Book Review: Family Shepherds by Voddie Baucham

by Jason Barker

Christianity has a discipleship problem today. Methods for making disciples are everywhere, yet, for the most part, we are not seeing the results of effective discipleship. Personal holiness, growing and thriving churches, gospel impact in our communities, and the willingness to live boldly and stand up to the rising tide of secularism is becoming increasingly rare. As pastors and leaders, you’ve likely asked the question, “What are we missing?”

Could it be that a single, simple misunderstanding is to blame? While we most often think of the local church as the preferred venue for making disciples, God principally tasked another institution with that responsibility: the family. In fact, the family was intended as the primary means of creating disciples, with fathers taking the lead and churches providing the ongoing guidance and spiritual support that comes from a vibrant community of faith. Yet fathers regularly appear woefully unequipped or unwilling for the task, thus requiring the local church to move up from the supportive role and into the primary one. We should never underestimate the value of a pastor, elder, teacher, or another servant leader who steps up when a father fails to, but we must never forget the God-given responsibility dads have to lead their children to Christ, disciple them, and model the lovingkindness of their Heavenly Father on a daily basis.

Seeing this gap in knowledge and action, Voddie Bauchum, Jr. offers timely, challenging, and encouraging advice to fathers in his book Family Shepherds.

Family Shepherds

Family Shepherds is a book for any husband or father looking to lead well, and it will serve as an excellent resource for churches looking to equip the men in their congregations.

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In this spiritual follow-up to Family Driven Faith, Voddie Bauchum, Jr. seeks to build upon the theological foundations he established in the former book in order to answer the question so many men have asked: “How do I lead my family?” His counsel breaks down into four focal areas: family discipleship and evangelism; marriage enrichment; training and discipling of children; and lifestyle evaluation. With special sensitivity and grace, he also addresses how these lessons, which are designed for men, can be applied to fatherless homes and those led by single mothers.

Key Points of the Book

  1. The three-legged stool of discipleship: Ideally, discipleship involves the coordinated efforts of three groups of people. First, the mature men and women who are a part of a church congregation are responsible for mentoring and encouraging the younger generation. Second, pastors and elders should provide guidance through personal examples and biblical teaching. Finally, Christian fathers must take the lead in discipleship in their own homes.
  2. The hidden danger of separation at church: Families are torn in multiple directions on a daily basis. Work and school priorities, extra-curricular activities, and different interests and preferences result in a separation of the family unit that undermines in-home discipleship. Unfortunately, the typical Sunday morning at the average American church doesn’t help matters, as families are once again separated by well-intentioned leaders attempting to carry out discipleship by age-graded programming. In effect, parents are pulled out of the discipleship of their children and encouraged to entrust the process to paid professionals.
  3. Fathers must view themselves as family shepherds above all else: Men have a tendency to define themselves by their jobs – the thing they do to provide income for their family invariably becomes the key identifying factor in their lives. Rather than seeing their main profession as whatever form of breadwinning they take part in each day, fathers should embrace their role as family leader and guide, protector, and prophet to the point that they primarily see themselves as employed in family discipleship.

Powerful Quotes From the Book

  • “There is thus a synergy between strong Christian homes and strong churches, with the ministry of the family shepherd serving as an indispensable element in the health, well-being, and future of the church.” (36)
  • “The common understanding seems to be that children can be discipled only by sophisticated programs led by persons having years of training. However, this is a far cry from the biblical and the historical model.” (63)
  • “While it’s a complete myth that half of all marriages end in divorce, the fact that marriages are weak and men and women are clueless as to how to make them strong is as real as it gets. Unfortunately, this is true inside as well as outside the church. This is crucial since the first step for a man shepherding his family is to shepherd his wife. A strong marriage is the foundation upon which a strong family is built.” (83)
  • Starting with a right understanding of our child’s problem will lead to a right assessment of our child’s need. This is turn will result in right motives and methods in addressing those needs. Ultimately, this takes us beyond our child’s need for right behavior to their need for a right heart and right character.” (119-120)
  • “I’m arguing that the most important thing for a family shepherd to do – when he’s evaluating how he’s leading his family – is to ensure they’re healthy members of a healthy church. This is more important than his assessment of their financial status, their use of time, their perspective on entertainment, where and how they live, what they drive, where and how their children are educated, or any other lifestyle issue. None of these things is as significant as church membership.” (147)

Application in the Local Church

Bauchum’s perspective is informed by his years of practicing what he preaches in the congregation he pastors. Accordingly, Family Shepherds can serve as a guidebook for how a church of any shape or size can implement healthy corporate practices that support healthy home-based practices.

For the home church: The strategic pivots Baucham addresses are likely easy for smaller, biblical communities to implement (if they are not already a part of your regular practice). Still, prayerfully evaluate how your weekly gathering can support the good work of equipping fathers to shepherd their homes.

As Mr. Bachaum clearly argues, healthy churches start with healthy homes.

For the traditional church: We understand that a whole scale change of ministry practices is most likely not an immediate option. However, consider how you can radically tweak your ministry activity to involve parents in the discipleship of their children. Additionally, work diligently to overcome the tendency to communicate that discipleship is the primary responsibility of pastors and professionals; as you know, it is not.

For all of us: Baucham mentions in his introduction that we do not primarily need a revival of hearts towards family discipleship because we first need a reformation of thought – a change in the way we understand manhood and the family. Fathers are called by God to lead their families to faithful discipleship. We must let nothing stand in the way of this.

Book Information:  Baucham, Voddie, Jr. Family Shepherds – Calling and Equipping Men to Lead Their Homes. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2011. 190 pages.

Same Biblical Doctrine, Different Location

If you’re interested in exploring, planting, or joining a biblical house church, this booklet will serve as a tool of clarity and confidence.

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(DMin, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary) Jason is an experienced pastor and theological educator seeking to encourage and equip the next generation of church planters. Jason serves at Colorado Christian University and consults with a variety of church leadership organizations. He and his wife live in Southern California with their four children.

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