Can the Church Still Change the World?

Passion and Purpose

Today’s interview is with Jimmy Seibert, founder and senior pastor of Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas, and president of Antioch Ministries International—the church-planting missions arm of the church that has planted 70 churches across the globe and is one of the fastest growing evangelical movements in the country. Seibert also started World Mandate, an annual conference aimed to equip people to live missionally that draws more than 7,000 attendees. In his latest book, Passion & Purpose: Believing the Church Can Still Change the World, Seibert gives a firsthand account of a church that’s cultivating a global impact. With an intentional focus on intimacy with Jesus, discipleship, church planting, and evangelism, this book is perfect for pastors, missionaries, and disciples wanting to get inspired to make a real change in the world. Download Passion & Purpose today!

1. Why did you write Passion & Purpose, and why now?

Revival is only a prayer away. We chose to write this book now because I believe there’s a deep need for more voices calling people to a radical devotion to Jesus. We wanted to inspire others to believe in the Church again—not just biblically, but practically—as we rally together to be the moral conscience of our nation and the hands and feet of Jesus in the earth.

In our world, there is a desperate cry for the church to really be the church. As we look to the future, I have great hope that God’s plan will not be thwarted! Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” I think what it all comes down to is this: will we partner with him?

2. What do you think God’s plan is for the church?

The church is God’s “Plan A” for seeing his glory distributed on the earth—not just for salvation, but for the transformation of lives and entire societies. The question I’m often asked is, “Can that really happen?” My answer is definitively, YES! Our experience over the last 26 years has been that the church is alive and well. When people fall in love with Jesus and passionately pursue him with all their hearts, their lives are transformed. They become change agents in the lives of others and amidst the social issues around them. So I’m passionate that the church is God’s answer to our broken world. Now more than ever we must restore the faith for what the church can be.

3. How has writing this book stirred your faith for what God is doing in the world?

As I recounted all the stories from our journey, I came to a place of renewed joy and hope for the church as God’s vehicle for transformation in the world. In our culture, there’s this gap that the government can’t fill, that businesses can’t fill; it’s not only a moral gap, but also a gap of resources. We’ve found that the church can not only be a part of filling that gap in our cities—whether it’s through education or healthcare—but it can also do the job in such a way that’s stronger than before. My personal faith has been stirred by seeing what God is doing in America and in the Muslim world—it’s stunning. We’re seeing Muslims come to know Jesus and establish themselves as his people more than ever before in history. It’s a thrilling time, and I’m so inspired by what God is doing right now in the nations!

4. What do you hope readers take away from this book?

My deepest hope is that through this book, more people would fall in love with Jesus and start to believe in the Church again. It isn’t about me or about Antioch; it’s all about Jesus, who is calling each of us to experience him in an intimate and renewed way. It’s his story. My hope is that in telling this story, there is a stirring of the heart, both personally and corporately, as the light of Jesus is poured out in our cities, our nation, and in the nations of the world.

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Get fired up to make a difference in the world with this firsthand account of Antioch Ministries’ humble beginnings and life-changing effects: get Jimmy Seibert’s Passion & Purpose: Believing the Church Can Still Change the World today!

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Life with a New Baby: 4 Ways to Strengthen Your Faith (and Stay Sane)

New Mom's Guid

“Even when motherhood feels wonderful, it’s overwhelming.” —Susan Besze Wallace

Almost every mom has felt this way—that even between the joy of first smiles, first steps, and first words are the burdens of last-minute wardrobe changes, last-to-the-dinner-table meals, and the very last things you feel like doing (e.g., today’s millionth diaper change). So how do new moms balance the good and the bad? That’s just it—there has to be a balance.

Adapted from Wallace’s book, The New Mom’s Guide to Life with Baby, here are four ways to keep your faith and marriage strong, while acclimating to your new role as a mom:

1. Establish a daily routine that accommodates your needs

In order to stay sane, map out a few things that are important to you that you want (or need) to make daily habits. Here are a few priority items to consider: a new activity for the baby—this could be a new song, a new walk, or a new story; a comforting activity for you—devotions, a bubble bath, or (God willing) a nap; and a loving act toward your husband—like words of affirmation or a special note in his lunch. Obviously every mom is different, so your needs are different; pinpoint the most fulfilling parts of your day and make them habits.

