Recently my 4-year-old son was happily playing outside when I noticed that he had drifted down to the end of our driveway precariously close to the road. Hastily, I ran to him full of worry induced anger, and loudly reminded him that he is not allowed to play near the road. During my lecture, I noticed that his bike was conveniently located about halfway down the driveway between the house and the road. In a moment of inspiration, I yelled, “Bubs, don’t play past the bike!” I repeated myself several times for emphasis and stepped away confident that he would stay on the right side of the bike, safely away from the dangers of the road. Not more than five minutes passed before I checked on him a second time and was shocked to see him standing at the edge of the driveway yet again. Frustrated that he had ignored my instructions and fearing for his safety I yelled, “Son, what do you think you are doing? I said not to play past the bike.” He looked at me with big, innocent eyes and said defensively, “Daddy, I didn’t play past the bike!” It was then I noticed that technically, he had not played past the bike. Rather, he had cleverly moved it to the road keeping it in front of him the whole time.
My son had found what he thought to be an acceptable loophole in the system. In his mind, he had found a clever plan to get his way and keep me happy too. At the very least, he hoped to avoid getting in big trouble. I appeared to be the mean Daddy who didn’t want him to have any fun. But he forgot that there was a very important reason for the bike boundary; safety. My responsibility as a parent is to keep him safe first and happy second.
Like my son, we too try to cleverly move the boundaries that God has placed in our lives. We don’t want to be in direct defiance against God so we passively aggressively pick up the boundaries and carry them with us right into the very danger zone that God was trying to keep us from entering in the first place. It’s important to remember that God loves us. When God places boundaries in our lives He does it out of love. When God tells us to forgive our enemies (Matthew 5:44, Romans 12:17-21) it’s not meant to harm us; God knows that hatred and bitterness are cancers that will destroy our lives. When God commands us not to commit adultery (1 Corinthians 6:9, Matthew 5:27-28) and to maintain moral purity. He isn’t trying to keep us from happiness; He knows that immorality produces great heartache and faithfulness and commitment bring a lifetime of joy. Most of the time we know deep down that moving the landmark isn’t ok, but we do it anyway hoping that God won’t notice our disobedience. As we move into a new year let’s commit to obeying the voice of God rather than playing around with technicalities and looking for clever loopholes. Let’s remember the biblical admonition, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set (Proverbs 22:28).”
My wife, Taylor, is the most intelligent and intuitive person I’ve ever known. She can read people almost effortlessly without them realizing she’s doing it. Residing deep inside her is a wellspring of observational ability that enables her to know a person’s soul instinctively. More importantly, she fights for good relationships with the tenacity of a soldier. She’s like a relationship ninja. It’s pretty cool. I honestly envy those qualities. And while I do most of the talking in public formats, she is the better communicator in our relationship. We learn from each other, but I think I have more to learn than her. I’ve certainly gleaned new insights talking through this series with her for the last several weeks. And I’m incredibly grateful we’re on life’s journey together.
One common source of relationship friction that causes “slips” is the ongoing war between passive aggressors and energetic attackers. And, of course, Taylor and I are opposites in this area. My natural, carnal, fallen, faulty response to frustrations, anger, feelings of offense, and disappointment is passive aggression. Allow me to define passive-aggressive behavior for those who might be uncertain. Indirect expressions of hostility, including negative attitudes, characterize it. Here are some specific passive-aggressive behaviors I’ve unfortunately struggled to overcome: 1) Resentment and unspoken opposition to demands from others. 2) Procrastination and intentional mistakes in response to others’ requests. 3) Cynical, sullen, or quiet hostility to others near me. 4) Masking my frustrations in complaints, sarcasm, humor, or hints and doing just about anything to avoid confrontation, argument, or outright hostility.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are people I’ve dubbed energetic attackers. Taylor falls into this category. So rather than running away from confrontation, she runs towards it. Sometimes she enjoys confrontation (although not always), but regardless, she isn’t afraid of it. She approaches relationship problems aggressively. She likes all the feelings out in the open. She likes to have all the cards on the table and all the soldiers on the battlefield. And although she never intends to attack people, she wants to attack the problem, which does cause some personalities to feel attacked at that moment. While passive-aggressive personalities can arguably be too patient, energetic attackers have little patience. They’re quick to speak their mind and openly push back when frustrated.
It’s easy to see how these drastically different personalities can “trip” each other up. But, as unlikely as it seems, passive aggressors and energetic attackers have traits that can bring balance. For example, Taylor has helped me recognize the value of confronting things in a timely fashion, and I’ve helped her learn the importance of finding the right time for confrontation. Timing is everything when it comes to healthy confrontations in all of our relationships. I naturally lean too passive, and she leans too aggressive. This personality dynamic creates tension in countless families, workplaces, churches, friendships, schools, and leadership teams.
Timing is everything when it comes to healthy confrontations in all of our relationships.
Finding Balance & Seeking Reconciliation (Relationslip Tip #4)
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there, remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:21-24, NIV).
The Bible isn’t silent on this issue. Jesus speaks directly to it during the famed sermon on the mount. He began by mentioning an injustice everyone can agree is terribly wrong, murder. Then He swiveled to the topic of anger without even saying whether or not it was justified. Ultimately, Jesus adroitly led the audience to consider how offenses destroy relationships.
Interestingly, when Jesus gave the protocol for dealing with anger, bitterness, insults, and general relational frustrations, He purposefully left a detail out that most of us would want to know. He never mentioned whether He was talking to the offended or the offender. Look at Matthew 5:23 again, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there, remember that your brother has something against you.” If I had been in the crowd, my hand would have shot up so I could ask Jesus, “Wait, does this apply if they have something against me because I did something wrong or because they did something wrong to me?” But Jesus didn’t bother to clarify because it didn’t matter. His instructions in the next verse apply regardless of whether I did wrong, they did wrong, or we both did wrong. Any way you slice it, what Jesus said next applies.
I’m taking a tiny bit of liberty with the text and putting it in today’s context. So, you’re at the altar in church when you remember that (for whatever reason) there’s some bad blood between you and so and so. Instead of pretending everything’s fine, or putting it off another second, find that person while your mind is focused on the Lord and make things right as best you can. You might think, but I’m doing something spiritual right now. I can deal with that later. Not so. Jesus told us that our highest priority should be seeking reconciliation if an offense is “slipping” up a relationship. When we go to that person, our main goal is to mend “whatever” it is that caused the rift.
Jesus told us that our highest priority should be seeking reconciliation if an offense is “slipping” up a relationship. When we go to that person, our main goal is to mend “whatever” it is that caused the rift.
