Category Archives: Family matters

Book Review | Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy | Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee

Bibliographical Entry: Pipes, Jerry, and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. USA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention 1999.

Author Information

Dr. Jerry Pipes works with the North American Mission Board as team leader of the Prayer and Spiritual Awakening Team, and is also president of his own company, Jerry Pipes Productions.  Jerry speaks to millions internationally and here at home in assemblies, crusades, and conferences.  More than 18 million copies of his four books and numerous booklets have been produced.  Dr Pipes completed his M.A. at Southwestern Theological Seminary and his D. Min. at Luther Rice Seminary.  Dr. Pipes is married to Debra and they have two children, Paige and Josh.

Victor Lee ministers to single adults at First Baptist Church in Concord, Tennessee.  He has not only been writing professionally for over two decades, but is also a veteran journalist and minister in the areas of discipleship, sports evangelism, singles ministry, family living, and evangelism.  Mr. Lee is a sports evangelism consultant for the North American Mission Board, as well as a journalist for Sports Spectrum magazine.  Mr. Lee and his wife Judy have a daughter and three foster children.

Content Summary

Family to Family is a book about finding God’s intended purpose for the family.  This book helps families decide what decisions should be made in order to fulfill that purpose.  Pipes’ book doesn’t just tell people what they should do in order to be a family who lives under God’s purpose; it goes a step further by telling them how to go about it.  The book is divided into six short chapters spanning about 120 pages, and includes a conclusion and end notes.

In chapter one, Family to Family describes what a healthy family is.  The authors do this by first showing its contrast – an unhealthy family.  This unhealthy family is a family who is running to and fro doing all of the “activities” of life.  Pipes’ objective in chapter one is to help families discover whether or not they are on the “activity-driven merry-go-round”, or if they are doing their very best for God (p. 1).  Pipes describes many American families today as being “Stretched, stressed, and losing touch with one another” (p. 5).  Pipes intends to help families measure themselves against God’s standard and not fall victim to American culture.  Pipes suggests that readers examine their families to determine how much quality time they spend together, to determine their commitment level to each other in the family, and to discover where their purpose is centered – on themselves or on God.  Pipes then gives seven realities of experiencing God to help families know if in fact their lives, both individually and corporately, are centered on God’s purposes.

In Chapter two Pipes discusses the family mission statement.  Pipes’ goal in chapter two is to help families to realize that in order to get where they are going, they have got to know how to get there. “A family mission statement will serve as a centerline and guardrails for your family on the road through life” (p. 25). Pipes spends about 15% of his book dealing with this one subject, indicating that this subject is indeed an important one.  Families need a stated purpose, goal, and mission and a family mission statement helps them to have just that.  Without it the journey on the “road through life” will be much more difficult and much less fulfilling spiritually.  Pipes begins his section on the family mission statement by telling his readers that family missions begin with the mother and father, and that “the heartbeat of family evangelism is with the parents” (p. 26).  The family mission statement describes a lifestyle – one that is centered on God’s purpose and plan.  Pipes then sheds some insight on Jesus’ stated purposes to help the family know what their purposes are as well.  Some of the examples Pipes gives are seeking after the lost, bearing witness to the truth, serving others, pointing others toward Christ, and many others.  Pipes does this in an effort to help families frame their own mission statement.  Pipes not only suggests a mission statement and tells why families should have one, he also takes the time to tell the reader how to develop a family mission statement step by step.

In chapter three, Pipes discusses passing the baton.  Pipes correctly contends that it is the responsibility of the parent and not the church to evangelize to children and disciple them.  He uses Deuteronomy 6:4-7 as evidence for his case. In this chapter Pipes helps the reader understand when a child might be ready to receive Christ as Savior and gives some signs of possible accountability before God for children.  He also helps the reader learn how to present the Gospel message clearly and concisely, and gives five recommended scripture passages that should be included in any Gospel presentation.  He encourages parents to live a life of integrity and trust so that their children will know that their Christianity is real.  Parents have to be open with their children, and must not displace themselves from the things that are in their children’s culture. Additionally, parents must talk to their children about salvation when the time is right.  He concludes this chapter with pointers for mentoring.

