Book Review: “Family to Family” by Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee

Bibliographical Entry

Pipes, Jerry, Victor Lee (1999). Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. USA.

Author Information

Dr. Jerry Pipes, who earned his Doctor of Ministry from Luther Rice Seminary, has over thirty teaching and speaking experience and is one of only few speakers to be recommended by the Billy Graham Training Center. The author of several books, booklets and training processes (over 18 million copies in print), Pipes also served in President H.W. Bush’s War on Drugs in the early 90s.[1]

Victor Lee, a former newspaper reporter, serves as the Minister of Single Adults & Evangelism at First Baptist Concord, Knoxville, TN. He has published countless sports-, evangelism- and ministry-related articles in his 22-year career and also currently serves as a columnist for the Christian magazine Sports Spectrum, among other duties in Christian ministry.[2]

Content Summary

Such a work as Family to Family which suggests itself to focus on family relationships would generally be filled with various forms of psychoanalysis and “how-tos” for correcting the problems the reader has undoubtedly built into his marriage and family. Thankfully, Family to Family skirts those “normal” approaches to family relationships and focuses almost entirely on how simply changing schedules and spending meaningful, spiritually-focused time together will cure more family problems than any amount of deep psychological self-evaluations (Pipes, 11).

Pipes and Lee indirectly admit what everyone already intuitively knows: the basic problem of family difficulties is selfishness in its various forms, on just about everyone’s part. Therefore, they do not spend long in their book diagnosing the problem (a trap into which most family help books fall), but focus almost entirely on curing that problem of selfishness and the various family-based symptoms through which it manifests itself.

Breaking the book down into six effective chapters, Pipes and Less discuss: 1) Healthy Families; 2) Developing a Mission Statement; 3) Passing the Baton; 4) Out of the House, into the World; 5) Out of Your World, into the Church; and 6) Sharing the Message. Also, within each of these chapters, Pipes and Lee offer fitting, dramatic accounts to illustrate their message and ideas.

In the first chapter on healthy families, the authors explain in simple, blunt terms what needs to happen when a family fails to serve God, or when a family fails to live out the godly life throughout the week that on Sundays they purport to live. While offering frightening statistics in the context of time on how families throughout the nation live out their relationships (6), the authors lay out the reality that, while the activities on which individuals spend their time are generally fine, healthy activities, once added up, they equal a great deal of roadblocks that keep the family knowing what each other does without ever really knowing each other (6). Therefore they suggest a family examination (7) and offer plenty of practical ideas to get the family back on track to becoming a spiritually healthy family, one centered on Christ (8).

One of the major steps to reaching this goal of becoming a healthy Christian family is by developing a mission statement, the subject and title of chapter two. Pipes and Lee suggest many methods for creating such a statement, most involving group efforts during family devotions where each member, whether old or young, can actively have a part in developing the statement (32-34). And while keeping the importance of family goals and desires in mind, the authors offer a list of Jesus’ own personal mission statements as guides to how families can write their own in the shadow of Christ’s (27-32).

Chapter three discusses how to reach your own children for Christ (43-49) and how to develop them in the Lord through exemplary lifestyles (50), prayer (55) and family devotions (58). The most poignant thought of the chapter comes in the first paragraph where the authors say, “It is not the church’s sole responsibility—or anyone else’s—to win your children to Christ and mentor them spiritually; it is yours” (43).

The next chapter focuses on how a family can minister together to the people around them. They can do this through open evangelism, ministry evangelism (70) and servant evangelism (72), and the authors offer numerous practical and creative ideas for each.

Chapter five, while brief, offers an enormous amount of useful information for bringing the church and the family together to evangelize neighborhoods, cities and the world for Christ.

The final chapter moves back to the basics of evangelism: knowing how to evangelize (101, 112), understanding the importance of prayer (103) and recognizing the work of the Holy Spirit (106) in evangelism and in the lost person’s life.

Evaluation

In their attempt to reach whole families not only for Christ but also for discipleship and ministry, Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee have developed an amazingly succinct anthology of proper evangelistic methods in their book, Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy.

Going into the book, one without children may expect to find very little that could prove applicable to himself. However,  the lessons taught in this book are not merely for fathers or mothers or children: they are useful, practical ides that can apply to any evangelistic situation, for any person whether single or married, parents or not. An unmarried man ought not skip over the first chapters on reviving the Christian family, grasping only onto the later, more general information. Instead, he should take the substance found in those first important chapters and revive his own Christian life. Whether a man is married or not, or whether a couple have children or not, each can take the core values of this book and drastically improve their own Christian lives. Most importantly, each can take the methods of developing a mission statement personally and develop one of their own. Jesus Christ Himself, an unmarried man without children, remains the example of every believer, and it is His own personal missions statements off which we are to base ours today (27).