You might be a passive aggressor, an energetic attacker, or anything in between. Regardless, seeking reconciliation prioritizes people above being right, winning, getting everything you want, or having the final say. A reconciliatory attitude is stripped of pride, arrogance, and selfishness. If peace is possible, reconciliation achieves it. I’ve found that most people welcome reconciliation once they realize how much I value my relationship with them.
Seeking reconciliation prioritizes people above being right, winning, getting everything you want, or having the final say. A reconciliatory attitude is stripped of pride, arrogance, and selfishness.
With that said, here’s some practical advice for leaving your gift on the altar and having the hard reconciliation talk: 1) Calm down before going to that person. This can be especially hard for energetic attackers, but waiting until your emotions are under control is essential. 2) Think the problem through from your side and try your best to see their point of view too. You don’t have to agree with their views, but just putting yourself in their shoes for a little bit can change your perspective. 3) Pray about the situation. Pray for that person, and specifically ask God to help restore that relationship. Seek the Lord for wisdom, self-control, and guidance. 4) Plan a conversation that will bring about peace. A soft answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1), so prepare your mind to speak with a tone that promotes healing, not anger.
Literalators & Exaggerators
I’m a big-picture guy. Taylor is a detail detective. I’ve learned that when Taylor asks about my day, she doesn’t want an overview; she wants every microscopic detail. I like to ballpark times and numbers. Taylor wants to know the exact milliseconds, pennies, and nanograms. Because I’m a big-picture, ballpark guy, I also tend to exaggerate. Typically, because I genuinely don’t remember the specifics. This can be problematic because if she’s taking everything literally and I’m ballparking, it creates disillusionment and miscommunications.
My father is also an exaggerator, and my mother is a literalator. Dad might say something happened recently that happened a decade ago. He isn’t trying to be dishonest or misleading. He just isn’t super focused on the time aspect of the story. It seems irrelevant to him. My mother can turn a three-minute story into a three-hour treatise on her trip to the grocery store because she feels the need to share every detail, precisely how it happened in real-time. So, you can imagine how literalators and exaggerators might have to work through communication issues and learn to meet in the middle.
Instructing Your Mouth (Relationslip Tip #5)
The heart of the wise instructeth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips (Proverbs 16:23, ASV).
People with wisdom in their hearts teach their mouths what to say, when, and to whom. I don’t enjoy giving specifics, and I wouldn’t say I like being given too many details. But I love my wife; she likes particulars, so I let wisdom instruct my mouth. She knows I don’t always want to hear the extended version of a story, so she allows wisdom to instruct her mouth. This is called relationship maturity. It’s learning how to communicate with others in a way that is meaningful to them. So, when literalators and exaggerators are together, they have to make concessions for each other in their communications.
Learn how to communicate with others in a way that is meaningful to them.
A constant thread of truth runs through these relationslip tips: Intentionality. Good relationships take time, energy, effort, care, selflessness, and intentionality. Great marriages don’t happen by accident. Lifetimes of friendship don’t just happen. Tremendous parents don’t just stumble on it. Happy workplaces don’t magically appear from nothing. Church unity doesn’t fall from Heaven on a few super-blessed congregations. No. Every meaningful relationship is fraught with protentional slipping hazards that must be carefully navigated. It can be exhausting; sometimes, we feel like giving up on certain people. But the benefits far outweigh the burdens.
Good relationships take time, energy, effort, care, selflessness, and intentionality.
It’s been so much fun working on this relation “slips” series with my wife, the amazing Taylor. For those who prefer to listen, you can listen to Episode 64 right now. Also, you can read the poem for JJ featured on the episode here. If you’re new to the series, Taylor and I are wading into the murky waters of relationship difficulties because relationship troubles account for most of our daily frustration, strife, and anxiety. It might be between spouses, friends, coworkers, fellow saints, peers, parents, in-laws, children, or siblings. Regardless, slips in those relationships can be really difficult. However, navigating relationships with wisdom goes a long way in producing peace and joy in our daily lives. It also promotes unity (which promotes revival) in our churches.
Navigating relationships with wisdom goes a long way in producing peace and joy in our daily lives. It also promotes unity (which promotes revival) in our churches.
The Amplified version of Romans 14:13 says this: “…let us no more criticize and blame one another but rather decide and endeavor never to put a stumbling block or an obstacle or a hindrance or an occasion to slip in the way of a brother.” It’s extremely rare for me to criticize the King James Version. However, the KJV translation falls short of the intended meaning in this instance. It renders the beginning of the verse this way: “Let us not, therefore, judge one another anymore…”. Yet, the context of the verse and the intended meaning of the Greek word krinō is more in line with our understanding of the word “criticize” or “disapproval.”
Having a critical spirit rather than a graceful spirit ultimately becomes a slipping hazard to the people around us. Heaping blame and nitpicking endanger the people nearest to us. So, we must make a deliberate effort in all our actions not to create an occasion to slip in the way of others. For a Christian, this should become a daily mindset and priority. This is a crucial aspect of demonstrating the love of Christ.
Get Behind Me, Satan!
But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block [offense, hindrance, snare, obstacle] to Me; for you are not setting your mind on things of God, but on things of man (Matthew 16:23, Amplified Version).”
The context of Jesus’ forceful rebuke against Peter is simple. Jesus had just revealed to his disciples that he would have to suffer and die – something they remained stubbornly unwilling to comprehend – but Peter wouldn’t accept it as true. He argued and tried to convince Jesus otherwise. Which, by the way, likely appealed to Jesus’ humanity. I mean, who wants to suffer and die? We know Jesus wrestled with this because of his prayers in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-56). Peter’s words were becoming a stumbling block, or we might say creating an occasion to slip in Jesus’ path.
I think it’s important to observe that this wasn’t an explosion of temper on Jesus’ part. It was an intentional rebuke designed as an example for everyone. Jesus realized the conversation was becoming dangerous, so he dealt with it immediately. It’s also worth noting that Peter’s intentions weren’t evil. He wasn’t trying to slip Jesus up like the Pharisees or the Sadducees. Peter loved Jesus and wanted what was best for him. Jesus knew that. But he still needed to demonstrate, for everyone’s sake, that you can’t be casual around slipping hazards. Especially spiritual slipping hazards.
Two Relationship Rules
I hate to use the word “rules” because I know it will rub some folks wrong. But rules they are, and they are simple (at least conceptually) yet vital. Christians must follow two rules regarding every relationship: 1) Make every effort not to be a source of slipping or tripping for others. 2) Make every effort not to let others become a source of slipping or tripping for you. These two rules should inform our actions, reactions, conversations, silences, decisions, and indecisions with others. Again, the Christian life is filled with intentionality and deliberation. But every relationship is fraught with intentional and unintentional relationslips that cause painful falls resulting in countless emotional and spiritual bruises. My wife and I have worked together to offer a few slip-proofing tips that are both biblically sound and practical.