2. Understand the changes in your body

Just because you’ve given birth doesn’t mean the labor’s over. From breast-feeding to weight gain to hormonal changes, your body is unquestionably different after having a baby. So instead of crying over your favorite pair of pants that are now three sizes too small, accept your body’s changes, find out what’s healthy and what’s not, and talk to other moms for support. I’m not going to go into details here, but Wallace does. So if you want specific answers to your very specific questions, check out her guide for new moms.

3. Keep your marriage strong

Have you asked your husband how he’s doing with the baby lately? Have you shared how you’re feeling? Physical intimacy starts with emotional intimacy, so to keep your marriage strong, you need to keep strong communication. Parenthood brings to light all-new strengths and skills—notice your spouse’s and tell him. Is he particularly loving and playful with the baby? Let him know. Is he more attentive to you now that you’ve given birth? Thank him for his support. Likewise, if he’s not giving you the support you need, tell him.

4. Find your own mothering style

Every mom is different, so don’t compare yourself to other Pinterest-perfect moms. God made you who you are for a very specific reason, so embrace your unique, God-given gifts, and use them to be the unique, God-loving mother he created you to be. Here’s what Wallace says about it: “It’s important to remember that you are this child’s mom. You may not have every trick and technique in your arsenal yet, but you have a set of sensitivities and sensibilities that you will build on, or deconstruct. That’s the journey of motherhood.”

Learn more about the nitty gritty details of motherhood and how to stay strong throughout life’s changes: get Susan Besze Wallace’s The New Mom’s Guide to Life with a Baby for just $9!

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Mother’s Day May Be Over, but a Mom’s Job Is Never Done

Busy MomMother’s Day is over, and you (hopefully) gave your mom a card, maybe took her out to lunch, and in general, showed her a smidge more appreciation than most days. But now it’s done, and you can move on with your life—and if you’re like me, you probably won’t consider giving mom another thoughtful card until her birthday rolls around six months from now.

The thing is, you may take time off from appreciating mom, but she never gets to take time off from being “mom.” And let’s not forget, God commands us to honor our parents—not just one day a year, but throughout our lives (Deuteronomy 5:16).

What’s the value of a mom?

A 2013 study found that a stay-at-home mom was worth about $114,000 a year. The catch? She’s working a 94-hour work week and doesn’t actually make a penny. Here’s how her weekly work numbers breaks down:

  • 14 hours as a cook
  • 14.4 hours as a maid
  • 8 hours as a taxi driver
  • 7.8 hours as a janitor
  • 3.3 hours as a CEO
  • 7.3 hours as a psychologist
  • 8.9 hours as a computer operator
  • 6.2 hours as a laundry operator
  • 10.8 hours as a facilities manager
  • 13.3 hours as a day-care teacher

Amidst all these vocational duties, the one overarching motivation is love. Your mom spent (or spends) at least 100 hours every single week caring for you in a variety of ways, and you think that two-hour brunch and $4 greeting card are adequate for showing your appreciation? (Please commence guilt trip now.)

A mother’s most important role

Although being a mom is an incredibly busy role, it’s not just a chore—it’s a gift from God (Psalm 127:3–5), and God has called mothers to be loving and nurturing (Titus 2:4–5). He’s created them in his image so they can serve as reflections of the strength, goodness, wisdom, and love that God has for us (Genesis 1:27).

It may just seem like she’s doing your laundry like normal, or calling you repeatedly to see how the new job is going, or asking to babysit the grandkids again—and all of these things may seem so predictably “mom.” But don’t forget—these are acts of love. Moms are a physical and emotional presence that give us a glimpse of God’s eternal, other-worldly love for us. I’d say that calls for more than just one day of celebrating.

Want to learn more about a mother’s role and influence? Check out these helpful resources:

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Parenting with Grace: Get 70% Off Elyse Fitzpatrick, Richard Baxter, and More!

Give them Grace

Today’s 10 Days of Parenting bundle is all about guiding your children with grace and equipping them to follow Jesus their entire lives. Learn from Elyse Fitzpatrick, Gloria Furman, J.I. Packer, and others. For the next 24 hours, take 70% off the Parenting with Grace Bundle and get four powerful resources to help you cultivate a Christ-focused home.

Download today’s bundle and get four books for just $14.99!

