Family Discipleship by Design
“…an easy-to-follow plan that will help any parent put the truth of God’s Word into the hearts of their children.”
– Kevin Ezell, President, North Am. Mission Board, SBC
“…a practical page-turner that encourages ordinary fathers who want their families to be sanctified by the truth.”
– Joel R. Beeke, President, Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, Michigan
Also endorsed by Timothy P. Jones, James Hamilton
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Description & Excerpts..SHARE..
There are literally thousands of books available on how to live various aspects of the Christian life.
Of these, at least a couple of dozen pertaining to family life and child training are well worth reading.
This is not one of those books.
This book is designed to help you take those other books, as well as all the sermons, teachings, and exhortations you have received on child training and leadership in the home, and make sense of it all.
Pastor Tad Thompson has assembled a biblical approach to effective family discipleship. Let him share it with you in this clear, encouraging, accessible book.
This is not another book of tactics and techniques. It is a book of strategy for parents who want to be intentional about discipleship in the home.
About the Author
Dr. Tad Thompson is a second generation pastor who entered the ministry at age 18. Tad has served local churches in student ministry, adult ministry, and now as the lead pastor of Harvard Avenue Baptist Church in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Tad and Mandy were married in 1999 and have two children.
Tad has a passion to help churches equip parents to engage in effective family discipleship. He is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, from which he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree in 2009.
Table of Contents
1) The Need: Look
2) The Mirror: See
3) The Kitchen: The Ingredients of Family Discipleship
The False Gospel of Personal Improvement
The False Gospel of Prosperity
The “Pray the Prayer” Gospel
The True Gospel
The Big Story (Biblical Theology)
The Big Story Points to God
The Big Story Constructively Reformulates the Hard Questions
In Reformulating Hard Questions, the Big Story Leads to the Gospel
The Big Truths (Systematic Theology)
The Great Commission
How Do I Start to Prepare Myself?
4) The Living Room: Contexts for Teaching and Learning
The Biblical Methodology of Family Discipleship
Moses on Intentional Parenting
The Goal of Parenthood
The Four Spheres of Family Discipleship
5) The Bedroom: Speaking to Our Children’s Hearts
What is the Goal of Family Discipleship?
Four Goals that Miss the Heart
How Can I Help My Children Treasure Jesus Above All Things?
A Special Word to Fathers
6) Time to Engage
CHAPTER ONE: THE NEED
I can see the room as if it were yesterday. Metal folding chairs, flannel board, musty carpet, and all my church buddies gathered for the weekly ritual of Sunday School. As I leaned back against the wall in my chair, I had no sense there was anything unique about this particular lesson. It was simply another hour with my friends, listening to a story I had heard a thousand times before. And this is no exaggeration; I had heard the simple gospel message at least one thousand times. My dad, a Baptist pastor, was faithful to share the gospel, my mom was faithful to talk to me about the gospel, and our church was faithful in its proclamation of the gospel. I had heard the message of the cross time and time again, so when my first-grade Sunday School teacher began to tell it again that day, it seemed like an old, broken-in ball cap, very comfortable and familiar.
But something was unique about this particular lesson; the Holy Spirit began to work in my heart. From one moment to the next, something changed. I realized in an entirely new way that the cross was about my sin, and that this all-too-familiar story demanded a response. I was undone, convicted of my sin. I spent the rest of the day thinking about Jesus hanging on the cross, dying, his sacrifice paying for what I had done. I vividly remember lying in bed that evening praying a simple, child-like prayer to God, asking him to forgive my sins. This was not the grandest of all confessions. It was not theologically precise or soteriologically accurate. But it was wrought by the Holy Spirit, who had gently and persuasively led me, a six-year-old boy, to the cross of the Savior.
I reflect often on that Sunday, and cherish it as the day I was born again by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the proclamation of the gospel. When I ponder that day, it is obvious to me that two groups were vital to my conversion and subsequent discipleship: my parents and the local church.
