My 4th Grade Goals, Continued

Here are the life goals I wrote when I was in the 4th grade:

1. Teach as much people about God.
2. Learn as much as I can about talking in front of other people.
3. Raise a good family.
4. Try to learn as much Scripture as I can.

I already gave the back-story of my 4th grade life goals HERE and explained the present significance of the first two. Now I want to explain the last two.

I want to raise a good family.

Again, it is amazing to me how the importance of family has developed as a significant theme in my life. It started with my own family. I grew up believing and experiencing that family is important.

My conviction deepened as I spent many years in youth ministry. I observed the spiritual maturity of young people and the fragmentation of the family unit. Many families were not unified and many parents were not taking any responsibility in training their children in the Lord. A desire was born in me to minister to the whole family, and especially parents, equipping them to disciple their children.

Then Dana and I started our own family. Wow, what a privilege and responsibility! We quickly came to the conclusion that the general attitude of our culture was not the way God views children. Children are a blessing, not a liability, an expense, or a burden. Having children and passing faith to them is a central part of God’s program. While we are not opposed to birth control, we have taken that program pretty seriously and now have nine children. Our calling now is to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, teaching them to love God.

Back row from left: Caleb (13), Dana holding Andrew, Matthew holding Isaac (2), Bethany (14). Middle row: Nathaniel (7), Josiah (11), Hannah (10). Front: Kathryn (6), Samantha Ruby (3).

Back row from left: Caleb (13), Dana holding Andrew, Matthew holding Isaac (2), Bethany (14).
Middle row: Nathaniel (7), Josiah (11), Hannah (10). Front: Kathryn (6), Samantha Ruby (3).

We also have had the privilege of helping to start a family integrated church in Boone, NC. A family integrated church is one in which there are no nurseries or classes for children to go to. The whole family worships together all morning. It hasn’t always been easy, and it certainly isn’t always quiet, but we love worshipping and learning together! The children get to be observers and real participants in the function of the church family and the parents are given the primary responsibility of leading and teaching their children.

I want to learn as much Scripture as I can.

My parents taught me to memorize and study God’s Word. My Dad taught me to teach God’s Word. My second master’s degree and Ph.D. are in Biblical Studies with a focus in New Testament. I love memorizing, studying, and teaching the Scripture. And there is still so much to learn!

God’s Word is how we learn the truth that sets us free. That is the entire purpose of my ministry:

I hope you can see now why this little paper, written 32 years ago, is so amazing to me. Not long after I gave my life Christ, he began to put in my heart his own desires for me.

“Not that I have already attained all this,
or have already been made perfect,
but I press on to take hold of that
for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Phil 3:12

Does Family Integrated Church Work?

Our church, Highland Christian Fellowship, is "family integrated." This means that when we meet as a body on Sundays and Wednesdays, we meet as families, with all ages present. There are unique challenges and benefits to this approach. During homegroup on Wednesday night at our house, we had a discussion on male/female relationships, especially in the context of how young unmarried people relate to one another. My friend, Clarke Kennedy, wrote me this email reflecting on the discussion:

I thought the discussion last night was FABULOUS!   What a joy and a privilege to see our church working in the way it is.  I don't think I've ever seen anything like what happened last night.  A family-integrated church, with children of all ages, all the way up to young adults and then the older adults, all in a discussion of purity and holiness and appropriate ways of relating to the opposite gender, while being fairly explicit about what is acceptable and not acceptable, and yet doing it in a way that the young children could still be there an not be exposed to ideas beyond their capacity to process.  I think one way this can be done is just by using biblical language, which is usually quite clear, but in a way that is not needlessly offensive, and that even children can hear, and yet grow into their understanding of it over time.

One of the weaknesses I had feared in a family oriented church was that the young people, such as the teenagers who face these kinds of issues in very aggressive and direct ways would not be able to hear truth about these issues because of the presence of the younger ones.  What happened last night proved that this is not a problem, and in fact I thought it had tremendous power to have the older adults and the married adults speak from their own experiences into the lives of the younger unmarrieds, so as to say "Look, I've made mistakes..I wish I had's a better way."  Wow! This church design is more powerful than I realized, and I guess I've just never seen a church like ours before, so I've never seen it work, and didn't know if or how it would work in these areas.

I just think of the strength that this will give these young people, when they think of these kinds of meetings, with older role models, spiritual family members, counseling them, and loving them, and speaking truth to them, right there with their parents in the room!  It must give a tremendous sense of strength and courage and fortitude to these younger adults when they are facing the pressures of their own flesh and the lies of the world to stand strong, thinking of all that they have heard and seen and felt from their close-knit spiritual family.  THIS IS POWERFUL!  AMEN!  GOD IS DOING AN AMAZING WORK AMONG US!