1. Give Them Grace: Dazzling Your Kids with the Love of Jesus by Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson

According to pastor Tullian Tchividjian, Give Them Grace is “the best parenting book I’ve ever read, because it takes the radical, untamable, outrageous nature of the gospel seriously and applies it to parenting.” In this powerful book, mother-daughter team Elyse Fitzpatrick and Jessica Thompson argue that grace-filled, gospel-driven parenting is far more effective and reflective of God’s love than rule-centered discipline. Learn to connect the cross to your children’s daily lives, and explore topics like our inability to follow the law perfectly, God’s forgiveness and love displayed on the cross, and what true heart obedience looks like.

2. Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home by Gloria Furman

Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom or a working woman splitting time between the office and home, Gloria Furman—writer, pastor’s wife, cross-cultural worker, and mom—encourages you to see the reality of God’s grace in every area of life, especially the areas that can seem unimportant, like cooking dinner, changing diapers, and balancing your budget. Using personal examples and insightful stories, Furman’s rich theological reflections will help you experience the gospel’s extraordinary power transforming ordinary lives.

3. Family Driven Faith: Doing What It Takes to Raise Sons and Daughters Who Walk with God by Voddie Baucham

An estimated 75 to 88 percent of teens walk away from Christianity by the end of their freshman year in college. Family Driven Faith is specifically designed to equip parents with the skills they need to raise their children in a Christ-focused home that empowers them to follow Jesus for life. Voddie Baucham uses personal stories of broken homes to show that God longs to help us raise healthy children, and that his Word offers timeless principles for faithful parenting.

4. The Godly Home by Richard Baxter, J.I. Packer, and Randall Pederson

More than three centuries ago, Puritan church leader Richard Baxter compiled a 1,143-page tome entitled “Christian Directory,” which included a section on family life, and The Godly Home is the only stand-alone version of that section. With a forward by J.I. Packer, this updated version covers topics such as marriage, children, and family worship methodically and comprehensively through both hypothetical and real-life questions. This is the perfect resource for anyone wanting to understand what it truly takes to be a godly family.

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Hurry! This bundle is only available today—get all four books for just $14.99! Take 70% off the Parenting with Grace Bundle now.

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Comfort for Tired Moms: Get 70% off Today’s Parenting Bundle

absorbing_power_graceToday’s guest post is by Kathi Lipp, a full-time speaker, writer, and highly respected expert on parenting and marriage. She’s been featured on Focus on the Family, Parenting Today, Today’s Christian Woman, and more. Get her powerful book, 21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids, today!

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul,

‘therefore I will hope in him.’”

—Lamentations 3:22–24

“If only I were a better mom . . .”

Oh I feel the pain and regret in those words. Such a simple sentence, yet so heavy with hurt.

It’s felt in every public meltdown at Target (what is it about Target that make kids self-destruct?). Every pouting lip, every bad report card, and every disobedient standoff, the thought comes back to us: “If only I were a better mom.”

So much of my parenting I’ve felt was a test. If only I were a better parent, my kids wouldn’t be behaving this way. Or maybe it was God trying to get me to straighten up, toughen up, and be a better parent.

But God didn’t send me these kids to test me. He sent me these kids to bless me (and sometimes blessing me means those kids keep me on my knees . . .).

So today was a bad mom day. My kids didn’t say rise up to bless me, (in fact, the only thing they said to me this morning was, “Mom, I don’t have any clean socks!”), but I will not let one bad mom day define me. Because each day is a new day to get what I need from God. “For His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.”

He never runs out of what I need.

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Get encouragement—even for those “bad mom days”—and discover new ways to lead your children and show your love: get her powerful book, 21 Ways to Connect with Your Kids, today!

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Finding Abundance in the Messiness of Motherhood

Chaotic Joy

Today’s guest post is by Megan Breedlove, a devoted wife, mother of four young children, and blogger at Manna for Moms. Breedlove has master’s degrees in both marriage and family counseling, along with religious education. Her new book, Chaotic Joy: Finding Abundance in the Messiness of Motherhood, offers wisdom and encouragement for moms and describes five ways for them to grow in their faith through motheringpre-order it today!

Before I had children, I was pretty sure I knew how motherhood would go. It would be one long road to endless bliss as my baby and I cuddled and played together. I’d know exactly what to do for her, and as she grew, I’d continue to have all the answers. Not only that, but motherhood would provide all the fulfillment I expected.

