by Voddie Baucham Jr.
The Point of the Book
Family Shepherds: Calling and Equipping Men to Lead their Homes is Voddie Baucham’s follow up to his book Family Driven Faith. As with this previous book, Baucham makes a compelling argument for the importance of men providing spiritual leadership in their homes. Here that argument is specifically focused on the question of, “how does a father spiritually lead his family?” As Baucham puts it,
There’s a generation of men who sense God’s Spirit calling them to something more—but without reformation, they have no idea what that “more” looks like. My goal in this book is to offer what I hope to be helpful, biblical, gospel-centered truths that will prepare us to that end. (11)
Since this is the stated goal of the book let me point out that the stated goal of this review is to review THIS book, not the Family Integrated Church Movement (FIC). This is certainly a conversation worth having, but it is not what I am endeavoring to do in this review.
Speaking of the goal of the book, did Baucham succeed in offering truths that will help dads lead their families? Yes, I think so. There are a lot of positives, however there are also some problems that I think distract from the “helpful, biblical, gospel-centered truths that will prepare” dads to lead their families.
The Positives of the Book
The most notable positive of this book, and the reason that I would recommend this to the men of my church, is Baucham’s clear articulation that “The bible leaves no room for fatherhood that doesn’t take seriously the responsibility of raising children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (25) Far too many dads have failed to realize the importance of their own spiritual leadership within the home. For a plethora of reasons, they have failed to take this seriously. This book, I believe, can help dads turn the ship around in this area.
Another highlight to the book is Baucham’s section on disciplining children. He deals with both formative and corrective discipline. These categories alone, I believe, can be revolutionary to dads who think of discipline only in terms of catching their children doing something wrong and then punishing them. Certainly this is an aspect of discipline, but as Baucham reminds us only one aspect of discipline. In helping dads to rebuke and restrain children from everything detrimental to their salvation Baucham provides four helpful steps (127-128):
- Call them aside
- Tell them what precept they’ve broken
- Tell them what God threatens to those who so behave
- Call them to repent
I especially appreciate Baucham’s reminder to focus on how your child has violated the teachings of scripture. So many times it is easy for a parent to discipline a child but not be able to actually articulate what they did wrong before God. This kind of discipline will not lead toward the desired goal, a repentant heart before God.
The Problems of the Book
Ok, the problems… remember I said this was not about the FIC. I’m not making those arguments here. However, something does need to be said about it because of it’s presence in the book. Very early in the book Baucham writes,
Our paradigm [read no age segregated children’s ministry] will seem foreign to men who read this book. However, I don’t want you to get caught up in the paradigm. This book is not about paradigm; it’s about the transcendent truths that govern Christian fatherhood. (13)
I couldn’t agree with that more! The problem is that in the first section of the book Baucham spends a lot of time dealing with his paradigm. He presents his paradigm in some detail and even defends it against certain criticism. All of this wouldn’t be a problem if the book was about his paradigm. But the book isn’t supposed to be about the paradigm. This is where the confusion can come in. By making these statements at the beginning and then presenting his paradigm (again, no age segregated ministry) it seems to imply that his paradigm is the only way to live out the “transcendent truths that govern Christian fatherhood.” (13) I don’t think that Baucham believes this, but some of the FIC movement does. There seems to be confusion between principle and practice. Or to put it another way, it’s thinking methodologically about an issue rather than theologically.
Let me explain…
I agree 100% that dads need to be shepherds to their families and that the church is failing in this area. So I agree in principle (theologically) with Baucham. However, I don’t believe that getting rid of age segregated Sunday School classes are the wisest way to uphold this principles. So, I disagree in practice (methodologically) with Baucham. He and I uphold the same principles, but we disagree on the wisest way to live them out. At times in this book (my guess is that it is unintended) the lines between principle and practice seem to be blurred. I think that this, especially in the first section of the book, distracted from the important principles Baucham was seeking to communicate. The problem may very well have been that I got caught up in the paradigm, but I think it was probably the book that got a little caught up on the paradigm.