In chapter four Pipes seeks to remind the reader that the world is watching when their family leaves the house.  This makes for a great opportunity for a Christian family to live out their faith in full view of their friends, neighbors, and community.  He then shares tips for family evangelism.  Using the Concentric Circles of Concern model developed by Oscar Thompson, Pipes reminds the reader that there are opportunities for evangelism in every circle of a believer’s life.  He then shares specific ideas for how to reach individuals within circles 2-7.

In chapter five Pipes gives ways in which families can be healthy and on mission by drawing others into churches where they can have fellowship with Christians and mature with Christ.  Family ministry should not be independent of the church, nor should church ministry be independent of the family.  Rather, both the church and the family should be centered, together, on Christ.  Pipes then offers suggestions on how Christian families might most effectively build bridges between the community and the church.  In the final chapter, chapter six, Pipes discusses the importance of family evangelism.  For families to be healthy they must be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within them.  The family must be willing and able to share the Gospel and tell someone about Jesus.  At the end of this chapter he shares some evangelism methodologies to help the novice evangelist carry out his or her task.

At the end of each of these chapters, Pipes concludes with a section entitled “Steps to making it yours”.  In this, he gives family readiness questions, family applications, family building activities, supporting Scripture references, as well as additional resources covering material similar to that chapter.

Evaluation

Evangelism isn’t always for Person X (Person X is a complete stranger, as discussed in Oscar Thompson’s Concentric Circles of Concern). Evangelism is a matter for the home, first and foremost. Pipes does a wonderful job bringing this fact to the surface. So many times those who are excited about evangelism feel that they are to go out into the highways and byways and share with the Gospel with lost strangers – and they should. But there’s a need at home too – a need that should come first. Pipes brings a message to the reader – one about the centrality of the home in evangelism. For that, Pipes is to be applauded!

Many books exist on how to evangelize, yet few books teach the evangelist that his or her first mission field is in the home. Family to Family accomplishes this goal by reminding the reader that they are to be on mission by “intestinally carrying His love and His hope to friends, neighbors, community, and acquaintances out of the overflow of an intimate heart” (p. 10).  Families can and must make a difference in the world by reaching out to the lost. Pipes encourages the reader and challenges them at the same time to be obedient in an area that so many Christians aren’t.

Sadly, families live busy, crammed, packed lives. Families have everything from soccer practice to cheerleading practice to football going on. There is less expendable time in the family now than ever before. It’s an epidemic. But Pipes offers a solution. His contrast of the unhealthy family against the healthy family in the beginning of the book was brilliant. His use of the hectic family most undoubtedly served, successfully, to convict many more than just the writer of this paper. Families don’t realize how busy their lives are until it’s too late some times. Family to Family is an alarm – a wakeup call – to the family. It’s a wakeup call to slow down, relax, and ensure that priorities are in line. This book helps its reader take a moment to evaluate his or her heart to see where they are at with the Lord and within their own family. Are we “stretched, stressed, and losing touch with each other” (p. 5), as many unhealthy families are? Or are we healthy, vital families who are on mission, and following the will and Word of the Lord? Family to Family challenges us to ask those very questions!

Pipes nicely quotes statistics that have led to the epidemic of unhealthy families that is seen in America today. According to Pipes families are too busy for each other. Only 34 percent of American families have enough time to sit down and have one meal together. Beyond this, many fathers spend less than 10 minutes each day with their children. Beyond this, another alarming fact is disclosed. Only 12 percent of families have time to pray together (p. 6). Pipes brings some urgent issues to the forefront. These are all issues that are eroding the family, and are deteriorating the Christian fabric of America.  Pipes is correct. The American family is in trouble. Just in the last 50 years American culture has shifted tremendously, and this has had a tremendous negative influence on evangelism, as unhealthy families almost always fail to evangelize. It is right, then, that Pipes then should begin with a discussion on the healthy family before discussing the families’ purposes.