God intends for a beautiful partnership to exist between the home and his church. As a matter of fact, God intends for the Christian home to be the body of Christ in microcosm. As George Whitfield once put it, “[E]very house…a little Parish, every Governor a Priest, every Family a Flock…”
But historically it has been rare for the Christian home to function even remotely like a little church. As I think about my childhood friends who were with me in that Sunday School class, I do not believe many of them were afforded the blessing of being discipled by their parents. Few of them are active in the church today.
I have served on a church staff as a student pastor, as an associate pastor with oversight of adult education, and now as a lead pastor. At every stage of my experience in ministry, the disconnect between parents and children with respect to the discipleship process has become increasingly evident. The hard fact is that fathers and mothers are not taking on the responsibility to disciple their own children, and churches are doing very little, if anything, to challenge this reality. One look at my Facebook page demonstrates the painful fact that many young adults who were once quite active in student ministry programs have left the church and are questioning their faith. A young man found my Facebook account and wrote, “I just want to let you know that I don’t believe in organized religion anymore. I’m not even sure I believe in God.”
Personal experiences do not prove societal trends, but current research demonstrates that this young man’s experience is not uncommon. Polling has shown that, of adults in their twenties who attended church as teenagers, 61 percent no longer do so.
During the past 30 years, the church has become increasingly geared towards the consumer. Pastors and church-growth experts have thought of every way imaginable to compel the masses, through attractive facilities and programs, to at least walk in the door. Often the motive is a genuine desire to share the gospel with those who need to hear it—and who presumably would not come to church absent video screens, concert-hall sound systems, or wacky children’s sets complete with slime machines and fire truck baptisteries. The results of these efforts may look good at first, with some churches boasting increased attendance. The data, however, demonstrate otherwise. Alvin Reid, professor of evangelism at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary writes,
Over the preceding twenty years the number of full-time youth pastors had grown dramatically and a plethora of magazines, music, and ideas aimed at youth has been birthed along the way. Meanwhile, during that same time span, the numbers of young people won to Christ dropped at about as fast a rate.
The lesson here is that the church’s emphasis on attracting the unchurched through entertainment and child-centered programs has not only not helped, it has hurt. Another researcher concurs, writing “Sugarcoated Christianity, popular in the 1980’s and early 90’s, has caused growing numbers of kids to turn away not just from attending youth-fellowship activities but also from practicing their faith at all."
So while the church and parents alike want to raise up spiritual champions, the discipleship model in which church professionals essentially replace parents as the primary agents of discipleship is just not working. One key reason for this was revealed by a comprehensive study on the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers, which concluded,
When it comes to the formation of the lives of youth, viewed sociologically, faith communities typically get a very small seat at the end of the table for a very limited period of time… . Religious communities that are interested in the faith formation of their youth simply must better address the structural competition of other, not always supportive institutions and activities. This will likely require developing new and creative norms, practices, and institutions appropriate to specific religious situations and traditions.
That is, the church must change course. For one thing, we must recognize that a few hours a week of consumer-oriented church events cannot successfully compete for the hearts of young people if those hearts are not being attended to spiritually in the home. The spiritual futures of children must be placed as a matter of primary importance back into the hands of the people who have the greatest opportunity to influence them for the Kingdom of God—their parents.
The idea that fathers and mothers should be the primary agents of discipleship in the lives of their children is hardly a “new and creative norm.” It is a scriptural and historical norm. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). In the Book of Psalms the author writes, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children” (Psalms 78:5). Richard Baxter, the Puritan pastor famous for his disciplined watch over the flock placed in his care, wrote in his classic work to pastors, “Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labour, but will much further the success of your labours.” What Richard Baxter wrote in 1656 can and should serve as an important paradigm shift for many churches today. Fathers and mothers must be equipped to fulfill their scriptural duty, partnering with the local church to disciple a new generation of faithful and devoted followers of Christ.
It is my desire that this book will help the local church equip parents to engage in the discipleship task. If you are a parent, I am writing this book for you in the hopes that your children, and your children’s children, might be afforded the same experience I had as a child—to grow up in a home that loves the Lord and his gospel and demonstrates that love practically, overtly, and consistently. My childhood home was not perfect. Neither is the home I lead, nor any home I know of or have ever heard of. How good it is to know that perfection is not necessary—simply a desire, a plan, prayer, and a regular reliance on God to equip us with the grace and strength to be faithful.