It didn’t take long for me to discover that I didn’t, in fact, have all the answers. And it didn’t take me much longer to realize that the experience of being a mom was not one of endless bliss. Yes, I loved my daughter (and, later, my other four children) with all my heart, but there were parts of motherhood that were, well, hard. Discouraging. Frustrating. Boring, even.

I was not alone.  Many moms experience a lack of abundance in their lives and aren’t sure what to do about it. 

We’re confused. We know Jesus promised us abundant life (see John 10:10), but life as a mom doesn’t feel too abundant sometimes. We wonder, “What does abundant life look like for moms?” “How can I have that abundant life in the midst of circumstances that aren’t always pleasant or to my liking?”

The answer is simple. It’s not easy, but it is simple. We must realize that abundant life does not exist in the perfection of our circumstances, but in knowing God himself. Rarely in life will circumstances be perfect. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for that to happen before we can experience abundant life. That’s because knowing God is possible now, in the midst of our mothering.

In fact, God uses motherhood in some special ways to communicate his truth to us and draw us closer to himself. That’s what Chaotic Joy is about: how we can know God better and experience joyful abundance because of our motherhood, not despite it. How motherhood actually gives us more opportunities to know God than we might have experienced otherwise. Our motherhood is not a barrier to our knowing God; in fact, it’s the means through which he has chosen to communicate the abundant life we so greatly desire.

And best of all, it can begin right now. Even if the baby’s crying and there are dishes in the sink.

So why wait? Draw closer to God, and let him wrap his arms around you.  And in his presence, you will experience a greater abundance than you ever dreamed possible.

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Discover how to grow in your faith through the “chaos” and joy of motherhood: pre-order Breedlove’s new book, Chaotic Joy: Finding Abundance in the Messiness of Motherhood, on Vyrso today!

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Parents: New Evidence That Your Faith Influence Matters Most

Parenting Begins at Home Devotional

Today’s guest post is by Rev. Mark Holmen, an international consultant and speaker for the “Faith at Home” movement that equips congregations to make the home the primary place where faith is nurtured. Holmen served as the senior pastor of Ventura Missionary Church until recently when he stepped down to pursue full-time ministry with Faith at Home.

Studies over the past 10 years have revealed that mom and dad, and what they do in the home, is two to three times more influential than any church program when it comes to passing on faith to children.

Unfortunately, studies also reveal that parents are becoming less engaged in faith behaviors at home, like prayer, Bible reading, and faith conversations, abdicating this opportunity and responsibility to church programs. Yet, as good as these programs are, they alone are not enough, as studies show that somewhere between 60%–90% of kids who are active in church programs are walking away from their Christian faith as young adults.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my child to walk away from her faith in Jesus Christ, especially when eternal life is at stake. And if what I do as a parent at home is the most influential thing in leading her to a lasting faith in Christ, then I would like some creative ideas and tools for how to do this, which is what the Faith Begins @ Home series is all about.

In each booklet, you’ll find inspirational stories and practical ideas that I’ve  gained from my experience working with thousands of families. I struggle connecting with authors or speakers who simply point out the problem but don’t provide practical things you can do to address it, so these booklets are filled with practical ideas that you can learn from and apply in your home.

Parents and grandparents: help is on the way!

From the first two booklets, which were written for moms and dads, to the booklets on prayer and devotions, our goal was to inspire, motivate, and equip parents to become the primary faith influencers in their children’s lives through practical activities at home. We also just released two new booklets that continue with this theme and expand on it to reach both parents of teenagers and grandparents: Faith Begins @ Home Family and Faith Begins @ Home Grandparents. I couldn’t be more excited about these new booklets, as they address many of the questions and concerns I’ve heard repeatedly at parenting seminars around the world.

Grandparents want help so that they can remain a spiritual influence in the lives of their adult children and grandchildren, yet they have numerous roadblocks that make this difficult. Faith Begins @ Home Grandparents provides roadblock-busting ideas to help grandparents stay in the game as spiritual influencers. Many parents of teenagers run into unexpected difficulties along the way, and Faith Begins @ Home Family introduces readers to those realities, helping them see how other parents handled these difficulties in a faith-at-home manner that provides practical ideas we can use if and when we face similar situations.

I hope and pray these books will be a blessing to you and your family.

