Shortly after Bill Kristol tweeted on Memorial Day weekend that a candidate was ready to step into the ring, I noted that our focus should be on what matters most—faith-focused communities, friendships, relationships, children, marriages, and thriving families. These are the building blocks of culture and the ones we must rebuild if we are to see substantive change in politics.
Not that we should ignore politics. Not at all. But if the family fails, politics won’t matter. Political moves may slow the decay or soften the blow when we fall, but fall we must if the foundation be destroyed.
As Hugh Hewitt put it to me in You Will Be Made to Care, marriage, and with it family, is a load-bearing wall of civilization. When we knock it out—as we have done now—the house may continue to stand for a time, but it eventually must fall. The only question is when and how significant will be the damage.
In You Will Be Made to Care, Erick and I call for a resurgence, not only of engaged citizens, but of community, individual believers, the Church, and family. We add a special section calling fathers to action, as well. Because the cultural challenges we face today will require family-centered, not Washington-centered, solutions.
My own background as a former pastor and educator has focused my attention on family and the Church in particular. Over the years, I’ve counseled thousands of children and parents struggling to walk by faith in the face of cultural pressures to conform.
As I engage parents today, I sense fear and uncertainty in the face of an increasingly hostile culture. Yet I also see determination, a refusal to bow to these false god of secularism and a commitment to never surrender their children and the future to the dark side.
But what are families to do exactly when pummeled by such insanity? When parents are labeled as freaks and bigots for teaching their children basic but counter-cultural truths like men and women are different, God’s not dead, and character matters? How are we to respond as families—quit, coast, or experience a resurgence in the years ahead?
I sure don’t have all the answers, but as I’ve pondered the path forward, I’ve identified 10 characteristics of what we call The Resurgent Family. See if these make sense to you:
- Faithful. The first thing families must be is faith-focused. All families believe something to be true, even if they are not clear on the focus of their faith. But the Resurgent Family actively cultivates its faith—together. It does not let the surrounding culture shape what it believes; rather it stands firm for what it believes to be true and forces cultural currents to bend around it. As Christians, my own family’s faith is focused on Jesus Christ and centered on the Scriptures. Every day we seek to more consistently apply biblical truths to how we live our lives. You don’t have to share my particular religion to recognize the vital importance of faith to the moral health of a family. But you do have to be intentional about cultivating that faith in your family or it will succumb to the secular pressures assailing families today.
- Intentional. Not surprisingly then, the Resurgent Family must be intentional. It cannot afford to drift, because the cultural currents will quickly take it to places we do not want to go. Consequently, the family must be goal-oriented, having a clear understanding of its purpose, values, and long-term destination. Certainly eternity should be first and foremost on the list of priorities, but so should leaving an earthly legacy. Too many Christians in recent decades acted as if this world didn’t matter because Jesus was allegedly due back any minute, in spite of His warning not to occupy ourselves with trying to predict His return. The Resurgent Family intentionally reaches back in history to teach children the wisdom of the ages past even as it prepares them to be people of influence in a society infatuated with what’s next. Among other things, being intentional means parenting on purpose, a phrase my friend Mark Timm coined that captures what we need to do. Drifting only takes us in one direction—downhill.
- Generous. This family that is focused on the future appreciates what it has been given and gives generously because of it. An attitude of gratitude pervades all it does. A thankful spirit saturates all interactions. We must recognize the blessings bestowed upon us and hold them loosely, being quick to share them as needed. When our fingers close around God’s goodness to us, we’ll see his blessing slip from us. Far from being caught up in the materialistic culture around us, a generous family isn’t trying to keep up with the Joneses. Instead the tone is more akin to the early church in Acts which had all things in common and was quick to share voluntarily wherever she saw a need. While not opposed to making money, we recognize the temptation it can bring and set up safeguards to ensure we don’t begin to love it. Children need to see us give until it hurts—and then give some more, knowing God will provide for our needs when we give with a cheerful, trusting heart. Our generosity should not focus on money but also include our time, our possessions, our positions, and intangible resources like grace, truth, and love.
- Full of grace and truth. The Resurgent Family is all about grace. It has been forgiven much and always seeks to forgive others because of the grace it has received. Holding grudges for past wrongs or slights has no place in such a home. That also means that when discussing cultural issues, parents set the tone by not doing so with vitriol, hate, or cynicism. (I fully understand how challenging that can be in this current election cycle.) Grace produces hope. And the Resurgent Family is always hopeful—because of what it believes to be true. Like Christ, we must be full of grace and truth, without contradiction. (John 1:14) Our culture tells us that if we are honest, we are not being gracious. But God says otherwise. In fact, the two find their meaning in His very being. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and God is truth (John 14:6). We must continue to speak the truth in love, not seeking conflict, but not running from it when it comes. Our children must learn to stand courageously for what is true. And they will learn best by observing our own example as happy warriors, grateful recipients of grace who delight in truth.
- Optimistic. Because we’ve received grace and believe that the battle has already been won—good wins, evil loses in the end—we can and should be optimistic about the future. The Resurgent Family recognizes that the future is not determined by what we can see, but by what we cannot see. Although what we see, read, and watch tells us the world has succumbed to a raging wildfire that will burn us straight into hell, we know the grave is still empty. Victory has already been secured. Evil has already been defeated. And we get to be part of carrying out that outcome in time and space. “We are not of those who draw back in fear,” says the writer of Hebrews. We stand with the psalmist and say, We will not fear though all the entire world turn upside down. Because there is a river whose streams make glad the city of God…. (Psalm 46:1-4) We must teach our children that our attitude will determine how good our story will be when it is told in eternity. If you find yourself struggling to maintain an optimistic outlook, remember the words of Zig Ziglar, a family man of great faith: “You are what you are and where you are because of what has gone into your mind.” Maybe you need to change your mental diet if it is making you and your family ill.