The scriptural and historical record combines with the current research to show that the church must return to the basics. The church must again turn its attention to parents, equipping them to both disciple their children and to model for them how to reach other families with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
endorsements & reviews..SHARE..
“Dr. Tad Thompson’s Intentional Parenting is a practical page-turner that encourages fathers to engage the hearts of their families with truth and grace. In an age when truth is either ignored or despised, it is refreshing to see a book written for ordinary fathers who want their families to be sanctified by the truth (John 17:17). Thompson writes with grace which reminds us that parenting, like every aspect of Christian discipleship, flows from the sweet mercies of Christ.”
“As parents, we know God has given us the responsibility to train our children in His ways. But many parents aren’t biblically discipling their children because they feel overwhelmed and don’t know where or how to start. Tad has done a favor for all of us by identifying seven key categories of biblical teaching we can all utilize in teaching our children Godly truth and principles. He has organized it in an easy-to-follow plan that will help any parent put the truth of God’s Word into the hearts of their children.”
“Need an introductory text for parents to the topic of discipling children, perhaps in a church where this simply isn’t the way dads and moms think about their role? If so, give some consideration to Intentional Parenting by Tad Thompson. It’s a clear and simple text on family discipleship, centered on the gospel rather than on human successes or external behaviors.”
— Timothy Paul Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Discipleship and Family Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of Family Ministry Field Guide, Perspectives on Family Ministry, and Trained in the Fear of God: Family Ministry in Biblical, Theological, and Practical Perspective
“Are you doing what you can to make sure that the coming generation will praise the Lord? This book can help you in that great task. May the Lord use it powerfully to cause our little ones to praise his name."
— James M. Hamilton, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and author of God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, and God’s Indwelling Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Old and New Testaments
“Tad Thompson knows about the needs of today’s families. This approach is creative, thoroughly biblical, and is a must read for any parent who desires for the children to love God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their might. This is a great strategy for anyone who is looking for a way to pull their family together around God’s Word.”
— Blake Gideon, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church, Inola, Oklahoma
“Whether your family needs a complete discipleship renovation or a simple tune-up, Intentional Parenting will challenge you to go deeper as a family. This book is biblically sound, with helpful applications in regards to the roles of parents and the spiritual development of our children. For far too long, parents have shirked this sacred responsibility of teaching our children, leaving it solely to the local church. Intentional Parenting is a refreshing yet sobering reminder of our duty as followers of Jesus Christ to assist our children’s growth. Written from a pastor’s heart, the stories will encourage you in your journey of capturing your children’s hearts for Jesus Christ. I have been personally challenged in my own heart by this book, and I highly recommend it to you!”
— Heath Peloquin, Senior Pastor, Brighton Park Baptist Church, Corpus Christi, Texas
Frank Turk is the first to review Intentional Parenting over at the Team Pyro blog.
“The rudimentary wisdom for starting family discipleship found in this book will break through your complacency and fear about the task…Do yourself a favor and skip lunch one day this week, and put your lunch money up for this book. You can download it immediately, and you can start your new program of giving your children a godly heritage by dinnertime the next day.”
Terry Delaney over at Christian Book Notes gives Intentional Parenting a solid review and recommendation.
“I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Intentional Parenting. Reading it may change your life. Reading it and applying the principles found within its pages will certainly change the lives of your children.”
Jimmy Davis gives Intentional Parenting high marks at the Cruciform Life Blog.
“Intentional Parenting: Family Discipleship by Design encouraged me today. I was reminded that God does indeed expect me to disciple my children, but that through his gospel and his people and his Spirit he also will equip and empower me to do that which he expects…This book is a fantastic introduction to gospel-centered family discipleship. I am the pastor for discipleship at our church and I plan to recommend (if only I could require!) this book to every parent in our congregation. I will especially be looking for opportunities to use this to train new and young parents.”