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Get his ebook Church + Home: The Proven Formula for Building Lifelong Faith for just $4.99 through May 31!

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Clean, Untangled Grief

SwingsToday’s guest post is by Jennifer Grant, a columnist and author of four books, including Love You More: The Divine Surprise of Adopting My Daughter and MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a FamilyMOMumental takes readers into the amusing, creative, and taxing process of raising a family—get it for just $2.24.

My son and I sit side by side in the auditorium on “accepted students” day. The stage is empty, save for a podium emblazoned with the university’s seal. Behind it hangs about 40 banners, each lettered with one of the school’s majors: English, chemistry, Chinese, sociology, statistics, and so on. My son stares straight ahead, his eyes wide open, focused.

Triumphant music begins, and current students sprint onto the stage and start tossing T-shirts and stuffed animals at the audience. The university’s president jogs up the steps, stands behind the podium, and congratulates the high-school seniors in attendance for surviving the brutal and selective admissions process. His tone is welcoming, celebratory.

“It’s like you won the Hunger Games,” I whisper. My son laughs.

My mind flashes to another day 12 years before, when I sat beside my son in an elementary-school gym. The principal told us how excited he was to meet the incoming kindergartners and their parents. His tone was welcoming, celebratory. My serious little son stared straight ahead, eyes wide open, focused.

Afterward, the two of us walked out onto the playground and stood at the tetherball pole, chatting and hitting the ball back and forth before walking into town for lunch. He ordered grilled cheese, fries, and lemonade.

I didn’t take pictures of my son at the kindergarten orientation or in the restaurant. A dozen years ago, proud, nervous parents like me weren’t armed with smartphones. But I did take mental pictures that day. I knew it was a momentous one and remember thinking, “So it begins.”

I knew that when we crossed over to the other side of his school years in 12 years’ time, he would go off to college and then depart into adulthood. He’d still be very much himself and would always be my child, but he’d be his own person. Things would shift, and we’d have to recalibrate what it meant to be in relationship with each other.

Sometimes, lately, when my kids are engaged in a backyard soccer game or sitting at the kitchen counter eating breakfast before school or during any of a hundred other everyday moments, I take focused, mental pictures. I want to remember every detail of the four of them together. I know that a chapter is ending. Next year, much of the time, there will only be three of them.

And when I post a picture of my son and his younger siblings these days, I sometimes use the hashtag “#sunrise/sunset.” The lighthearted phrase masks more complicated feelings of loss.

In Fiddler on the Roof, at their daughter Tzeitel’s wedding, Tevya and Golde sing:

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday
When they were small?
Sunrise, sunset
Swiftly flow the days

When children are very young, days can feel anything but “swift” or “flowing.” A mother who spends the day perched on the edge of the bathtub, trying to entreat her toddler to use the toilet or waiting up when a child is home much later than expected, feels quite the opposite. We slowly trudge through many days and nights.

But then, suddenly they’re grown, itching to be independent, almost ready to leave home. These people who used to count on us to tie their shoes and answer all of their questions and cross them over to the other side of the street suddenly face enormous decisions—including where they’ll spend their college years.

After the meeting in the university auditorium, my son and I stop for lunch in the student center. Standing beside me, taller than me now, he orders a grilled cheese sandwich and fries. He fills a glass with lemonade.

I take a deep breath, and I remind myself that this—this growth, this health, this imminent independence—was always the goal and eventuality. And although what I feel is a kind of grief, it’s a clean and untangled one.

Things are as they should be.

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Get more from Grant in her amusing and relatable book, MOMumental: Adventures in the Messy Art of Raising a Family—download it today for just $2.24!

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Finding a Faith Stronger than Your Fear

An Untroubled Heart

Today’s guest post is by Micca Campbell—an author, a national speaker, outreach director for Proverbs 31 Ministries, and ParentLife Magazine’s 2004 Mother of the Year. After a house fire claimed the life of her husband, Campbell found herself alone, a new mother, and a widow at 21. As one who has experienced grief, Campbell tenderly demonstrates—with wisdom and authenticity—how God is enough, even in the darkest of times. In her powerful book, An Untroubled Heart: Finding a Faith That Is Stronger Than All My Fears, Campbell shares remarkable insights to help you lay down your worries and trust in the Lord. Get An Untroubled Heart on Vyrso today.

“Porter has been in an accident,” he said with regret.

