Friday, December 17, 2010

Book Critique: Family to Family - Leaving a Lasting Legacy

THIS CRITIQUE ORIGINATED AS AN ASSIGNMENT FOR MY STUDIES AT LIBERTY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

Bibliographical Entry

Pipes, Jerry F,, and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving A Lasting Legacy. Alpharetta, GA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999.

Author Information

Dr. Jerry Pipes is on staff with the North American Mission Board leading the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team. Dr. Pipes is also president of Jerry Pipes Productions. Dr. Pipes has traveled the globe speaking to millions of people in conferences, crusades and assemblies. He has authored four books and produced numerous booklets and training processes with over 18 million copies in print. Dr. Pipes and his wife, Debra, have two children and live in the metro Atlanta area.

Victor Lee is the pastor of Young Adults and Families at First Baptist Concord, Knoxville, TN. A professional writer for 22 years, Lee entered vocational ministry in 1995. He contributes regularly to a variety of Christian publications as well as serving as editor. Lee lives in Knoxville, TN with his wife Judy.

Content Summary

Pipes and Lee, in Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy seeks to provide parents with a framework for passing a lasting Christian legacy to their children. Of course, they do so with a decidedly conservative underpinning one would expect from Southern Baptist ministers and they make no excuses for doing so. Pipes and Lee lay out a plan in six chapters where parents can pass on their faith to their children and reverse the trend of them leaving the church upon turning 18. Beginning with Healthy Families in Chapter One and concluding with sharing the message in Chapter Six, Pipes and Lee provide and outline filled with helpful tips and ideas on how families can grow closer together and reaches their community and the world for Jesus Christ.

Thankfully, Pipes and Lee avoid the temptation to opine at length about the reasons American families are virtual strangers in their homes other than to simple present their observations. Instead, they dedicate the bulk of their book to offering practical steps families can take to first get their own lives back on track and then impact the world around them. At the end of each chapter is a section Pipes and Lee call “Steps to Making it Yours”. Here can be found family readiness questions, family building activities, family applications, and additional resources they suggest to help the family further their growth.

Pipes and Lee set the stage by explaining what an unhealthy family is (p. 5-7). With this familiar image in mind, they go on to explain what God intended the family to be and what that looks like in a modern context (p. 8-9). Pipes and Lee readily acknowledge single parent families while emphasizing that they too are accountable to God in raising a family according to the principles laid out in the Bible (p. 9). This is important as they acknowledge that not all families have both parents in the home although that is certainly preferred. Another principle common throughout the book is the parent/s as the example for Godly living for their children (p. 18).

Chapter Two centers around creating a family mission statement much like those used in corporate America today. This is curious coming from authors who gently fault the business of American family life for the problems in our families. Nevertheless, Pipes and Lee spend twenty pages fleshing out their concept of the family mission statement. At times sounding more corporate than at others, they painstakingly craft their pitch insisting such a statement provides a centerline for families to come back to (p. 25). It is obvious Pipes and Lee believe this to be an important aspect of strengthening the family.

In the third chapter, Pipes and Lee discuss passing on faith in Christ to the next generation. Beginning with children and progressing throughout childhood, Pipes and Lee do a masterful job of instructing their readers on how to lead their children to Christ and how to model their faith for their children (p. 49-50). Wisely, Pipes and Lee also focus on mentoring children providing seven key elements (p. 51-58) before concluding the chapter with a discussion of family worship.

The next two chapters discuss at length evangelism as a family starting first by urging Christian families to get out of their houses and into the world beginning in their own communities. The importance of prayer (p. 103) and recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit (p. 106) are among the basics of evangelism Pipes and Lee cover.

Evaluation

Pipes and Lee set out to provide a help for parents in a modern world that rather successfully strives to occupy nearly every waking moment of our time. Identifying business and selfishness as the root causes for the state of the family today, they offer a solution based on Biblical principles of the family. Though Pipes and Lee do not break any new ground, they certainly accomplish what they set out to offering a book that remains fresh and relevant a decade after it was published. Declaring that adhering to Biblical principles is always in fashion, Pipes and Lee present their arguments logically and support their positions in the most important way possible, with Scripture.

One of the key strengths of Family to Family is the “Steps to Making it Yours” section at the end of each chapter. There are many parenting books available on the market that approaches the material from both a secular and Christian perspective. Few of them go to the lengths that Pipes and Lee have to provide actual Family Readiness Questions that are both helpful and relevant to the material covered. The questions are followed by Family Applications which focuses on prayer.

Then there are the Family Activities that are designed bring the family closer together as they study the book and work through the material. Scripture verses are suggested that can be used to further the Family Application suggestions. Pipes and Lee then provide suggestions for additional resources such as Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life to further assist the family that is truly working through their book attempting to make a difference in their family life.

A weakness in the approach that Pipes and Lee suggest is lies in that the overused mission statement should be adopted by the family. As with the rest of their book, Pipes and Lee articulate their arguments in a clear and logical fashion. With stories from history such as the legacies of Jonathan Edwards and the Jukes, an infamous crime family (p. 24), to more personal stories likes that of Raymond and Christy (p. 25-26) and Henry Blackaby (p. 26-27), Pipes and Lee demonstrate their passion for the importance they place on the idea of families adopting a mission statement. Pipes and Lee shamelessly adopt this corporate mainstay.

While there are certainly business aspects to modern ministry including evangelism, ministry is not a business endeavor. These similarities arise out of necessity for reasons mostly related to the tax code. It is the opinion of this seminarian that treating ministry the same as a for-profit business is a mistake. Bringing business principles and methods from the corporate boardroom into the family’s living room is also a mistake.

There is more to raising a family and passing on the faith of the parents to their children than a brief statement of purpose. There is something to be said for clearly communicating the family’s core values to the next generation. However, once the approaches of the business world enter the family environment, at what point do limits begin to be placed? Perhaps suggesting the use of business practices in the home stems from the growing trend of American churches to emulate the business community.

The suggested use of mission statements notwithstanding, parents and future parents will benefit from reading Family to Family. From providing a very good definition of a healthy family to passing on faith in Christ to the next generation to urging families to reach their communities for Christ, Pipes and Lee provide a workable plan for those who would choose to follow their suggestions.

It should be noted that both Pipes and Lee come from the Southern Baptist tradition. They make no effort to downplay their respective theological backgrounds nor do they do anything to bring attention to it. Readers will immediately realize the authors have written a book from a Christian worldview though Pipes’ and Lee’s writing style is inviting to believers and non-believers alike. Those who enjoy books written from such a position will likely enjoy Family to Family.

The word of God goes out and does not return void (Isaiah 55:11) and Family to Family keeps the word of God at the core of each chapter and concept Pipes and Lee develop. The family that fully embraces the suggestions put forth by Pipes and Lee will very likely be drawn closer together. Those parents should expect to successfully pass their faith on to their children and also have an impact for Christ in their community and beyond. This should not come as a surprise but rather ought to be expected. The focus of the approach suggested by Pipes and Lee is based on sound Biblical principles and prayer. With God clearly at the center of any plan, failure is unlikely.

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