Christians must follow two rules regarding every relationship: 1) Make every effort not to be a source of slipping or tripping for others. 2) Make every effort not to let others become a source of slipping or tripping for you.
Pesternators & Procrastinators – Understanding Personalities (Slip-Proofing Tip #1)
On the outside, at least, Taylor and I are complete opposites, and we are proof positive that opposites do attract. But, to be clear, we aren’t opposites regarding the big things like serving God, dedication to ministry, work ethic, love for our kids, and loyalty. Also, we both share quality time as our primary love language (if you haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, we highly recommend that you do). However, that’s where our similarities end. Taylor’s a major extrovert, and I’m a lifelong introvert. She enjoys talking all day, and I’m quiet and inward. She loves being on the phone, and I have an ongoing fantasy that my phone is lost forever and no replacements are available. She wakes up happy and smiling, and I wake up with all the charm and energy of a tortoise. I can’t imagine wearing a brown belt with black shoes, and I have a lifelong obsession with making sure colors and patterns match. But on the other hand, Taylor believes that all colors and patterns match, and the more, the merrier.
I love our differences. I’m incredibly thankful we’re not the same. Life would be very dull if we were exactly alike. And, for the most part, our differences balance us out. However, at times, our differences create slipping hazards in our relationship. For example, I’m a lifelong procrastinator, and Taylor is a chronic pesternator. You’re probably familiar with a procrastinator. So let me explain a pesternator (our made-up word) first. Put simply. A pesternator is someone who wants things done immediately. It makes them highly effective and immensely productive people. However, one of their predominant weaknesses is impatience. They’re also highly communicative. They resort to pestering if things aren’t getting done as quickly as they’d like. But, of course, they’d be more likely to call it frequent urgent reminders of great importance.
Procrastinators are not necessarily lazy, although pesternators often mistake their delays for laziness. My fellow procrastinators and I simply don’t feel the inner urgency to complete every big and minor task immediately. Instead, we prioritize tasks based on their perceived importance, and we rarely feel the need to finish something that isn’t due for another six months. Pesternators do feel that urgency (almost impulsively). One trait I’ve noticed in procrastinators like myself, we are also perfectionists. Therefore, we don’t like just getting things done in a hurry just to mark them off the list. We want to do it, take our time, think everything through, and do it right. This can be a huge weakness. We often don’t do things we should be doing because we don’t feel we can do them perfectly (like podcasts and blogs).
Procrastinators and pesternators clash daily in homes, workplaces, churches, and schools. Siblings, parents, coworkers, spouses, extended families, students, and colleagues slip one another up because they are wired differently. For example, in our home, we have two procrastinators and two pesternators. My daughter, Julia, and I are procrastinators. And, as you already know, Taylor is a pesternator. Our son, Talmadge, is with Taylor in the pesternator department. So, as you can imagine, the potential for frustration and conflict lurks in the shadows and on To-Do lists. Thankfully Taylor and I entered marriage with another important similarity that I haven’t mentioned yet. We are both fascinated with the study of personalities. And we believe that fascination has helped to slip-proof our relationship. It’s not full-proof, and we’re not perfect, but we believe understanding and appreciating personalities can dramatically help you.
These days, there’s no shortage of free and paid online personality tests you can take. Some aren’t great, but many are very good (we’ve linked several tests and book recommendations at the end of this article). Take several of them for yourself because the first leg in the journey to understanding others is learning about yourself. Be brave enough to face your weaknesses and wise enough to exploit your strengths. Learn what pushes your buttons and why. Before we can interact wisely with others, we must honestly know ourselves. Once you get a grip on your personality, you can determine what makes other personalities tick.
Be brave enough to face your weaknesses and wise enough to exploit your strengths. Learn what pushes your buttons and why. Before we can interact wisely with others, we must honestly know ourselves.
You might think, that’s great, but how does this help my “fill in the blank” relationship? For one thing, you begin to realize that certain people who do certain things that grate on your nerves aren’t purposefully trying to make you go crazy. And, just as significantly, they probably aren’t trying to disrespect or demean you either. So, it’s just two personalities clashing. So, for example, very early in our marriage, Taylor would ask me to do such and such or so and so, and I would absolutely plan to do it, but according to my rambling time frame. Because I hadn’t fully comprehended her personality, I didn’t realize she had an unspoken expectation that I should fulfill that request within 24 hours. To make matters worse, when I didn’t meet that silent expectation, she felt disrespected and unloved. Neither of us wanted to hurt the other, but a lack of understanding created tension. And that lack of understanding stemmed directly from a lack of communication.
F.A.N.O.S. (Slip-Proofing Tip #2)
That’s just one personal example representative of hundreds of relationslips that happen between people all the time. Thankfully, in our case, we were given a tremendous marriage tip that has drastically improved our relationship. The acronym is F.A.N.O.S., which stands for feelings, acknowledgment, needs, ownership, and struggles. So, here’s how it works, you and your spouse agree to talk through F.A.N.O.S. once a day. Pick a time of day that works best for your schedule and stick to it. Make sure to do it daily. It might take you longer to get through it in the beginning, but as time goes by, it won’t take you as long to finish. Take turns expressing the five topics (without interrupting each other).
Begin with “feelings”; this is a general opportunity to communicate how you are feeling right now, about the past 24 hours, and the future. Move to “acknowledgment”; here, you verbalize that you acknowledge (and hopefully appreciate) everything your spouse has done for you, your family, your friends, etc. Remember to acknowledge everything you can think of, even if you don’t feel particularly grateful. And here’s why, as you recognize those things out loud, your appreciation for everything your spouse does will blossom. Remember to take turns and reflect precisely on the past day’s events.
The third topic is “needs,” I’m pausing here to insert that this part of F.A.N.O.S. became the primary solution for our procrastinator vs. pesternator problems I mentioned earlier. The needs category allows you both to communicate… well, your needs for the upcoming day (or further out, depending on the circumstances). Taylor and I realized that this was the best moment for her to tell me precisely what she wants from me (emotionally, spiritually, and physically). Knowing she will have the chance to do the “needs” category of F.A.N.O.S. every day alleviates her impulse to send reminders and requests to me while I’m working, resting, and… well, you get the idea. But that only works when I do my part, pay attention, and set reminders for myself. Also, part of that communication process is learning to set realistic expectations. If, for example, I can’t do something within her desired 24-hour window, I must express that to her. However, I must force the procrastinator in me to commit to a reasonable timeframe (He’s still working on me).
