Reb Bradley v Family Ministries
ISSUE #4 – January 2006
New Year’s Greetings from Reb
The New Year is under way and I am excited to see what God has in store for us.
As I shared last month, I have gradually lost all my volunteers and am now trying to cover all the duties previously done by four workers. I am surviving, but ministry aspects of the job are being neglected, including writing the Newsletter article. I apologize that you are receiving the January Newsletter at the beginning of February.
I have been asking the Lord for a solution and I have come up with a possibility: INTERNS. I am considering inviting volunteers to come live with my family in our guesthouse for a 6-month period. The intern would receive training in many aspects of running a ministry, including media production, publishing, phone reception, bookkeeping, shipping, warehousing, purchasing, and web‑management. It’s an idea. Let me know what you think.
Actually, in the last month the Lord has sent us two technically minded supporters who have volunteered to help convert our audio and VHS tapes to CD and DVD. We are looking forward to offering all of our presentations in both formats. Praise God for His provision!
In the last month I have received more than a few inquiries regarding plans for future products. In response, I have decided to make available some of the Sunday sermon tapes in our archives. We won’t make all 1000 messages available, but will probably start with some of the most impactful series. As soon as I get a volunteer I will have them catalog the titles and we can start production.
We will also soon be making available the video and audio tapes from the Leadership Training Course. This is a 48‑session series for pastors and church planters. The four sections include Church Leadership, Growing a Healthy Church, Growing a Family Strengthening Church, and Church Planting. When things here get under control I will post more information on the FM website.
This month I have included the 4th installment of the article “Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling.” I jump right into the article, so I encourage you to go back and read the previous articles to help relay the foundation.
Please stay in touch,
January Article of the Month
Solving the Crisis in Homeschooling Part 4
If you missed the first three installments of this ongoing article, you can read them on our website. To get there click here or go to the Family Ministries home page and click on the link for Monthly Email Newsletters.
Over the last several years my wife and I have heard from many in the homeschool community who have watched their wonderful homeschooled children grow up and make choices contrary to their parents’ values. After several years of examining what went wrong in our own home and in the homes of so many conscientious parents, God has opened our eyes to a number of critical blind spots common to homeschoolers and other family-minded people. The following is a summary of those things we have concluded are contributing factors. (A complete presentation can be found in my new CD series “What I REALLY Wish I Knew When My children Were Young.”)
1. Dreams for the children are really about the parents (November Newsletter)
4. Tendency to judge (December Newsletter)
5. Over-dependence on authority and control
When we are preoccupied with outward form our focus tends to become shallow and behavior oriented. We look upon our children as if they are roses that can be trained to grow a certain direction by constant pruning and binding. Subsequently, we rely heavily upon our authority in an attempt to bring our children under our total control. We assume if we give them the Word of God, shelter them from harmful influences, discipline them consistently, and maintain high standards for their outside, that their inside will inevitably be shaped.
I recall that when I first started teaching on parenting many years ago, I actually used the illustration of training roses to describe proper rearing of children. I was mistaken to do so – not because it is an incorrect example of training, but because it is an inadequate one. To successfully train roses requires a goal, a plan, and diligence in labor. Fruitful training of children requires the same. However, the difference is that roses have no mind of their own and only grow as they are allowed to go. Children are people – self-determining individuals – and they ultimately choose how they will respond to parental influence. No amount of parental control or restriction will guarantee that a child will turn out exactly as directed. Obviously, our training increases the likelihood our children will cling to the faith when they reach maturity, or turn back to Christ if they do enter a season of rebellion, but our training does not guarantee the desired outcome.
I know that some will struggle with the assertion that parents do not have total control over the outcome of their parenting, because of Proverbs 22:6. And I would have struggled too, ten years ago, but upon examination of the passage in question, I am convinced that it is a verse meant as an admonition of wisdom, not as a promise and guarantee of outcome. Like most of the sayings in Proverbs it is a statement of probability and not a promise.
A literal rendering of the Hebrew of Proverbs 22:6 reads: “Dedicate a child specifically toward a righteous path of life and he will not abandon it when he reaches old age.” The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings that Solomon is passing on to his sons. Each Proverb is generally a true statement meant to warn against foolishness and encourage prudence based upon the fruit that will likely be born. They are not to be understood like the unfailing promises of God, because Proverbs do have exceptions.
