Goal of family ministry not ‘nice families’ but a changed world, Ross says
FRISCO, Texas (SWBTS) – God is more interested in kingdom-minded families committed to His glory than ‘holy huddles’ and ‘nice families’ in the church, Richard Ross, professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, said during his main session message at the D6 Conference in Frisco, Texas, Sept. 27. The two-day family ministry conference, drawn from Deuteronomy 6 (D6), helps churches implement discipleship strategies that encourage primary spiritual formation in the family.
During his session, Ross explained the four concentric circles of the D6 movement—self, spouse, children and family. He encouraged believers to focus from the inside out in order to produce spiritually vibrant families who make a difference in the kingdom of God.
“The D6 movement begins with a believer standing alone in the middle circle,” Ross said. Using the conference theme passage of John 15, Ross called for believers to “abide in Christ” through recognizing His majesty and experiencing an intimate relationship with Him.
“There are millions of believers in the United States that have prayer and Bible study every morning, and they are not abiding in Christ,” Ross said.
“You running around busy for Him is not nearly as important to Him as the relationship.”
Speaking to those in the church who minister to families, Ross said, “Faith-at-home practices led by spiritually lethargic parents lead to spiritually lethargic children.” Thus, reaching parents and challenging them to abide in Christ does more to impact children than ministry to children alone.
Ross described parents whose sole focus is the glory of God, noting, “when those kinds of [parents] do things that are intentional at home and spiritually lead their children, the result of that, most of the time, is spiritually alive children.”
Ross spoke of the essential nature of husbands and wives abiding in Christ together and modeling authentic relationships with Christ before their children. He also challenged parents to focus on the heart of the child over that of the child’s behavior, noting that the 10 Commandments instruct children to “honor their parents”—a heart issue—rather than “obey their parents”—a behavior issue.
“If we get the heart right, the behavior will follow,” Ross said.
Yet, just building good, wholesome families is not the goal.
“Sometimes in the faith at home conversation, it almost sounds like the end game is sweet families that hold together, read the Bible, pray, live righteous lives and don’t get in trouble,” Ross said. “Sometimes the end game seems to be, ‘What if we could get families to love one another, be gentle with each other, easily have conversations about faith—wouldn’t that just be great?’ And it would be … it’s just that that’s not actually the point.
“The reason families need to be transformed is not because they feel good and it helps us all feel comfortable in the church; it’s because the world needs to be changed, and families are an instrument in that direction.”
Ross encouraged families to find where Christ is working in the world and make it a priority to join Him. He envisioned the day when families would expand the kingdom with their vacations and say, “Instead of spending $3,000 to spend five days with Mickey (Mouse), maybe we’re supposed to go to that country and help in that orphanage because we think that’s the kind of place Jesus would go to.”
Ross said kingdom-minded parents shape their family budgets and priorities around what God values, even if that means a simpler lifestyle and potential difficulty. He imagined a family whose 16-year-old daughter says she feels called to serve in a dangerous part of the Middle East over the summer, and the parents say, “If you are sure the King is telling you to go, it is well with my soul.”
Ross noted that the parents might think to themselves, “If she does come back in a box, we will weep louder than anybody’s ever wept before on earth, but we will sit down at peace because it was the mission of this family to invite the King to live through us for His glory, and if He is honoring this family by establishing the church on the blood of a 16-year-old martyr, we have to say, ‘It is well with our souls.’”
“Now friends, that is a long way from a little holy huddle that kind of enjoys having devotionals once a week, but that is what we’re releasing families to become,” Ross concluded.