After “needs,” take “ownership” for any failures, wrongdoings, and bad attitudes you might have had since the last F.A.N.O.S. Be sure to apologize and be careful not to pass the blame or make trite excuses. Finally, close out by verbalizing any “struggles” you might be facing, feeling, or anticipating. Full disclosure: Taylor and I have typically already expressed our struggles in the first four categories. But sometimes, that category is extra essential to talk through. I know that F.A.N.O.S. sounds overwhelming if you’re an introvert like myself. And all the mega communicators reading this think it sounds magnificent. But I promise, it helps, and it works. And it doesn’t take very long once you get the hang of it, especially if you do it daily.
Relationships Besides Marriage (Slip-Proofing Tip #3)
Obviously, you can’t do F.A.N.O.S. with your colleagues, bosses, in-laws, friends, or parents. Although, it might be great to do with your kids (at least occasionally). But the principle of learning to communicate your needs, show appreciation, and set expectations while genuinely understanding another person applies to all your ongoing relationships. It’s a fact that most relationslips result from misunderstandings, poor communication, and perceived disrespect. Before jumping to conclusions and getting offended, take some time to try and figure out if the issue is just two distinctive personalities approaching the same situation with vastly different perceptions. Of course, sometimes conflicts are deeper and drastic interventions are required. But you’d be surprised how simply understanding and learning to respect and work intelligently with other people’s differing personalities will slip-proof relationships.
Most relationslips result from misunderstandings, poor communication, and perceived disrespect.
Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that menshould do to you, do ye even so to them… (Matthew 7:12).
Jesus’ infamous challenge to treat others how you want to be treated was then, and for many, still is, a revolutionary concept. This commandment seems pretty uncomplicated. And, mostly, it is. However, what are you supposed to do when treating someone how you would like to be treated isn’t how they want to be treated? Perhaps you’re a hugger. Giving and receiving hugs makes you feel loved and appreciated. But someone in your circle of relationships doesn’t like being hugged or even touched, for that matter. You’re showing love the way you want to be loved, but they’re left feeling awkward and uncomfortable. Maybe they will start avoiding you. Not because they don’t like you but because they don’t want a bear hug.
In that kind of situation, the key to obeying Matthew 7:12 is learning to understand other people’s personalities. Nobody likes being misunderstood. You don’t like it when people don’t try to know your likes and dislikes. We all want others to read our body language, pay attention to our signals, and listen to us. And when we’re misread, misunderstood, or ignored, we feel devalued and unimportant. Learning to do what makes others feel valued is the ultimate version of following Matthew 7:12 because that is precisely what we wish others would do for us. When you learn to live this way, the relationship bonus is that as you adjust for others, they will do the same for you. They may never want that bear hug, but they might grow comfortable with a simple, quick hug.
Learning to do what makes others feel valued is the ultimate version of following Matthew 7:12 because that is precisely what we wish others would do for us.
If you’re interested in growing and learning how you and those around you tick, this list is a great resource to get you started. Before you browse over them, please don’t feel overwhelmed. You absolutely don’t have to read or listen to all this information to grow in this area. If you’re like me, you’ll want all the info you can possibly study. But if you’re like Taylor, you’re probably thinking, give me one or two good resources I can dig into. And that’s ok. One book, blog, or podcast can make a huge impact. So don’t let the length of this list overwhelm you. With that said, I’ll start this list with the first personality-type book I read as a teenager. It’s still my favorite.
Below is a list of five key subjects that the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has largely remained silent on in the last several decades. It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar. The scenario usually goes something like this; Jamie graduates from high school where humanism, atheism, secularism, and every other “ism” you can imagine has been crammed into her head for the last decade or more. But until recently, Jamie always went home to a mom and dad who worked hard to combat the onslaught of worldly concepts and temptations infiltrating her mind. But when Jamie goes to college, she faces the same battles that she fought in high school, only now they are even more intensified.
It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. The stories of tragedy are countless and remarkably similar.
One key element changes to Jamie’s disadvantage; she no longer goes home to the stability of her parents. Jamie has more freedom, independence, responsibility, pressure, more temptations, more opportunity for failure, and less support. Sadly, the Jamies in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school. Somehow, somewhere before Jamie reaches these critical years, she must develop her own intimate, personal relationship with God if she is going to withstand the cultural onslaught that young adulthood brings.
The kids in our churches are often not equipped to withstand the philosophical, moral, spiritual, and psychological battles that blindside them fresh out of high school.
So what is the Churches role in all of this? I believe it is significant. In fact, it is paramount. Outside of parents, nothing can impact and shape students’ hearts like the properly functioning body of Christ. It is vitally important that the Church (especially the leadership) is aware and concerned about their young adults’ challenges. I recently heard a pastor say that every father is called to be a youth pastor. I didn’t hear nearly as many “amens” as he deserved for that statement. So often, parents place all the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God originally intended. Parents train up children, and the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.
Often, parents place the heavy lifting on their church to teach their children about the things of God. But that’s a reversal of what God intended. Parents train up children, the Church comes alongside parents in that responsibility.
Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated. That’s why Scripture admonishes us to “Train up a child in the way that he should go… (Proverbs 22:6).” Nothing can replace the shaping done during an individual’s formative years (arguably adolescence and young teens). When Jamie goes to college, she will subconsciously draw from behaviors and patterns learned long ago. Therefore, for the Church to retain its young adults, it must maintain thriving child, adolescent, and pre-teen ministries. Parents, please take advantage of formative years and equip them for a lifetime of success. Spiritual development is a lifelong process that best begins at the youngest age possible.
Backsliding is never instantaneous but rather a slow, hard, often silent development. It is an internal process that usually doesn’t manifest itself outwardly until it has almost completely germinated.
I’m writing this with a sense of urgency, heaviness, and humility. As the father of a teenage girl and a pre-teen boy, I know the magnitude of our job. I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to truly train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon or an hour-long Bible study with a friend; it’s a twenty-four-hour-a-day teaching lifestyle. It’s answering hard questions at midnight when we just want to sleep. It’s stopping when we’re in a hurry to take advantage of a teachable moment. It’s intentionally opening our Bibles and creating time for devotion. It’s uncomfortable conversations that we just want to avoid. It’s saying no when it would be easier to say yes, and it’s saying yes when it would be easier to say no. It’s repeating ourselves over and over again. It’s explaining something one more time for the millionth time. So, here are five things we must be talking about regularly if we want our kids to stay in church.
I know how magnetic the culture can be for our kids. I know how oppressive peer pressure can be for our daughters. I know how exhausting it can be to train kids in the Word. It’s not a thirty-minute sermon; it’s a 24 hour a day teaching lifestyle.
Science and the theory of evolution in particular. We should not be anti-science, however, we should be anti-scientific theories that have an anti-God agenda.
