christian world. This book is highly recommended for any parents searching for some practical biblically-based advice on family development. Additionally, the book is well-suited for a church to provide as a training tool for its member parents. It is a quick and easy read and is especially heavy on ideas to get one’s own family started in a quest to be on mission for God.