Does It Take A Village To Raise A Child?

village to raise a childWell, does it? Surely you remember the hullabaloo that Hillary Clinton raised when she told us that “It takes a village to raise a child ” in the 1990s? Christians rightfully protested because we knew that she meant only that government had preference over parents in decisions regarding the lives of children. That is absurd in the extreme.

On the other hand, think of that village again. Do any of us really raise our children alone? Would we really want to? We predominantly raise them, but not exclusively. On further examination, that was the Lord’s plan all along. A book I’m reading (and will review very soon) really got me thinking.

The Lord always intended that we live in community with each other. Adam was unfulfilled alone and needed community. That has always been the plan really. Jesus lived that way when He showed us what life on Earth was supposed to look like. To top it off, the Lord gave us the local church. Wouldn’t you call that a community lifestyle? Read Acts 4 again if you just can’t remember.

There was a time when community was key to our lives in America. It wasn’t too long ago (if you must know, I’m 42) that I was a boy growing up in Happy Hollow down in the Smoky Mountains and knew every single one of the hundred or so people living in that little community. I couldn’t have done anything too bad because any one of them would have called my parents and told them.  I suspect  that is actually a very good thing. I wouldn’t have wanted to be embarrassed in front of all of them! Sadly, in most communities that is not what it once was.

The question is, do we still have that sense of community in our churches? That surely is one of the reasons the Lord designed it the way He did. It should be true that all there are on my side and want to see me raise my children for the Lord. They probably will have my back and let me know if my children get out of hand. It should work that way.

I realize that you may know of a few super-critical church members that ever wait to lambaste your children. Just remember that they are wrong and that doesn’t make the design wrong. Plus you may know some who you could never explain that, perhaps, something about their children needs to be brought to their attention. They are the type who as we were standing around glowing embers would be offended by you suggesting that their child burning the church to the ground was not exactly a good deed! Still, a community designed around the unity we have in Christ is what it is meant to be.

If parenting weren’t hard enough, many forgo this wonderful help. The issue really goes far beyond parenting. You and I need community too. We need encouragement and accountability. We have built into us this need of others. Were this not true, we Christians would be even more pathetic than we are at reaching the world for Christ.

We need the village to share our journeys, to lift each other up, to carry each other when we are weak, and to take away the nagging loneliness that is all around us. Be yourself, but embrace the village–most especially that community called the local church.

Are You Stuck In The Old Testament?

Many of us do it. We live an Old Testament existence in a world of New Testament promises. I guess Law will always appeal to our flesh more than Grace. So we go along mistaking the physical lesson of the Old Testament for the spiritual truth of the New Testament.

Recently, there it was in my Bible reading. In Joshua 5 there was a lesson I found thrilling. Here were the Children of Israel freshly arrived in the Promised Land, and after the drama of the Jordan crossing, the Lord’s first order of business was the practice of circumcision. They had carried it out years before in Egypt, but over the years of wandering they had neglected it.

Well, we are supposed to look at OT stories with NT light, right? The circumcision that the Lord is really after is circumcision of heart. So many times we neglect it and it is urgent that we put it in practice again. Just think of the pain of carrying out that call to circumcision! I understand that “sharp knives” of Joshua’s day were flint stones. I don’t want to be too graphic, but I would dread it! Any surgery with stones instead of modern day knives would terrify me.  So, I suppose even at the cost of discomfort we must do the work the Lord seeks in our hearts. In verse 9 we were even told that “This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.” He never said it until the events of this chapter. This we need and in verses 13-15 the Lord came. Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

These lessons get by us too easily. We’d rather pull out the stones of flint than do real heart surgery. We’ll inflict the pain of body and leave our souls at ease.

We become consumed with the object lessons. We prefer the tangible, outward things over the spiritual, inward things. Since this lacks spiritual power, we turn on each other and watch for the pool of blood and listen for the screams.  We are always ready to point out everyone’s failure as if circumcision could tell us all of our hearts. Our conclusions miss the point and hurt others, as well as ourselves. Need I remind you that Jesus has come through in the interim between Joshua and us?