Quickly, I packed a diaper bag for our son, dropped him off at a friend’s house, and dad drove me to the hospital.

Earlier that morning, Porter had gone to my brother-in-law’s house to help him waterproof his basement. My brother-in-law had dug a seven-foot ditch around the foundation of the house with a backhoe so that Porter could apply the waterproofing substance to the outside wall. Realizing the substance was highly flammable, Porter felt confident that working outdoors would allow the fumes to escape preventing any danger. Unfortunately, as they worked, the fumes mounted in the ditch. With only five feet left, the outside heating and air-conditioning unit clicked on—igniting the fumes—and the ditch exploded. The blast of fire left Porter and our brother-in-law badly burned over the majority of their bodies.

When my dad and I arrived at the burn center, my mom and sister were already there. The nurse escorted all of us to a small room where the doctor tried to prepare us for what we were about to see. His explanation was quick and to the point. My brother-in-law had been burned over 40 percent of his body, yet they expected full recovery. On the other hand, my husband had been burned over 80 percent of his body both inside and out. They gave him a fifty-fifty chance to survive.

When my sister and I finally got to see them, we could hardly believe our eyes. Their heads were twice the normal size. Their skin was blackened, and Porter’s flesh was falling from his arms. They were unrecognizable.

To prevent blood poisoning, the doctor preformed a procedure called skin grafting. The wait was long. I began to worry if everything was going well or not.

Later, the doctor—still in his surgical clothes—walked slowly into the waiting room with his head hung low and his shoulders slouched. Slowly, he bent down in front of my chair and began confirming my worst fears. “In the middle of surgery, Porter went into cardiac arrest,” he explained as gently as he could. “His burned body was unable to withstand the trauma of surgery and we lost him.”

I could feel my chest tighten. It was hard to breathe, as if the doctor was choking me with his every word. Before he could speak again, I stood up and took off running. I ran until I found myself on the roof of one of the hospital buildings. I suppose I had to get as close to God as possible. Who else could help me now? There, on the roof, I begged God to save my husband.

As the clock ticked down, there was no response. The doctor tested for brain waves and found none. Soon his organs began to shut down too. As I sat beside him, I knew Porter had already left me. I just couldn’t let go of him. I just couldn’t. Then, a strength came over me, enabling me to do what I couldn’t have done alone. I walked into the waiting room and announced to family and friends, “He’s gone.” Sometime after that, the doctor turned off his life-giving machine and Porter passed from this world into Jesus’ arms.

Finding hope for the future

When the funeral was over and the people were gone, I found myself as a new mom of an infant son and a widow at the age of 21. Suddenly, my troubled heart was gripped by fear. I feared both the present and the unknown future of my son and me.

Yet in my darkest moment, God began to teach me his remedy for my deepest fears. As I learned to trust him again, I developed a faith that is stronger than all my fear. Today, I can boldly say, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

Friend, your present-day fears are fueled by your past experiences. Nevertheless, God doesn’t want you to go through the rest of your life justifying your fears. Nor does he want you to live behind some protective wall that shields you from what might happen. God wants to teach you that it’s safe to trust him. Even if you don’t have all the answers, your past will never make sense until you invite God into your present. Only then will you develop an untroubled heart with a faith stronger than all your fear.

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Discover how to overcome your fears and find strength and peace in Christ: get Micca Campbell’s An Untroubled Heart: Finding a Faith That Is Stronger Than All My Fears today.

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Today’s Family-Ministry Mistakes: What We’re Doing Wrong and How to Fix It

Michelle AnthonyToday’s interview is with Dr. Michelle Anthony, vice president of curriculum and family-ministry architect at David C. Cook. She’s authored Spiritual Parenting and Dreaming of More for the Next Generation: Lifetime Faith Ignited by Family Ministry, and has over 25 years of church-ministry and leadership experience in children’s and family ministries. Download her parenting resources today!

1. What are some practical ways parents can help their kids discover and embrace their faith?

One thing I’ve always said is, “You can’t give away something that you don’t already have.” In short, one of the most practical ways parents can pass on faith to their children is to engage in a vibrant, healthy, and growing relationship with Jesus themselves. Too often we get caught up in the “passing on of faith” to our kids without the “daily growing in faith” for ourselves.

