Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Book Review: Family Shepherds

One of the greatest threats to the church is found right in the homes of many Christians in the form of fathers who are either not equipped or not inclined to lead their families. As befits the seriousness of the issue, there are many books being published calling on men to step up in their homes. Voddie Baucham’s latest book, Family Shepherds, is the latest entry and comes with Voddie’s particular brand of hard hitting teaching. Like other books he was written, Family Driven Faith and What He Must Be…If He Wants to Marry My Daughter, Family Shepherds comes at this issue from a decidedly old school and counter-cultural approach. Voddie makes no apology for highlighting the unique calling of men as leaders in the home, a stance that is drawn directly from the Bible although it is also rarely addressed even in the church. Family Shepherds is a solid addition to this conversation and comes at the issue with more emphasis on the writings of Paul than the pontifications of Dr. Spock.

This is a very good book, especially for those who are less familiar with the topic and haven’t read much of Voddie’s prior writing. Some of the material will be repetitive if you are familiar with his prior writings and the positions of the Family Integrated Church movement. In places the material felt vaguely like something I have read from him several times over and it takes some patience and time to get to the point of the book because the background material takes so long. Again, if this is your first exposure to this information it may not seem as tedious and the information certainly is valuable but I could have stood to have less background information and more of the meat that is found in the second half of the book. Once I got to the second half of the book, the information became more applicable and the reading more enjoyable.

As with all books, there are weak spots and the most glaring is in Voddie’s reliance on the institutionalized church model. Reading chapter 13, Church Membership, was almost physically painful. When he states (on the opening line of the chapter and elsewhere): “Church membership is the most important aspect of lifestyle evaluation”, that strikes me as an entirely unserious and counter-productive statement. Of all the lifestyle qualifiers of a man, whether he is a “member” of a local church (a “healthy” church of course which means a church that is doctrinally compatible with what Voddie holds to) is one of the least important. A man who is a member of a church is not more likely to be a family shepherd than one who is not and since church membership as we understand doesn't appear in the Bible, it is hardly appropriate in a book calling on a return to a Biblical understanding of fatherhood. In other places Voddie inserts other cultural understandings of leadership in the church (like assuming that Acts 6 is speaking of deacons). When he focuses on the home and the unique, irreplaceable role of fathers the book is very strong but in places where he strays into ecclesiology his arguments lose a lot of their strength.

All in all this is an important and valuable addition to the conversation regarding fathers as the spiritual head of their households. If you are familiar with the literature in this genre, I doubt you will find much that is innovative but Voddie as always delivers his message forcefully, persuasively and unapologetically. Virtually every man in the church that I know needs a spiritual swift kick in the pants and that sort of jarring is Voddie’s forte. This is a book that fathers, elders, new husbands and young men considering marriage would all benefit from.

(This was also the first book I purchased for and read in its entirety on my Kindle Fire and I enjoyed the experience, esp. the ability to book mark and highlight sections with ease!)

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