One of the strongest sections in the book is found in chapter 2, where Pipes discusses the family mission statement. Families need a blueprint as their family builds and moves along the journey called life, just as builders need blueprints to build a building. I would venture to say that 99+ percent of families do not have a family mission statement. Again, yet another sign of the erosion of the family structure. Families that genuinely know where they are going in life know how to get there. A family mission statement does just that. It helps build healthy families by centering their purposes on those of Christ. As families begin to center their lives on Christ, amazing things happen. They become purpose driven, they become missional, they become evangelistic, they pray together, they eat together, and on and on and on. It’s amazing how one simple thing such as a family mission statement can change the entire family dynamic. Pipes does an excellent job of conveying this idea to the reader.

The chapters in Family to Family build upon each other quite nicely. Pipes begin by discussing what a healthy family should look like. Then he encourages the healthy family to be missional, with a purpose. From there, Pipes does an excellent job conveying to the reader the need to be evangelistic and ministry driven. Families miss opportunities every day to reach people with the Gospel. Pipes’ objective is to help the family realize that the opportunities they are missing don’t have to be “missed” at all. Rather, families should be on mission all the time, looking for ways to share, to serve, and to exhibit Christ’s love, and exhibiting any opportunity that may come their way to share Christ and His love. But families can’t do it alone. They must rely on prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian families have to be strategic in their mission – they can’t go at it with no strategy. Family to Family gives the family who desires to be missional strategies on which they can build upon.

Pipes’ book is nicely divided into 6 small sections, making it ideal for a quick read by either the novice evangelist or the most seasoned one. The sections at the end of each chapter make this an ideal study for a small family group study or a group Bible study in the church. The “Steps to Making it Yours” section is perfectly laid out and evaluates the reader’s recognition of key principles taught throughout the chapter, and serves to reinforce the scriptures references uses throughout the chapter to support Pipes’ premises.

This is a book every parent or future parent should read. This book gives practical steps to help any family, Christian or non-Christian. It helps people realize how important their families are, and seeks to reinforce the idea of the family structure. If nothing else, the reader should glean from this book the importance of spending quality, not quantity, time with their families, as well as the need to be a family with a purpose. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone!

Liberty University, Evan 565, Family Evangelism, Personal Evangelism, Church Growth, Critical Book Review: Family to Family.

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Book Review | Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples | (The Late) Oscar Thompson

Bibliographical Entry: Thompson Jr., W. Oscar and Claude V. King. Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples. Nashville. Broadman & Holman Publishing, 1999.

Author information

W. Oscar Thompson JR served in pastoral ministry for 20 years before founding the Oscar Thompson Evangelistic Association.   He served as a pastoral consultant for the Cancer Counseling and Research Foundation and as a consultant for the Trinity Valley Hospice Association before cancer claimed his life in 1980.  This book was released posthumously after a revision and update by Claude V. King, who is an evangelism teacher at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and co-author of the top-selling book Experiencing God.

Content Summary

If one were to ask Oscar Thompson what his book is about or what it contains, he would say, “relationships”.  Everything in Thompson’s book, although about evangelism and discipleship, centers on the foundational principle of relationships.  Thompson’s approach toward evangelism is to help the evangelist understand the importance of relationships in every aspect of their life.  It is through relationships that the evangelist can show the love of Christ to their world – their concentric circles of concern.

Thompson begins by declaring that “the most important word in the English language, apart from proper nouns, is relationship”.  Right relationships allow a person to experience the best life has to offer and to experience the very character of God in the Christian life.  Broken or ruptured relationships with people result in broken and ruptured relationships with God.  Thompson correctly contends that ruptured relationships are the cause of most of life’s major problems including broken marriages, broken homes, unsuccessful businesses, divided churches, weak governments, and chaotic nations.  It is imperative that Christians have right relationships with both God and others so that they can experience all that God has to offer and effectively share the love of Christ and the gospel with others in their concentric circles.