For example, in chapter 22 there are at least five other statements of probability, which could appear to be promises. Look at verses 4, 11, 14, 16, and 26. Each is a statement that could sound like a promise, but none is. Rather, each is meant to reveal the wisdom of living righteously. For example, verse 4 states that “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.” Is that a guaranteed promise? Not at all – Jesus and his apostles were humble and God-fearing, yet they were poor, dishonored, and suffered greatly (1 Cor 4:9-13) – they were exceptions. But as a general rule, it is a true statement – a man who lives humbly and fearing the Lord, has the character and clarity of mind to be successful in business and in society.
Proverbs 22:6 simply says that if we are diligent in training our children, their future will be impacted, and the fruit of that training will most likely be evident when they reach old age. They may follow Christ unwaveringly from childhood into old age, or they may reach adulthood like the prodigal son and make wrong choices for a season before repenting. It is also possible that they may stay at home submissively like the prodigal’s older brother, yet inside be a prodigal with a heart full of self-righteousness and bitterness. (This particular scenario is less embarrassing for a parent, but still reveals the potential for sinful choices in an adult child.) In all honesty, it is also a remote possibility that a prodigal may stay in rebellion and never return to Christ.
In Proverbs 22:6 we receive encouragement towards diligent training of our children, but we must remember that they are neither animals to be dominated nor mindless plants to be pruned and bound. They are self-determining individuals who are processing their upbringing and will one day have their own time of reckoning with God.
I wish Bev and I had understood this when our oldest three were young. We saw them as wet clay that would succumb to our persistent shaping, so we not only taught them, but dominated and controlled them well into their teens. We were chiefly authoritarian in our approach, and rarely saw our children respond to us with disrespect. We weren’t ogres – our home was full of affection – but we relied upon fear of our authority as the main source of motivation for our children. What we didn’t realize was that there is a great difference between intimidating children into subjection and winning their hearts into submission. Intimidating children into subjection merely gains outward compliance. Winning their hearts means gaining greater opportunity to influence their values.
Lest someone misunderstand me, let me emphasize that I do believe what I teach in my Child Training Tips book, and regard firm control of our children in the first few years of their lives as critical for the maturing process. Establishing strong parental control early on in life is necessary, because as our young children learn to submit to outer controls they concurrently develop inner controls. And a young child who is trained to have inner control (self-control) is better equipped to receive values taught them as they grow. However, as our children head into adolescence, if we find ourselves still focused on influencing them chiefly through tight control, we shouldn’t be surprised if they begin to manifest an independent spirit sometime during their teens.
I have observed too many “obedient,” model homeschoolers, who left their families and/or abandoned their parents’ values sometime after their 18th birthday. Mind you, many of these parents ran such a tight ship that they were absolutely certain that their kids would continue to be obedient and godly into their adult years. And many of these were parents who were admired for their well-behaved teenage children. There is a great temptation for such a parent to develop a false security in his or her ability to control. Needless to say, when good children grow up and abandon our values, it has a way of humbling us.
One indication that we tend toward overdependence on control is that we always want to know what we can do to achieve desired results with our kids. Of course, such a statement will confuse some because they are reading this article to find out what they are to do. So let me tell you a story about Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, the Romanian pastor who was imprisoned and tortured for 14 years by the communists – a truly seasoned saint.
On Easter Sunday in 1988 Pastor Wurmbrand was speaking to our newly planted church when it was meeting in our home. He finished what he wanted to say to us that evening and opened the floor for questions. My wife Beverly was first to speak and asked him what we could do as a new church to grow, be healthy, and advance the kingdom. His response took us off guard – he said, “I do not have the answer to that question. Who has the next question?” He then took a question from a young man, a political activist, who wanted to know what we could do in America to prevent the same kind of persecution the church endured in Romania. In response, Pastor Wurmbrand said, “I cannot answer this question either. And now I want to tell you why. I cannot answer your questions because they are the wrong questions. To ask, ‘What must I do...?’ is like asking ‘What is the melody of a prune?’ A prune has no melody. As Christians we cannot ask ‘What must I do...?’ We must ask ‘What must I be...?’”
