Student ministry professor Richard Ross' declaration was voiced in one of the 12 main messages during a two-day D6 Conference aimed at helping churches implement spiritual formation discipleship strategies for families.
Also among the featured speakers were Fred Luter, the Southern Baptist Convention's president and a pastor in New Orleans, and Mike Glenn, a Nashville-area pastor and author.
D6 (named from Deuteronomy 6) was held in the Dallas-area community of Frisco Sept. 27-28.
Following are reports on the messages by Ross, Luter and Glenn.
"Faith-at-home practices led by spiritually lethargic parents lead to spiritually lethargic children," Ross, who teaches at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, lamented.
Reaching parents and challenging them to abide in Christ does more to impact children than ministry to children alone, he noted.
Describing parents whose sole focus is the glory of God, Ross stated, "hen those kinds of do things that are intentional at home and spiritually lead their children, the result of that, most of the time, is spiritually alive children."
Ross underscored the importance of husbands and wives modeling authentic relationships with Christ before their children. He also challenged parents to focus on the heart of the child over the child's behavior, noting that the Ten Commandments instruct children to "honor their parents" -- a heart issue -- rather than "obey their parents" -- a behavior issue.
"If we get the heart right, the behavior will follow," Ross said.
Yet, just building wholesome families is not the goal, he continued.
Sometimes in talking about faith practices in the home, Ross said, "t almost sounds like the end game is sweet families that hold together, read the Bible, pray, live righteous lives and don't get in trouble. Sometimes the end game seems to be, 'What if we could get families to love one another, be gentle with each other, easily have conversations about faith -- wouldn't that just be great?' And it would be … it's just that that's not actually the point.
"The reason families need to be transformed is not because they feel good and it helps us all feel comfortable in the church; it's because the world needs to be changed, and families are an instrument in that direction."
Ross encouraged families to find where Christ is working in the world and make it a priority to join Him. He envisioned the day when families would expand the Kingdom with their vacations and say, "Instead of spending $3,000 to spend five days with Mickey , maybe we're supposed to go to that country and help in that orphanage because we think that's the kind of place Jesus would go to."
Ross said Kingdom-minded parents shape their family budgets and priorities around what God values, even if that means a simpler lifestyle and potential difficulty. He imagined a family whose 16-year-old daughter says she feels called to serve in a dangerous part of the Middle East over the summer, and the parents say, "If you are sure the King is telling you to go, it is well with my soul."
Ross noted that the parents might think to themselves, "If she does come back in a box, we will weep louder than anybody's ever wept before on earth, but we will sit down at peace because it was the mission of this family to invite the King to live through us for His glory, and if He is honoring this family by establishing the church on the blood of a 16-year-old martyr, we have to say, 'It is well with our souls.'
"Now friends, that is a long way from a little holy huddle that kind of enjoys having devotionals once a week, but that is what we're releasing families to become," Ross said.
Fred Luter told D6 attendees he never imagined the Kingdom impact a professional boxing match 23 years ago would have on reaching men in his community for Christ, he said in his D6 message.
As the new, young pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans, Luter was discouraged over the lack of men in the church. So he asked Franklin Avenue's ladies to invite their "husbands, sons and baby-daddies" to come to his house to watch the Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard fight.
Twenty-five men showed up. During the evening, Luter invited each of them to church. The next Sunday, five of the men showed up for worship. Luter publicly recognized the men as his special guests and the women in church applauded them. The next Sunday, those men brought some of their friends and the trend continued over the next several weeks and months.
Today, Luter said, men account for nearly 50 percent of the active members of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church.
"Based on what has happened in my own life, based on what has happened in my own marriage, I just have the conviction that if you save the man, the man will save his family," Luter said. He pointed out that the family has been under attack since Genesis 3 and, increasingly, the cycles of divorce and abuse are eroding the family.
"It's no secret that our nation is in trouble; it's no secret that our society is in trouble; it's no secret that our states are in trouble; it's no secret that our cities are in trouble; therefore, brothers and sisters, it should be no surprise that our families are in trouble, even families in the church," Luter said. Despite his own personal experience of the cycle of divorce in multiple generations of his family, Luter credits God's grace for sustaining his marriage for 32 years.
"It is only by the grace of God that I am what I am today because I saw firsthand the impact of growing up in a home without a dad," Luter said.
Thus, from his own experiences, a passion to reach men with the Gospel emerged in Luter's heart. Preaching from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, he challenged ministers at the D6 Conference to make it their passion as well, yet not just to attract men to the church but also to see their lives transformed by the Word of God.
"It is my job as pastor to equip these brothers to be the men, the husbands the fathers that God wants them to be," Luter said. "I share with them how important it is to take seriously the role of the Word of God in their lives."
The Word of God must be evident in every aspect of one's life, Luter said. To bring change in the society, he said, "e must start with the Word of God; we must make sure that the Word of God is evident in our hearts, our home and our habits."
For Mike Glenn, what began as a weekly ministry to young adults less than 10 years ago ended up transforming the entire way he approaches ministry to families.
Glenn, senior pastor of the Nashville-area Brentwood Baptist Church, speaks to more than 1,000 young adults each week at a citywide Bible study called Kairos. Since its launch in 2005, Glenn said he has learned much about the values and beliefs of this generation.
His book "In Real Time: Authentic Young Adult Ministry As it Happens," from B&H Publishers, chronicles the story of Kairos and what he and Brentwood Baptist learned along the way.
"There has been this kind of cascading change that happened in our church," Glenn said.
The first change was starting the ministry to young adults, which taught Glenn and the church much about the characteristics of this generation.
"We found a lot of moralistic, therapeutic deism," Glenn said. They want to be better people who feel good about themselves and they believe that "God is somewhere, but nobody knows His address."
By and large, Glenn said, today's "emerging adults" function on a different timeframe than previous generations, often visible in what has been termed "delayed adolescence." Due to a shifting economy and employment opportunities, many of them extend their education into master's and doctoral degrees instead of entering the workforce.
Additionally, these young adults possess a syncretistic worldview and are cynical about authority and institutions, including the church.
As churches, Glenn said, "We think we start at ground zero, but we don't; we start at negative numbers. So, we have to go a long way to gain the attention of young adults.
"They're interested in Jesus, but they're not interested in the church. … They are postponing marriage; they are postponing children; and they're not coming back to church … because they do not think the church is relevant to their life."
Glenn said the church tried many things at Kairos in the beginning to attract young people, but he found that what they really wanted was solid biblical teaching. As he came to realize their biblical illiteracy, he was burdened, but it really hit home for him when one of the young adults who had grown up in his church did not know the difference between the Joseph of the Old Testament and Jesus' earthly father.
"So I went to our student ministry … and I said, 'Blow it up,'" Glenn recounted. They shifted their process of student ministry from entertainment to life transformation based on life groups, worship and service.
"Now, in this, we began to say, 'Hey, this needs to be reinforced in the home.' Parents are the biblical disciplers of their children."
What they found, though, was that most parents were not prepared to lead their families spiritually and to disciple their children.
"Because our parents weren't prepared to do this, we blew up our adult Sunday School," Glenn said.
Glenn led the church to reevaluate the adult discipleship process and set clear expectations for church membership, which includes involvement in discipleship and ministry. At the core is a focus on God's Word, both learning it and doing it. Thus, worship and service feed discipleship.
Glenn concluded his message with the New Testament account of the four men who changed their original plan and dug through a muddy roof in order for Jesus to heal their friend. Glenn pointed out that the text says Jesus saw "their faith" and healed the man. Glenn challenged ministers to be willing to change course and get dirty in order to bring people of all generations to Jesus.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (campusnews.).Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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