Thompson, after discussing the importance of relationships in chapter 1, elaborates further on relationships in chapters 2-4.  In chapter 2 Thompson brilliantly demonstrates how the gospel moves not only through the spoken words of an evangelist, but also through relationships.  Thompson gives several examples of how lifestyle evangelism was successful in the New Testament such as with Andrew and Simon Peter (Thompson, 17), Phillip and Nathaniel (Thompson, 17-18), and Cornelius and his household (Thompson, 19).  “The gospel moves on contiguous lines – on lines of relationship.”   Right relationships open doors and opportunities to share the gospel, and are thus, as seen in chapter 3, a wonderful way in which to share the good news of Christ.

Beginning in chapter 5, Thompson shares the seven stages for making disciples.  Stage one again involves relationships – relationships with God, self, and others.  In order to share the gospel with someone, a person’s life must be right with God and others, as well as themselves.  Thompson urges the evangelist to “Get right with God, self, and others” so that they can be used as a channel to show Christ’s love and to share the Gospel.  When a person has a severed relationship with God, with themselves, or with others in their concentric circles, they “will be limited in their ability to be used by God to make disciples of others”.

Stage two involves surveying one’s relationships.  It is in chapters 10-11 that Thompson introduces us to the “person x” (Thompson, 109).  Thompson invites the evangelist to literally survey and list as many people as possible that the evangelist could share the gospel with.  This includes those who are closest to the evangelist, such as persons in circles 2, 3, and 4, neighbors and acquaintances in circles 4, 5, and 6, and strangers in circle 7.  Thompson reminds the evangelist that they should not forget about those persons in circles 2-6, and skip to person x in circle 7.  Many evangelists will share the gospel with a complete stranger, but will not share with those people they are closest to.  However, Thompson says, “If you are not the channel of God’s love to meet the needs of those in your family, forget about reaching Afghanistan for Christ.  We get concerned about the ends of the earth, yet often we cannot meet the needs of our own families” (Thompson, 98).

Stage 3 involves prayer.  The evangelist is encouraged to work with God through prayer.  Prayer is a powerful spiritual weapon that breaks down strongholds and opens up opportunities to show the love of Christ and share the Good News.  Thompson offers several real life experiences of a sovereign God who answers prayers and engineers circumstances to draw a life to himself.  “When we join God in his work through prayer, the all-present God can touch people anywhere they are and draw them to himself” (Thompson, 120).

Stage 4 involves building bridges.  Thompson encourages Christians to build relationship bridges to create opportunities in which they can be channels of God’s love.  One can build bridges by simply “meeting needs in a person’s life or showing an interest in him or her in such a way that a relationship is established” (Thompson, 135).  Thompson uses 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 where Paul stated he was willing to become all things to all men so that he could reach them.  Building bridges allows the Christian more opportunities to share Christ with others while at the same time allowing them to experience more of the abundant life Jesus came to give.

Stage 5 involves showing God’s love by meeting the needs of people in one’s concentric circles.  Thompson argues that love is not an emotion, nor is it a feeling.  Love is an action by which one meets the needs of another.  Meeting other’s needs allows a person to become a channel for God to share his love with others.

In stage 6, Thompson discusses the importance of making disciples and ways to help them grow.  Introducing people to Christ is only the first step in making disciples.  Christians must share the gospel verbally and not rely on lifestyle evangelism alone.  Evangelists must realize that those around them are lost without Jesus and are headed for “A Christ-less eternity without God in hell” (Thompson, 184). If Christians really care about the lost and value human life, they will share the gospel.  Christians must confront people in order to make disciples.  Christians should be concerned with building disciples and not building “church goers”.  Thompson, in chapter 17, discusses the great commission and its emphasis on the word “disciple”.  When Jesus commanded people to make disciples, he was referring to a person who would have a personal relationship with him, would be totally under his authority, would possess and demonstrate his character, and be prepared to suffer for Christ (Thompson, 191). True salvation is about a personal relationship with Christ whereby someone becomes a disciple and grows in the Lord daily.  Discipleship is not praying a sinner’s prayer with a stranger and leaving them never to return.

In the final stage, stage 7, Christians are reminded that the cycle never really ends.  Christians are to begin again by helping new Christians make more disciples.  “Making disciples does not end with the decision to follow Christ.”  The decision to follow Christ is merely the beginning.  The church should help new Christians grow into fully devoted disciples who will then take part in the church’s commission to make more disciples.  Each time it seems that the cycle ends, the cycle begins again.  Every new Christian should be discipled, and part of their discipleship training should involve making more disciples.