Morality, God’s plan for human sexuality, and the family. Hollywood, public schools, the internet, peers, and every other facet of culture talks about these issues night and day. If the Church is going to remain relevant it cannot stay silent or fearful of these subjects.
The Bible and why it can be trusted as the literal Word of God. It’s no secret that the Bible has been under attack in one way or another since its inception. They may not be burning Bible’s in the streets but liberal academia has been doing their best to undermine it for centuries. They don’t care if you read it as long as you don’t trust it for absolutes.
Popular culture, holiness, and what it means to live righteously. Of course, just because something is popular doesn’t make it evil. However, just because it’s popular doesn’t make it acceptable either. The Church must stand on the front lines of the culture wars and promote godliness in a clear, loving, well thought out way.
Relationship with Jesus. None of the above will matter without a close, experiential, relationship with Jesus. Relationship will sustain a heart even when storms rage all around.
Apostolic Voice Podcast: Listen, Subscribe, Support
Apostolic Voice with Ryan French
A relevant Apostolic Pentecostal resource that interacts with exciting guests and covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. This program is an extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Ryan is the Associate Pastor of Apostolic Tabernacle (www.aptabupc.com), a revivalistic United Pentecostal Church on the south side of Atlanta. Ryan’s greatest passion is helping people walk confidently in the Apostle’s doctrine and live a book of Acts life in the 21st century. Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support
Ep. 28 | If We Want Our Kids to Stay In Church (Here's Five Things We Need to Be Talking to Them About) with Julia French
From the original article at ryanafrench.com called If We Want Our Kids to Stay In Church, Ryan lists five key subjects the Church (and parents) must address forcefully and often if we want our kids to stay in church. Four of the five areas are subjects that the Church has mostly remained silent on in the last several decades. It’s time to face the ugly reality that the Churches retention rate of young adults is rapidly dwindling. This episode gives tools to combat that decline. And Ryan’s daughter Julia makes a special guest appearance as well.
If you’re a preacher, a preacher’s kid, or someone who loves the ministry and wants to be sensitive to their needs, this article is for you.
Today is my son’s seventh birthday, and he loves the Lord and legos very much. I think his love hierarchy is Jesus, his sister, and his legos. I trail those things by a small but pronounced margin. On a sappy parental note, I love his toothy grin, his high-pitched (and very frequent) laughter, his sensitive heart, and his never-ending questions that leave me scratching my gradually balding head.
My son has the distinction of being a second-generation preacher’s kid and a fifth-generation Apostolic Pentecostal. So he’s got a pretty stalwart legacy of faith behind his little lego littered life. Of course, he’s too young to feel the pressures of being a PK, but with every passing birthday, I know he’s getting a little closer to feeling that burden.
My nine-year-old daughter is just starting to show the telltale signs of PK pressure. I recognized them quickly because I faced them myself. Sometimes they’re subtle, and sometimes they’re manifested dramatically. Even before having kids of my own, I’ve had a heart for PKs. I’ve been privileged to speak at several PK seminars over the years, and listening to their stories takes me right back to my childhood faster than Odyssey’s Imagination Station (if you don’t know what that means, do yourself a favor and look it up).
I would never minimize the challenges that every child faces. Indeed, these are challenging times for children in general. However, it’s also true that being born into a preacher’s home is a tremendous privilege with certain built-in advantages. Some unique difficulties and problems are specific to PKs. In the hopes of helping, or at the very least drawing some awareness to the issues, I am listing a few common PK problems below.
1. Extreme Feelings of Loneliness & Isolation
Because few peers can relate to the ministry lifestyle’s unique challenges, PKs often feel lonely and isolated. They suffer in silence and deal with a lot of unresolved emotional tension. They usually feel ashamed to voice these feelings to their parents because they genuinely don’t want to hurt them or sound harsh towards the things of God; they cherish so deeply.
PK’s often feel lonely and isolated. They suffer in silence and deal with a lot of unresolved emotional tension. They usually feel ashamed to voice these feelings to their parents because they genuinely don’t want to hurt them…
PK’s parents are incredibly busy. Ministry isn’t something you can turn off or punch a time clock and be done for the day. Saints often don’t realize that the ten minutes you just spent on the phone with them is only one of a series of hundreds of ten-minute phone calls that interrupted yet another family moment. Not to mention all the mandatory church events, bi-vocational ministry homes, impromptu counseling sessions, and mountains of prayerful study time that sequesters preachers away from their families. Meetings, administrative work, conferences, ministry-related travel, the business of life, in general, keep pastors and their families overwhelmingly busy, too, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Also, pastor’s wives are unpaid workers with heavy loads of responsibility. They labor alongside their husbands, and although they are technically not on staff, they shoulder an immense amount of time-consuming work. All of this can leave a PK feeling like everyone else is more important than them. Every need is more urgent than their need. Every crisis trumps their crisis. So, they retreat and grow bitter (or jealous) towards the people (or the church in general) who regularly pull mommy and daddy away. If left unresolved, those feelings can morph into bitterness towards mom and dad.
It’s not uncommon for kids to feel a level of bitterness towards their parent’s job responsibilities because it keeps them busy and away from home, but when children start feeling that way about the place they are supposed to go for spiritual nourishment, real dangers are lurking.
Pastor’s wives are unpaid workers, and although they are technically not on staff, they shoulder an immense amount of time-consuming work. All of this can leave a PK feeling like everyone else is more important than them.
No matter how much their parents try to shield PKs from the worst aspects of a church, it is impossible to keep it all neatly hidden in a drawer. As a result, PKs see their parents attacked by saints and sinners alike. They see their parents disrespected by people they thought were respectable, and they have a front-row seat to the tragic showing of every backslider’s decline. Sadly, disgruntled saints will sometimes try to use a PK to get at their parents or cause a church rift. This is disgusting at best, but not unusual.
PKs, see their parents at their highest highs and their lowest lows. They see Elijah calling fire from heaven, and they see him running from Jezebel too. These are challenging scenarios for a child to process and still love their church family as they should. Others may only see the public displays of respect for ministry, but PK’s see the ugly moments when the masks come off.
PK’s see their parents attacked by saints and sinners alike. They see their parents disrespected by people they thought were respectable, and they have a front-row seat to the tragic showing of every backslider’s decline.
PKs, live under a different set of expectations than most kids. And it can go from one extreme to the other. On the one hand, many people stereotype PKs as being trouble makers, spoiled rotten, or bratty. On the other hand, many people expect PKs to bypass their childhood entirely and act like miniature, perfectly mannered adults. PKs live in a glasshouse where their every move is under the watching eye of curious people. Everything they and their parents do is highly visible and scrutinized. The feeling of always being under a microscope can devolve into spiritual and emotional suffocation.