Perhaps we find the pain exhilarating. Perhaps we enjoy it more if we see others suffering with us. I don’t know. We inspect the circumcision, so to speak, while the Lord says you are seeing the object itself as the lesson and missing the point. But we can see the circumcision and we can prove we did it. We can never prove what is in our hearts. We settle for what we can impress others with while being indifferent to what might please the Lord. We live the Old Testament as if the Lord had no greater revelation in the New Testament to share. Pretty ridiculous, wouldn’t you agree?

If I saw the point I’d pray for my heart and yours. I’d listen carefully as the Lord spoke to me and encourage you to do the same. But I’d leave the stones of flint to your own consideration and ask you to keep them away from me. Live the Old Testament if you please and I’ll keep my mouth shut. As for me, though, I’m rather fond of the New Testament.

Leading On Empty–Personal Observations and a Book Review

old gas pumpAre you out of gas? Is your tank dry? Yet the road ahead of you goes out beyond the farthest horizon? While this could happen to anyone, what about if you are in the ministry? You are slowing down while the need in God’s work is ever growing. I am now convinced that this is a common problem, perhaps inevitable for those of us who want to give our all.

I’ve read, I’ve studied, and for a season of last year, I felt it! My love of the ministry never wavered. I never stopped loving preaching passionately, yet I felt a weariness. I didn’t quite understand it. I never stopped, but the engine wasn’t running as well. My gentle Lord worked in a variety of ways to help me. He is faithful! 

Among those things He used was this book, Leading On Empty by Wayne Cordeiro. It was during a conversation with a friend  where we were each throwing out book titles that we had read or heard about, that he mentioned this book. Strangely, I didn’t even think I needed the book at the time but was intrigued when he said he had heard of some prominent pastors who were rescued to some degree by this book.

Frankly, I’m not ashamed to speak of this in my life. If far better men than me have faced it, why shouldn’t I? Life has taught me, anyway, that I am far from the strongest person. I see more clearly than ever that I am just going along, held in His hands, and living on His grace. Because of that grace, we need not live on and on with an empty tank.

So I can review this book on more than a theoretical level. Sometimes a book is worth three times more at a certain season of your life than at any other. It might not be your need at this time. On the other hand, it might be soon. I recommend every pastor, and really any leader, have this book on the shelf. For perspective,  I read over half of this book at a tough time for me, and then read the other half later when things were so much better for me. I can recommend it from both angles.

Mr. Cordeiro, a pastor of a thriving, large church, hit bottom. He simply had nothing left to give. He tells his story –warts and all. But as you read, you know he writes with a distinct measure of authority.  He shows how at times Elijah, Moses, Jeremiah, and David lived this too. “Burnout”, being overwhelmed, or out of gas–call it what you will, but it is a real danger, particularly for pastors. As easy as pastoring looks to many, the weight of souls is a load like no other.

He shows statistics for how widely pervasive this issue really is among pastors. He explains the concept of strength being perfected in weakness. He shows how the long-term stress of this leads to depression. He shows how people like Spurgeon suffered here. He sounds the alarm of early warning signs.

His biggest suggestion is solitary refinement– stopping, listening, being quiet. He suggests we divide our lives into what only we can do versus what others can do. We often work where others could while neglecting that 5% that only we can do. My personal life, my family, my Bible time–here are things that only I can do.

His chapter on “Finding the Still Waters” is on target. He also wants us to remove the stigma that is so often put on rest. Our resources of physical strength are obviously limited so we must carefully develop a strategy. Rest, he says, is not a sin, but a responsibility. We see the principle in the weekly Sabbath and in the land resting every 7 years in ancient Israel.

He focuses on being in our Bible and shares this acronym to get more:


S = Scripture

O= Observation

A = Application (Never stop without it)

P = Prayer

He pushes taking a sabbatical. That is a little beyond most of us financially, and he finally confesses it. Still, work refreshment into your life. His idea of a Personal Retreat Day is worthwhile too. The last few chapters focus on these kinds of practical things.

This book can make a difference.