Evaluation

At the core of Thompson’s thesis is the idea that relationships are of the utmost importance in reaching a lost and dying world with the hope of Jesus Christ.  Thompson does an excellent job proving his thesis throughout this book and remaining loyal to the intrinsic idea of relationships in evangelism.  Thompson rightly begins his book with a discussion on the evangelist’s relationship with God.  For if a person is not right with God, how can they encourage anyone else to be right with God?  1 John 1:3 reminds the believer that his fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.  If a person’s vertical relationship with God is broken, that person’s horizontal relationships with others will most likely be ruptured as well thus rendering the person useless and ineffective in the evangelistic task.  The beginning of Thompson’s book was a refreshing call for one to survey his or her relationship with the Lord and with others and immediately repair any damaged relationships in order that the love of Christ may flow through those relationships.

Thompson wasn’t just an author who wrote about evangelism.  He was someone who lived out the evangelistic task each day in his life.  The real life experiences of both he and his colleagues served as a type of “you can do this” pep talk for the potential evangelist.  Thompson was always searching for opportunities to share the gospel, whether it is on the streets, at a family gathering, or on an airplane thousands of feet in the air.

A very strong point in Thompson’s book is the requirement that disciples, not just converts, be produced as a result of the evangelistic task.  So often an individual church or a denomination of churches will carry out an evangelism campaign where x number of new believers are converted and baptized. Sadly, churches are impressed not with the number of disciples that are being made in the church, but rather with the number of professions of faith and baptisms.  It’s no wonder that an alarmingly high number of those converts cannot be found in the church just one year later.  However, if a church were to take Thompson’s advice and be concerned with producing disciples, this would not be the case.  New converts should be taught to observe all of Christ’s commands and should be taught the importance of surrender, obedience, and commitment to Christ.  Discipleship should be the goal of evangelism, not a tally of professions of faith or baptisms.

Thompson gives the reader a glimpse into his personal life, making the book warm and attractive to its readers.  Thompson shares many experiences concerning his relationship with his wife, Carolyn, and his daughter, Damaris. Thompson takes his readers into a seminary class with him, to the streets of Las Vegas, on the airplane with him, and many other places.  He does this undoubtedly to illustrate the success that relationship building has in evangelism and discipleship.  Thompson even takes the readers back to his childhood and gives us a glimpse of his father and the loving relationship which they shared.  With examples such as these, the reader has no means by which to challenge either the success of Thompson’s methodology or his credentials for recommending his methodology.  He offers sound, Biblical advice and guidance as well as practical down-to-earth strategies to reach people in every concentric circle of their life.  This reviewer felt that Thompson was my professor, that he loved me personally, and that he was personally sharing with me ways in which I might reach the lost members of my family.

This reviewer could find very little within the confines of this book that warranted a critique.  After having read “Share Jesus Without Fear” by Bill Faye and “Radically Unchurched” by Alvin Reid, one might have expected to find some specific tools that could be used to lead someone to God, such as step by step evangelism methods.  However, Thompson’s book was more concerned with the overarching idea of relationships and less concerned with specific methodologies for verbalizing the gospel message.  Perhaps Thompson supposed the reader would find more one on one witnessing instructions in other evangelism resources.

Thompson is successful in supporting his thesis that believers should be concerned with building relationships – relationships with God, relationships with themselves, and relationships with others.  Through these relationships, the love of God can flow to others, and God can be glorified.  Every word in Thompson’s book is filled with love and compassion for God, and for those in Thompson’s concentric circles, whether lost or saved.  Concentric Circles of Concern is an excellent tool in the arsenal of evangelism resources for any evangelist.  The love of God and the importance of a strong relationship with him and others permeates through every page of this book.  It is a must have for the library of any Christian serious about evangelism and discipleship.

Liberty University, Evan 550, Critical Book Review, Concentric Circles of Concern: Seven Stages for Making Disciples. Oscar Thompson. Evangelism and Church Planting.