Some PKs live under the overwhelming pressure to grow up and be in the ministry just like their parents. I’ll never forget, I was all of eleven years old when someone very seriously asked if I knew Greek and Hebrew like my father. To complicate things even further, if PKs feel called to the ministry, they face the all-too-familiar critical eye of a watching crowd. Will they be more anointed than their parents or less anointed than their parents? Will they be as talented as their parents or less capable than their parents? Some PKs balk at the emotional reality that some shoes just seem too big to fill.
PK’s live in a glasshouse. Everything they and their parents do is highly visible and scrutinized. The feeling of always being under a microscope can devolve into spiritual and emotional suffocation.
Bottom line, kids are kids. Preacher’s kids must learn, grow, laugh, cry, win, lose, fall, and get up just like every other kid. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have unique talents and special abilities distinct to them and them alone. Some are called to pastoral ministry, while others are not. They are not puppets to be used in an irreverent game of tug-of-war. They have peculiar challenges and unique advantages at the same time. Saints who love the ministry will love PKs with grace, sensitivity, and understanding. And yes, your pastor and his wife will appreciate it more than words can express.
Preacher’s kids must learn, grow, laugh, cry, win, lose, fall, and get up just like every other kid. They have strengths and weaknesses. They have unique talents and special abilities distinct to them and them alone.
Final Note:For those that might be wondering, as far as I can tell, no one in my church has ever been anything but sweet to my children. I truly appreciate the kindness and consideration that Apostolic Tabernacle shows my children on a regular basis.
AV Podcast with Talmadge
I had so much fun creating this episode with my son, Talmadge. We had so many cool bonding moments and laugh-at-ourselves moments putting this together. We hope it blesses you and your family and that you enjoy listening to it. If you do, please leave us a like and a review on iTunes and your socials. Oh, and for those of you who prefer to read, I’ve added a transcript of Talmadge’s opening remarks. He very earnestly and thoughtfully laid out his top three PK problems. Or, at least, the ones he’s willing to share publically right now. Thanks and God bless.
Talmadge: I’m the son of your host, Ryan French, and my name is Talmage, and this is Apostolic Voice, the podcast. Today, my dad is going to talk about four problems preachers’ kids face. This topic is something I can relate to as a preacher’s kid. And we know it’s a subject lots of people are interested in because, for the last four years, the blog article called 4 Problems Preacher’s Kids Face at http://www.ryanafrench.com has trended in the top 10 and has been downloaded over ten thousand times. I wanted to add what I faced as a preacher’s kid, and maybe this will help others. Number one, we often feel the embarrassment in the pressure to speak with people all the time. Number two, feeling self-conscious about our appearance and voice because we are in the spotlight more than other kids. Number three, sometimes preacher’s kids feel inadequate and unimportant compared to their preacher father. I reminded dad that PKs are all unique people with their own set of needs, and they need to be recognized for who they are as a person. So if you’re a preacher or a preacher’s kid or someone who loves the ministry and wants to be sensitive to their needs, this episode is for you.
Apostolic Voice with Ryan French
A relevant Apostolic Pentecostal resource that interacts with exciting guests and covers biblical topics of interest, ministry, Christian living, and practical insights hosted by Ryan French. This program is an extension of the popular blog Apostolic Voice (www.ryanafrench.com). Ryan is the Associate Pastor of Apostolic Tabernacle (www.aptabupc.com), a revivalistic United Pentecostal Church on the south side of Atlanta. Ryan’s greatest passion is helping people walk confidently in the Apostle’s doctrine and live a book of Acts life in the 21st century. Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/apostolicvoice/support
Ep. 26 | Four Problems Preacher's Kids Face with Talmadge French (My Son)
In this episode, Talmadge joins the program for the first time to talk about the realities of being a PK. Ryan examines real-life problems preacher’s kids face from the original article Four Problems Preacher’s Kids Face at ryanafrench.com. Also, Ryan and Talmadge give a spoken word version of Fear No More by Building 429. If you are a preacher, PK, or someone who loves the ministry, this episode is for you.
We sat holding our newborn baby, watching as the doctor drew a diagram. It was a heart. He drew what it should look like. Then he drew it with the four abnormalities of the congenital defect known as tetralogy, the condition with which our first son, Ryan, was born. At first, my untrained eyes didn’t even recognize the blueness around his little eyes and lips. We found ourselves in the midst of a journey for which we were so unprepared, a long walk of faith. But in those first few moments that day with the heart specialist, our world changed forever, and I was about to join the ranks of the “hospital moms!”
As home missionaries to a western Chicago suburb, we expected sacrifices and hardships, financial and personal. But we never expected anything like this. In fact, over the next six years, Ryan underwent four complex open-heart surgeries, at three months, eighteen months, four years, and five years of age. And, each time, the surgeon was working only millimeters from Ryan’s coronary artery. Thankfully, the Lord understands when we question our circumstances, knowing that we see “through a glass darkly.” These were undoubtedly the “desert of our days,” and our faith, like never before, would have to stand the test of fire. Like the three Hebrew children, we came to realize that faith is not merely knowing “God is able to deliver us.” We, too, prayed, “but if not,” as the operating room doors closed before us, only to find that same God standing with us in the midst of the fire.
Each was supposed to be the last, yet we came to the day we had to tell Ryan that he needed a fourth surgery. I will never forget the difficulty of explaining that to a five-year-old with vivid memories of his hospital experiences. For two years, he was the poster child for the Chicago Metropolitan Heart Association. At the news of the surgery, his blue eyes filled with tears. “What did I do wrong?” he asked. Quickly, we reassured him that he’d done nothing wrong. Nevertheless, the test of faith had come yet again. But, at age eight, when a previously inserted patch began to leak, and surgery was inevitable, the miracle came! My husband was preaching a camp on the east coast when, in the middle of the service, the Lord spoke to him that He had just healed Ryan! The doctor soon confirmed it. The leak had, indeed, sealed off—this time, God had chosen to deliver from the fire.
Our hospital journey, though, was not ended. We had now been blessed with two more sons, Jonathan, two, and six-month-old Nathan. The same week of Ryan’s miracle, Jonathan, began limping and could barely walk. The doctor, after blood work and scheduling orthopedics, reassured us – lightning rarely “strikes twice in the same place.” Still, we felt something was very wrong. His fever spiked, and he became lethargic. Then, suddenly, I had a sense of “knowing” exactly what was wrong. I shared it with my husband. With news now about the second of our sons, we received the call from our concerned family doctor, “I hate to have to tell you this, Reverend and Mrs. French.” Then, he said the very words I had spoken to my husband earlier, “Jonathan has leukemia!” We were to leave immediately for Chicago’s Children’s Memorial.
