Book Review: Trained in the Fear of God

More than a “how to book” on family ministry, Trained in the Fear of God lays a theological foundation for equipping families to do ministry. When I first picked up this book, I was looking for a how to book. I am glad it was so much more.

Part of the so much more are the 1st 2 parts of this book that lay a theological and historical foundation. I appreciated the emphasis on equipping families to pass on their faith in their own homes. The role of the church is to  equip parents (particularly fathers in the authors viewpoint) to raise their children to know the Lord.

According to the authors/editors of the book, “the goal of this book is to call congregations to develop a theologically grounded, scripturally compelled perspective on family ministry and then to make Spirit-guided transitions in every ministry to move wisely toward this ministry model.”

The theologically grounded aspect and scripturally compelled perspective comes from a Southern Baptist emphasis. The family ministry perspective comes from a family equipping approach instead of a segmented approach that breaks family ministry down to age appropriate or situation appropriate ministry. In Trained in the Fear of God, generations learn together, worship together, and parents are equipped, empowered, and challenged to embrace (especially fathers) the discipleship of children. The Family Equipping Ministry model is defined as “Family equipping churches cultivate a congregational culture that coordinates every ministry to champion the role of parents as primary faith trainers in their children’s lives.”

I appreciated the editors/authors recognition that more important than family ministry is a living relationship with Jesus Christ.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is what changes people, not one’s family ministry paradigm.

Flowing out of the gospel is the transformational work of the Scriptures. Households and churches who seek to follow the Biblical principles with certain roles and responsibilities for each member of the family. Each contributor builds upon this idea whether it be gender roles, age roles or the role of the church.

Part 2 of the book looks at the historical development of family ministry in the life of the Christian faith. As a Lutheran I appreciated the emphasis of Luther’s contribution to equip fathers to teach their children well.

The perspective for family ministry works well with families that have both parents present, but found it a bit challenging in terms of what to do in cases of widowhood, abandonment or divorce?

I appreciated the multi-generational approach, and completely support that. Yet I have also realized in ministry, that families learn best together, but also with their own age and situation. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and. Part of that response is addressing a congregation wide multi-generation approach to life.

Part 3 of the book develops a more practical approach built on the theological foundation and historical practice of the 1st 2 parts. Most books begin at part 3. Most pastors simply want to move to the how to (myself included). That’s why I appreciated beginning with the why, or perhaps even more importantly what God says in His Word.

Principles were not only laid out in part 3, but how they have been lived out in each author’s life. This took the how to’s from theory to day to day reality.  Even in this section family was affirmed as “a” priority of the church, not “the” priority. “The” priority is a living relationship with Jesus Christ. Gospel empowered families and churches can change their communities and their world.

I give Trained in the Fear of God 4 stars out of 5 stars. It made me think about my own views and practice of family ministry. As editors Randy Stinson and Timothy Paul Jones have brought together numerous authors of the 17 pages who affirm family equipping ministry together, while bringing their own perspective to the discussion.

I recommend Trained in the Fear of God for those who congregational leaders who are looking to equip families to minister to the generations in their own homes, especially in the area of faith development. A church putting together a family ministry team will find each chapter a good launching point for discussing what family ministry not only means, but also what it looks like and even more what God’s view of family ministry looks like. The ultimate goal Moses tells us in Deuteronomy is to train our children and ourselves in the fear of God.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel Publications and was not required to give a positive review.

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