- Learning. The Resurgent Family culture is one of growth—always learning, always improving, always growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord” (2 Peter 3:18). It values imagination, creativity, and the God-given strengths of each individual and understands that all truth is God’s truth. We recognize that nothing is neutral. We all comprehend facts within a system of thought, a worldview that shapes our assumptions about the nature of reality. Consequently, we take pains to stretch the minds of our children, encouraging them to read great books and wrestle with timeless ideas in order to understand the latest cultural shifts in historical context. Critical thinking is key as we question everything, even our own reasoning. We are not afraid of our children asking why we believe what we believe. In fact, we delight to answer. Of course, this approach assumes parents have first sought the answers themselves or are willing to search Scripture and trustworthy sources to find the answers. It also presumes parents are taking pains to guard against the indoctrination of their children by secular influences. I have made no secret of my concerns about sending children to government schools. Homeschooling and Christian schooling are looking increasingly better as gender madness descends upon public schools. Never forget that most learning is caught, not taught. And when your children are surrounded throughout most of their day by people who do not share their beliefs, the outcome will usually not be good for their faith.
- Culturally aware. As the cultural wildfire burns, the temptation for The Resurgent Family will be to pull back, to cut itself off from contact with the culture. Yet Christ has called us to “go and make disciples,” not run and hide until I return. Our children must be well-versed, not only in the challenges facing culture in their lifetime, but also in the biblical solutions to those challenges. So we must talk about those issues at an age-appropriate level, not run from them. In our own home, we have candid conversations about the madness surrounding marriage and gender. We don’t want them to hear about it first from a progressive college professor seeking to undermine their beliefs. Instead, we want them prepared to “give an answer” in those settings with humble boldness. Each family must choose according to the dictates of conscience how much to expose children to cultural issues—and then ignore pressures to soften its position. We should invest in resources to help teach our children well. We should invest in positioning them for maximum influence in life. We should model what it means to live in, but not of, a world dominated by secular forces. [I highly recommend Hugh Hewitt’s book In, But Not Of: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World. I partnered with Hugh to create the study guide in the book and offer a free leader’s guide you can use in your family or small group setting for high-school through early career.]
- Influential. The Resurgent Family is all about making a difference in the world, not merely running out the clock. Thus it functions with a leadership bias. As John Maxwell put it, “Leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.” Consequently, our families must be intentional about developing relationships, as leadership rises and falls on relationships. No relationships equals no influence. So we must do the sometimes challenging work of inviting people into our homes, forging connections, networking with like-minded, and not-so-like-minded people, in order to be a blessing to them. As a result, our influence will grow and we will be better positioned to speak into their lives. Because we are influence-oriented, we invest time and resources into positioning our children for maximum impact in the world. We instill character into them and teach them how to turn their dreams into goals and their goals into reality. The Apostle Paul calls us as parents to “bring them up in the training” of the Lord. Especially in these trying times, our kids need the discipline to follow Christ faithfully and to achieve great things for the greater good. But they need us to instill that discipline in them in order to become the leaders God calls them to be.
- Healthy. The Resurgent Family recognizes the importance of being healthy—physically, spiritually, and psychologically—because each member of it is carefully crafted in God’s image and can best fulfill his or her purpose on this earth when fully healthy. We don’t worship at the altar of physical beauty or perfect fitness, but we don’t ignore healthy habits, moderation in appetites, and the benefits of regular exercise and activity. We have no need of federal programs that dictate what food our kids should eat because we already take ownership for their health. We don’t claim our faith as an excuse to live unhealthy lives, blaming God for our extra pounds because we’re so busy helping others we choose to ignore the bodies He has given us to steward. We teach our children the value of holistic living and healthy habits so that they may maximize their influence in the world and lead their families forward with vigor. Perhaps most importantly in our artificially urgent age, we insist on making rest part of our regular cycle of life. We remember a sabbath day each week, we get plenty of rest each night (even if that means we miss some shows or games we won’t remember a week later), and we schedule time off to recharge and “sharpen the saw.” After all, The Lord gives rest to His beloved. It is a gift to us that we ignore at our own peril (Psalm 127:2).
- Connected. More than ever, The Resurgent Family must know that it is not alone. The media and the growing cultural pressures will say the opposite—you are freak and a bigot in need of therapy. But it is a lie from the pit of hell and smells like smoke. We must intentionally surround ourselves with other like-minded believers, families who share our beliefs and who will support one another as we do life together. Our natural tendency is often to draw back when overwhelmed. To pull inside our two-car garages, shut the door, and stay there until we have to go back to work. But the example of the early church—and the Church all throughout history—is to form authentic community with other believers. Our children need to see that we are not alone. They need to know that when the secular college professor tells them their parents are freaks of nature for their faith, that it is the professor who is deluded and isolated. We address this call for community extensively in You Will Be Made to Care (the perfect gift for dads, by the way) as the foundation for the resurgence. But it doesn’t happen by accident. You need to make the first move. At church this Sunday, approach another family you don’t know and start a conversation. Invite other families over to your house—don’t worry about everything being spotless. Sure, clean up a little. Be polite and gracious hosts. But don’t let a passion for cleanliness stop you from exercising true godliness and breaking bread with other believers. After all you’re already family.
I know we’ve only scratched the surface of what The Resurgent Family looks like going forward. But we would love to know what you think. We don’t do comments here at The Resurgent to keep your experience clean and uncluttered. But we would appreciate your feedback on this topic.
We’d love to know if you are interested in hearing more about The Resurgent Family and how we can best serve you and yours in the months ahead.
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