In the early morning hours, though dazed, the first miracle in this fiery trial became clear. As Jonathan was diagnosed with acute lymphatic leukemia, God had given me a word from Him. Then, the Lord said to me, “I spoke to you to assure you that I am here. I know all about it. My face is turned in your direction.” As battle-weary as we were, I desperately needed extra grace, so the Lord prepared the way, a peace beyond understanding. Nevertheless, the seemingly endless chemo, the needles, the non-sedated bone marrow aspirations, the spinals – were all incredibly difficult. But, early into treatment, I was blessed to hear Sis. Nona Freeman minister on the subject: “Praising the Lord in All Things!” God used it mightily. God was reminding me of the source of my strength amidst the trial – the power of praise!
Praise God for his mighty power! Twice God delivered Jon as he went into life-threatening septic shock, as doctors worked feverishly over him to save him. One day a newly purchased minivan suddenly appeared in our driveway, keys and all! Later, at a particularly low point, Jon could barely eat, yet the doctors allowed us to take him to his great grandfather’s funeral near St. Jude hospital. So we took him, as well, to a special service nearby for prayer. My husband’s unsaved step-father joined us and wanted to hold his grandson as they anointed him. The Lord’s touch was instantaneous, with Jon immediately asking his grandpa for something to eat! Powerfully moved, grandpa returned the next week and received the Holy Ghost!
The mountain of medical bills was miraculously wiped out, with one incredibly huge sum forgiven in total because they inexplicably lost the account! The trials left no hint of smoke, only the sweet aroma of the presence of the One Who stood with us in the midst of the fire. Both Ryan and Jon are well and active in the church we pastor in Atlanta, Ryan serving as Associate Pastor and Jon as a vital part of our youth and music ministry. To God be the glory.
The trials left no hint of smoke, only the sweet aroma of the presence of the One Who stood with us in the midst of the fire.
Rebecca French, alongside her husband, Dr. Talmadge French, has faithfully served the members of Apostolic Tabernacle in Jonesboro, Georgia, for ten years. They have been married and leading in numerous ministry capacities for forty-three years. Rebecca’s greatest joy is that her three sons, their wives, and her six grandchildren serve the Lord.
Ryan speaks with longtime best-friend and highly decorated army veteran Josh Michael. They reminisce about younger days in the band Four In The Fire, discuss ways churches and individuals can minister to veterans in their communities, how to overcome hot tempers, simple, practical insights into life and success that everyone can use right now. They put success in its proper perspective and discuss how every failure and pain prepares us for better things in the future.
Recently, I recorded an interview with Pastor Shannon Thornhill, a church planter in Hernando, MS (www.desotolifeupc.org), for the Apostolic Voice podcast. We had a great conversation spanning all kinds of topics: The importance of Divine calling, how to stay encouraged in discouraging times, evangelism, outreach, ethics, the importance of starting new churches in unchurched cities, and how to bless a church planter. It’s worth your time to listen to the entire episode. Here I’ve listed several meaningful takeaways from our conversation. At the bottom of this article, you’ll find links to listen to our whole exchange.
Note: These are my thoughts after reflecting on our conversation. They are not direct quotes.
TAKEAWAY: Don’t Look Down on New Churches
New churches often operate underneath the stigma of their smallness. Sometimes this smallness is misperceived as insignificance. But new churches are the backbone of revival and church growth. Pastors and members of established larger churches might be tempted to look down their nose at newer churches. Not only is this attitude foolish, but it undermines and discourages the work of the Lord. The biblical admonishment to avoid despising small beginnings (Zechariah 4:10) applies in this situation. God rejoices to see the work begin (Zechariah 4:10), and we should rejoice too.
TAKEAWAY: Unchurched People Want to Be Loved More Than Anything Else
Love is free to share, and unchurched people care more about being seen and loved than big buildings and programs. As a church grows, it becomes more challenging to connect with guests in meaningful ways. Guests can easily feel unseen or overlooked in larger church settings. Of course, loving churches work hard to overcome this dilemma, but new churches have a built-in advantage in this area. Growing new churches serve as a beautiful reminder to older churches that loving people doesn’t require big budgets or trendy programs. If we want to win people, we must love them.
Love is free to share, and unchurched people care more about being seen and loved than big buildings and programs.
Perhaps the most challenging thing in life is finding the will of God. But even more daunting is accomplishing the will of God. When a person fully embraces God’s plan for their lives, the plan is bold, terrifying, and beautiful. Like David facing Goliath or Noah facing an empty field where an ark needs to be, we don’t have the necessary tools to accomplish the mission (at least it sure feels that way). But if we’re in God’s will, He will make a way. God might use ravens with food, a fish full of money, or drop manna from heaven with His own hands. Regardless, if we’re going where God wants us to go, the seas will part.
TAKEAWAY: The Best Blessings Aren’t Financial
I asked Shannon: What’s the most encouraging thing anyone has ever done for you as a church planter. I expected the answer to involve a financial miracle of some kind. It didn’t. Church planters need prayer and encouragement more than anything else. Knowing people are emotionally and spiritually invested in the success of their church means more than financial investment.
Church planters need prayer and encouragement more than anything else.
Parents are often afraid to make sacrifices for the Lord because of their children. It feels scary involving our children in the sacrifices the call of God requires. Shannon dismantled this fear describing the love and joy his children have for ministry and church planting. It seems counterintuitive, but our children will find tremendous joy, blessing, and fulfillment, joining us in our walk of faith. They, in turn, learn how to walk by faith by watching us.
Our children will find tremendous joy, blessing, and fulfillment, joining us in our walk of faith. They, in turn, learn how to walk by faith by watching us.
Make no mistake; whatever God calls you to do will require sacrifice. With church planting, this is especially true. There will be challenges, discouraging seasons, and lots of blind faith required. But if you can push through those seasons of drought into the blessing, you will find a satisfaction that only obedience to God can bring.
TAKEAWAY: If God Isn’t Supplying, You Aren’t Complying
Shannon shared a powerful nugget of truth a wise pastor gave to him years ago. I’m paraphrasing it, but essentially, he said if God calls you to do something hard, He will provide what is needed. On the flip side of that coin, if God does not supply, you probably aren’t complying with His plan. This truism fits nicely into a lengthier look at understanding the will of God in the article: How to Seek God’s Will (For Any Situation).
If God calls you to do something hard, He will provide what is needed. On the flip side of that coin, if God does not supply, you probably aren’t complying with His plan.