Another very practical way to make faith come alive is to call out how God is at work in daily situations. Parents can often communicate that faith is something that happens at weekend services and during meals and bedtime prayers, without even knowing it. Helping our kids understand that God paints a beautiful sunset every night, or that he’s the provider for something the family needed that came to pass, or he’s the giver of grace—these are all good ways to bring God into the common areas of life.

2. What are some of the biggest challenges you see in family ministry today?

Families are broken and hurting. They’re busy and distracted. Most know that God is important, but they don’t know how to “add” God to their daily lives. The problem is that they see God as an “add-on.” Family ministry can help parents see that there’s no division between the sacred and the secular, and that all necessary aspects in life can be “redeemed” for teaching faith and growing spiritually. Learning to seamlessly integrate faith into life is the commission of every family ministry in every church to every parent/family.

3. As the general family structure changes, how do you see family ministry changing in the church?

One of the biggest challenges is that family ministry has become a “program” in the modern church. We set up events and programs for kids and their families and we often “check the box” that we now have a family ministry. However, until the church begins to minister to families, we won’t truly have family ministry. To minister to families means we’re going to need to get dirty in the issues that plague the modern family. We’re going to need to do less and create space to listen more.

Once we listen, we’ll find that the challenges are far beyond our wildest concerns. The brokenness of today’s family—even  the Christian ones—is staggering. The hope is that God’s good news looks “gooder” when things get worse. The grace that the gospel offers families is sufficient, but families are afraid to expose their brokenness. We need to provide safe places for families to share their hurt, pain, and dysfunction, and then create programs that actually meet those needs. Until then, we simply have great family programs, but not necessarily family ministry.

4. How can the church help parents raise their kids?

The church will need to take Ephesians 4 quite literally as we seek to “equip the saints to do the work of the Lord.” The role of the church is not to provide great children’s programs as much as it is to provide great parenting resources that allow parents to grow spiritually, and to know how to create an environment in their home where God is put on display in all circumstances.

Parents need tools and support. As for tools, they need training on issues that are unique to our generation. Tools that their parents did not or could not have passed on to them. We’ll need to reach out to professionals in areas of substance abuse, learning disabilities, and on issues such as autism, eating disorders, and addiction. As for support, parents need to understand how God truly intended for us to parent. It’s not so much teaching our children how to act “Christianly,” but rather how to lean into a relationship with God through his Spirit. The former allows for action without heart, which ultimately leads to kids leaving the church and their faith later in life.

5. According to Scripture, what does the ideal parent look like? How can parents practically achieve this today?

The ideal parent is an oxymoron, isn’t it? Anyone who has been a parent knows that it sheds light on all our insecurities and imperfections. However, it’s in the very moment of inadequacy that God can begin to do what only he can. Only God can do the supernatural work of transformation. So that aside, the ideal parent is one who is leaning into a real-time relationship with God as “first in charge.” A life surrendered to playing out the script from our heavenly Father each day . . . as written.

6. How can parents and churches encourage kids to step out of their comfort zones spiritually, without making kids so uncomfortable that they leave the church?

The interesting thing about the spiritual idea of “out of the comfort zone” is not so much taking kids to places that are uncomfortable for uncomfortable’s sake—its main agenda is to take kids to places where they exhaust their human resources or gifts, so that they learn reliance on God’s Spirit. When we’re self-sufficient, we don’t really understand the power of God. When we strip down these safeguards, we learn what it means to “abide in” and “lean on” God.

7. How has your own family shaped your understanding of family ministry?

Having children literally changed everything for me. First, it changed my view of God. I now understood how he could love me and offer grace in the midst of my imperfections. I understood that he didn’t want me to perform—he wanted a relationship with me. Once I digested that, I began to understand that God was spiritually parenting me. And in the same manner, he wanted me to pass on to my children that which he was giving me. He wanted me to put him on display in my home.

When I “got it right,” I could say, “That’s how Jesus would behave,” and when I got it wrong, I could say, “That didn’t represent Jesus.” The beauty in this is that it took the pressure of perfection away and thus the hypocrisy that comes with it.

To me, family ministry is helping every parent of every child have this “Aha! moment”—when they do, our ministry will become vastly different than it is today.

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Learn more about effective parenting and healthy family ministry: get Dr. Anthony’s Spiritual Parenting and Dreaming of More for the Next Generation: Lifetime Faith Ignited by Family Ministry on Vyrso today!

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