His point was that fruitful Christianity comes from the inside out – from who we are – not from what we do. It is the inside that must first be changed, and then the heart will give birth to healthy, genuine expressions. For example, a shortsighted question asks, “What can I do to show love to my liberal, feminist sister?” Would it not be better to actually love her? The first approach is concerned with outside appearances – the second is based on what is actually in the heart, and will have far greater impact. At issue is not the appearance of love, but actually having it. With our children, when we preoccupy ourselves with what to do -- with following all the right steps and enforcing all the controls given us by homeschool veterans – we will merely be controlling the outside. It is as though we have nothing genuine to pass on at a heart level, so we do what we can from the outside in.
For many years I presented a convention workshop entitled “Creating a Strong Family Identity.” It was popular as a keynote address and generated great response from audiences. It contained various steps that parents could follow to strengthen family bonds. It was a good session, but it did not go deep enough. I created that session from observing families with strong family identities, but I eventually came to realize that their bonds did not entirely result from the steps I had documented. Their strong family connections were actually forged by their love for each other – not from the path they were on. The steps merely added to the bond created by the love. Those who listened to my suggested steps may have gone home and implemented them, and some may have even been pleased with the results. However, significant family bonds are created by not by external controls and steps along a path, but are a fruit of love in a home. Our goal should chiefly be the cultivation of Christ’s love – first in our own hearts and then in our families.
I once read an article written by a veteran homeschooler on how to raise children with a kingdom-minded worldview. The author had seen her own children grow up to be active in outreach, so offered the reader the many steps she and her husband had developed to cultivate a vision for outreach in their children. I appreciated the value of the suggestions offered in the article – they were truly inspiring. However, I am convinced that their own children grew up with a vision for outreach – not because they as parents did all the steps, but because they as Christians genuinely owned the vision and it was contagious to their children. It was not what they did – it was who they were. The steps she offered in her article she did not learn at a conference and then impose upon her children. They were simply expressions of what was already in the hearts of her and her husband. After reading the article I pictured multitudes of homeschool moms implementing all the steps in the process, thinking that that is what it would take to raise kingdom-minded children. I fear that many of those moms, even if they can implement all those steps in their homes, will be in for a rude awakening when their children reach their older teen years. Our children spiritually blossom, not from the controls we impose from the outside, but from what they catch from us on the inside. (More on this point in future newsletters.)
Returning to my original point, parents who want to influence their children during the teen years must not rely strictly upon their authority to keep their children obedient. Solomon set for us a great example of balanced parenting – he admonished his young adult children and gave them commandments, but he knew that for them to honor his commands he needed their hearts. That’s why he said, “My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways” (Prov 23:26). The apostle Paul knew how much he needed the hearts of those he exhorted, and therefore told them “... although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love...” (Phile 1:8-9). If we are to have significant influence of our teenage children we must have their hearts. Winning their hearts means gaining the opportunity to influence who they are, not just what they do.
Next issue: Point 6. Over-reliance upon sheltering
Finances: We continue in a lean financial season. God is carrying us through this period by means of gifts from supporters. We GREATLY appreciate those of you who are able to help. Please prayerfully consider being a ministry partner with us. (We are a tax-exempt 501-C3). If you are not able to help with finances, we covet your prayers.
Website help: We need to install some kind of shopping cart on the FM website. If you have any suggestions, drop us an email.
Seminars: Reb still has some open slots to present seminars for 2006. Consider arranging a seminar for your fellowship or school group.
We’d love for you to partner with us in providing help to families.
Testimonies from ministry friends
“Your teaching in the audio series "Biblical Insights into Child Training" has revolutionized our home. We have a nearly five year old who was changed in 3 days due to our implementing your teaching. He has an amazing spirit of love and obedience we never quite saw before. In no time, through consistent parenting and discipline the FIRST time he disobeyed, our home was changed for the better. We thank God for you and your vision and anointing. We are now preparing to teach a small group using your materials.” C. & A.
“Thank you to Beverly for speaking just to me at the conference... We've done everything wrong, thinking it was right! Bev’s words have changed our lives. God used you and the story of your son to help us. I am so grateful. I'm looking so forward to giving all those old habits up and relaxing and loving our boy for the person God made him. Thank you, Thank you.” Sincerely, M.S.
Ministry Prayer Needs
-- Financial stability for the ministry. Pray for God’s provision, so that we can continue unimpaired.
-- Opportunities to minister in churches and at Home School Conventions.
-- Reb and Bev need the Lord’s guidance as they seek to discern God’s will for the direction of this ministry.
PO Box 266 Sheridan, CA 95681