TAKEAWAY: Let Your Past and Future Encourage Your Present
I asked Shannon the question every God-follower asks at some point: How can we stay encouraged in the tough moments. Shannon had lots of tremendous things to say (you should listen to them all), but one thing really stood out to me. He said, and again I’m paraphrasing, let God’s past blessings encourage you and trust that God has future blessings in store. This is easier said than done. His advice reminds me of the Israelites facing challenges after God parted the Red Sea. They had doubts and fears when faced with new obstacles. Even after seeing the Promised Land with their own eyes, they struggled to trust God with their future. God put those real-life stories in the Bible as a reminder that we should avoid the pitfalls of forgetting past miracles and shunning God’s future blessings.
Let the past blessings of God encourage you and trust that God has future blessings in store.
This past Father’s Day I enjoyed celebrating fatherhood with my family. I love being a father; I love all that it involves, every nuance that it brings to life. And yet I worry, I worry about the culture that my children will face; I worry about subtle influences that gently creep into young hearts. You see, I’m fourth generation Apostolic, statistics tell me that my children will likely not fall in love with Truth. I’ve always hated math anyway, so I’ve chosen to reject what the data tells me, and do everything in my power to see that my children serve God.
The Scriptures are filled with fatherly role models, and we find some not so great examples as well. David, the sensitive poet, described as “a man after God’s own heart,” was a good king and a terrific military leader but not the best father. The life and faith of Abraham, God’s friend and father of a nation leaves us with many good lessons. Others, like Isaac and Jacob, had mixed success as fathers. The New Testament is remarkably void of fatherly details. In fact, some of the stronger dads in the Bible were obscure and minor characters in Scripture. Others were obedient to God in their own time but failed completely to pass their faith on to their families.
Allow me to remind you of a godly father who encourages me to believe that my children and my children’s children can indeed serve God. You may have forgotten about Jonadab, his story is so briefly told in Scripture. We first read about Jonadab the son of Rechab in II Kings chapter 15 when Jehu the 11th king of Israel made an alliance with Jonadab to destroy the followers of Baal. King Jehu knew that Jonadab was zealous for God and an influential man. Together they successfully completed what the prophet Elijah had begun. They destroyed all the worshippers of Baal. So complete was this destruction that the pagan worship of Baal (which sometimes included parents sacrificing their own children) was wiped out in Israel, and the temple of Baal was torn down and made into a garbage dump.
We don’t know a lot about Jonadab’s life or his style of parenting but we do know that when it was time to take a stand, he took a stand. When it was time to choose a side, he chose the Lord’s side. When he became a father, he chose to BE a father. He wasn’t anxiously waiting for his children to turn 18 so that he could be free of his parental responsibilities. He understood that fatherhood is a lifelong commitment. He also understood that the spiritual well-being of his children was just as important as the physical well-being of his children.
In great wisdom Jonadab commanded his children to abstain from wine and strong drink. He warned them to dwell in tents and not buy houses. He asked them not to plant vineyards or to buy fields and plant seeds. Jonadab set standards to preserve his family BOTH physically and spiritually. Some of his guidelines sound unreasonable to us even today. But he wanted to insure that his family could survive the changes in Israel that would come when the nation was destroyed. He took measures that would permanently set them apart. They were to live differently than those around them. They were to maintain moral purity. He didn’t want them to get too comfortable in a dangerous place.
Most people today would say that he was old fashioned and behind the times when, in reality, he was ahead of the times. He was preparing his family for the tragedy that was coming to Israel in a few short years. Many other families didn’t survive because they had been living the “good life.” But Jonadab’s family survived pagan invasion after murderous invasion because they listened to their father.
How could he know that these things were going to happen in the near future? He knew by faith because he believed the words of the prophets who were speaking into his life. Several prophets had predicting the destruction of Israel. Elijah had predicted the complete destruction of the family of Ahab and Jezebel. Perhaps Jonadab was a little boy on Mt. Carmel when Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal. Maybe he saw the fire of God fall. Maybe he witnessed the prophets of Baal fall on their faces and cry, “The Lord, He is God!” He would only need to see a miracle like that ONCE to know that Baal was a defeated god. Again, it was Elijah who prophesied that Jehu would be king of Israel. Somehow Jonadab instilled a RESPECT in his family’s heart for men of God and the WORD of God. Even after his death he left a continuing legacy of RESPECT.
While other dads were allowing their families to worship God and Baal at the same time, Jonadab remained zealous for the one true God. When everyone else had accepted that Baal worship was a necessary evil, Jonadab said, “NOT SO!” I wonder if Jonadab remembered Joshua’s powerful declaration, “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” when he agreed to risk his life taking a stand against the worshippers of Baal? He centered his family’s life around God’s word. But none of this would have made any difference if he had not been consistent in his private life. Our families notice our inconsistencies and sense our secret sins. Faith, faithfulness, greatness, integrity, strength of character, and moral purity are things we learn by example and not by decree.
After II Kings chapter 15 it is almost three hundred years after Jonadab’s death before his name is mentioned again. Judah is in great turmoil. Idolatry is everywhere. Jerusalem is about to be captured, destroyed and plundered by the Babylonians. Thousands of Israelites are about to endure the humiliation of captivity in Babylon. The prophet Jeremiah had been pleading with Judah for almost 40 years to turn from their sin and unbelief. When suddenly in the middle of all this chaos God spoke to Jeremiah and said, “Go find the descendants of Jonadab.” God told Jeremiah to test Jonadab’s legacy. They gathered his descendants together gave them jugs of wine and invited them to have a drink. That’s when something truly astonishing happened. They refused. “No,” they said, “we will not drink wine, our ancestor Jonadab son of Rechab gave us this command: ‘You and your descendants must never drink wine. And do not build houses or plant crops or vineyards, but always live in tents. If you follow these commands, you will live long, good lives in the land.’ So we have obeyed him in all these things. We have never had a drink of wine to this day, nor have our wives, our sons, or our daughters. We haven’t built houses or owned vineyards or farms or planted crops. We have lived in tents and have fully obeyed all the commands of our forefather.”
Almost 300 years after his death Jonadab’s children were still benefiting from his wisdom. He left a continuing legacy. The obedience of six generations was based on one man’s faithfulness. In Jeremiah 35:19, we see one of the most extraordinary promises given to a father and his family in the entire Bible. The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah and rewarded the faithfulness and obedience of Jonadab and his descendants, saying, “Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not lack a man to stand before me forever.” Jonadab even after his death was promised that he would always have descendants serving God.
This means that somewhere in our world today a descendant of Jonadab still survives and serves the Lord. This promise from God is more valuable than power, fame, wealth, health, comfort, looks, intelligence, or any of the things that we pray our children will have. The legacy of Jonadab stands as a shining example that faith, moral purity, values, standards, and families can remain strong from generation to generation.