Before discussing the importance of understanding individual and family mission statements, we must first take a look at the essential, God-given duty of individuals to reach their own family members for Christ. The book focuses primarily on the duty of parents to reach their children, as mentioned above (43), but these roles can be reversed. If, say, a child accepts Christ through the evangelistic efforts of a close friend, or through the ministry of a neighborhood Vacation Bible School or a local Sunday School, then it becomes the mission of the child to reach her parents for Christ. The same goes from spouse-to-spouse or child-to-child. Family to Family offers exceptional advice for reaching family members, and this advice can translate into many forms of intra-family relationships.

Pipes and Lee bring the short human life into focus by mentioning the only two things in this world that will last forever: people and the Word of God (17). Keeping this in mind will help focus one’s mind on the essentials of life, and will help remind him of how unimportant the peripherals in life (like television, sports and even education) really are. Hopefully, after reading through Family to Family, men and women across the country have begun to dissect how they spend their days, determining what is necessary and what, in the end, will prove to have been a complete waste of time throughout their lives. The authors point out that the person with whom a child spends the most time (i.e. dance instructor, basketball coach, best friend, dad) will be the one who has the most influence on him (11). It begs the question of who, then, is raising our country’s children?

While considering such things as the time one spends on various activities compared to time spent with his kids, it is obvious that bad news will surface. And this bad news will ultimately demand a change in lifestyle, both for the parent and for the child. Thus, Pipes and Lee bluntly encourage the reader that he must be “bold” and obedient in order to make these adjustments (18). They will not come easily, and the initial effects (especially from the child’s perspective) may seem negative and relatively worthless. But the parents cannot give up now. They have made certain adjustments such as cutting back working hours or canceling some after-school membership in order to bring the family closer together and ultimately closer to God. With such a goal in mind, each member of the family can be confident that the Lord will bless their efforts and grow their family into a stronger, closer more godly family together.

One of the major suggested adjustments for a family desiring closeness with each other and with God is setting up regular family devotions. These devotions must remain interactive and enjoyable (61), not simply a time for dad to preach the words of the Word while ignoring the message (58). No, family devotion time must be a time for growth amongst and within each member. The parents ought to keep their eyes open for teachable moments throughout the day and week (59) and should always take care to live out the Word that they teach (52), both in the home and out. The reason this is important for a parent to remember can be seen in how a parents unintentionally teaches and how  a child naturally learns. A child does not learn by just hearing some words and locking them away in his brain, so a parent ought not simply teach by speaking words. No, according to Pipes and Lee, “teaching is not telling and listening is not learning. Modeling is teaching. Observing, then doing, is learning” (50).

Now that we have discussed reaching family members for Christ and a few important lessons on how to disciple them through in-house, daily-living teaching, let us turn to how all of this should lead a family to and prepare them for developing their own family mission statement. Because guaranteeing the choices their kids will make is an impossible goal (14), parents need to set real, attainable family goals, and do so through the power of a family mission statement. As mentioned above, such a mission statement can and should be based on that of Christ Himself (as seen in passages such as Matthew 20:28; Luke 19:10; John17:20-26; 18:37; and many others). While we cannot live the exact same life of Christ which ended in ultimate sacrifice and the attainment of salvation for humanity, we can through our own lives point to the One who did such things—Jesus (28). Family mission statements must included how, when and to whom each member will share the gospel. It will consider family goals, and view them through the lens of the Bible (33), and it will address problems already present (i.e. hurtful words or wasted time) and offer Biblical solutions to which the family can turn when they face these same problems in the future (33).

Each member of the family, no matter how old or young, can have a hand in developing this statement. Each should offer special verses that have special, individually meaning, and these, too, should be incorporated into the statement. It would be a good idea for the whole family to take a week or perhaps two to read through Scripture on their own with the one focus of how these verses could apply to the family ministry. Then, when two weeks are up, the family gathers again to specifically discuss the passages gleaned from the study. This would offer a perfect way to get all members involved and on the same page. Then, the family could make a composite of all these passages and verses (just as Pipes and Lee did with Christ’s Great Commission passages [32]), all focused toward a family mission statement.

Once the members of the family are followers of Christ, growing in Him and following a family mission statement, then actual family ministry can continue to grow outward to neighbors, family, friends and the rest of the world. This can be done through the ministry (70) and Servanthood evangelism (72), as well as through family mission trips (93), direct community work completed with the church (91) and many more ideas mentioned in the book on pages 75-86, like adopting a international student (82) or helping out latchkey kids and their families (80).

God ordained the family as a unit, and He has given responsibility to the parents to train their children in the way of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6). God Himself has shown Himself to be the perfect Father through His Word, which sets on every human father’s shoulders the great responsibility of following God’s perfect example. In Family to Family, Pipes and Lee offer an excellent map for “leaving a lasting legacy,” and it would behoove every believing father and mother and child to take the lessons taught in this book and apply them to their own lives so that they too can find “true significance in the process.”[3]


[1] Retrieved on March 5, 2010 from http://www.jerrypipesproductions.com/jerrybio.html[2] Retrieved on March 5, 2010 from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1317325/family_to_family_families_making_a.html?cat=9 

[3] From the cover of Family to Family

© 2010 E.T.

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