Book Review: Family to Family

  1. ABSTRACT

In Family to Family, Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee emphasize the importance of family and advocate for an inward-outward approach to evangelism that begins at home and moves out to the world (Acts 1:8). Setting it apart from other broadly categorized family help books, Pipes refrains from asserting some new or profound cure for family woes instead opting to build on old-school methods of spending quality and quantity time as a family.

The modern phenomenon of children growing up in Christian homes only to leave the faith in adulthood, is not without remedy. By developing a family mission statement, families can be anchored in Christ and interdependently attached to a purpose.[1] Without intentionality, family time can easily be wasted or void of any real value. In fleshing out this intentionality, Pipes suggests that parents reach their children for Christ by demonstrating Christ-like lifestyles and spiritual disciplines such as prayer and devotional time. This responsibility is paramount. Pipes frankly states, “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.”[2]

Overall, Pipes and Lee do a remarkable job unfolding how families can be a powerful evangelistic tool. After all, there are only two God-ordained institutions: the family and the church.

Once a family has the spiritual strength and connection that so many are missing, that unit can more effectively go out into the community in evangelism.[3] The family unit working as a motivation and support system. Moreover, the local church serves as a support and extension of the family, and likewise converts are welcomed within the context of a family community. Pipes and Lee do not leave the reader with only a changed philosophical perspective, however. This book is intensely practical, and the authors are sure to give many down-to-earth examples of how to effectively serve as a family, one being the FIRM method of evangelism. This method works within the framework of a family evangelism, moving witnessing conversations from family to interests to religion to the message of the gospel.[4]

  1. CONCRETE RESPONSE

I particularly enjoyed reading chapter 6 of the book, especially when Pipes referenced his FIRM approach for sharing the gospel. A curious sense of déjà vu came over me when reading of the method; it was as if I had heard this all before. Although I do not believe that I have specifically heard this method as advocated by Pipes, I do have specific memories of learning and employing a similar practice in my college years. Lead counselors at summer camps and mentors at school helped us realize that meaningful conversations tend to move to the important topics of life. So often it takes intent to avoid the deep things in conversations, rather than intent to arouse them. Sure, many of our “small-talk” interactions may be characteristically void of deep meaning, but most other interactions are not. I am amazed to find now how easy the transition is to spiritual beliefs if I just allow the process to run. By asking questions about family and interests we learn a great deal about others. It becomes much more comfortable to insert mentions of God, church, spirituality, etc. and to inquire about religious beliefs. Once you are in this realm of conversation, the gospel message is an easier jump if one is willing to take it. When I used a similar method as a counselor at camp, I was able to have several meaningful interactions with campers, often becoming great friends in the span of four-and-a-half days. Likewise, I was usually able to share the gospel within the first two conversations.

  1. REFLECTION

Overall, Pipes and Lee do a remarkable job unfolding how families can be a powerful evangelistic tool. After all, there are only two God-ordained institutions: the family and the church. This fact sheds new light on the significance of the family unit. God is relational, and throughout scripture he draws several comparisons to families. He calls us his children, Jesus his only begotten Son, compares Christ and the church to a husband and wife marriage, etc. God obviously holds the family in high esteem. In embarking on a study of how families can be cared for and leveraged for the gospel, Pipes and Lee have done a great and noble work. I appreciated how they communicated both broadly and specifically throughout the book. The authors were sure to lay the foundation, explaining why families are so important, as well as dive deep into specific ways modern families can improve.

People are looking for some place where they feel like they belong. This unspoken desire for a place of peace, comfort, and belonging is what drives the liberal “acceptance” culture of our day.

The only real critique I can think of after reading this book is that it lacks mention of non-traditional family units, such as families without children, or single parents, or foster families. This omission is not necessarily damaging to the overall message of the book, but its addition could have benefitted the power of the impact. While the general message to non-traditional families would likely not change, I can imagine that there are certain questions members of those families have in which a more specific answer would be helpful.

  1. ACTION

At first, as a single male without children, I suspected this book would have less of an impact on me. But, I soon realized that not to be the case. Pipes and Lee’s observations about families actually have a much more broad ranging appeal than one might think. For one, it is true that every human being is in a search for a “home” or a “family.” I put these words in quotations in order to communicate them in a more idealistic, rather than specific way. People are looking for some place where they feel like they belong. This unspoken desire for a place of peace, comfort, and belonging is what drives the liberal “acceptance” culture of our day. Perhaps they come from broken families or hard childhoods. But most of all, they just are not right with God. A restored relationship with God is that sense of home or family. Godly families and church families are demonstrative of what right relationships look like, and can be a sweet taste of God’s goodness to a world searching for belonging.

Invite the lost to join your family

Along that same line of thinking, I believe it will be transformational to endeavor in evangelism with the notion of family in mind. My childhood youth pastor once remarked on how no matter where you are in the world, when you meet a fellow believer there is this sense of joy and comfort. In your head you subconsciously think, “hey, this is my brother, or this is my sister.” The household of faith is truly special, even a heavenly foretaste in my opinion. Jesus said that the world will know that we are his disciples if we (the church family) have love one for another. In the evangelistic sense, I intend to think now think of the dying world as my estranged family. These are people looking to come home, but in all the wrong places, as once we did! When we see the lonely, the hurting, or anyone at all, we ought to show them God’s familial love through our families—whether that be our nuclear family, our friend family, or our church family.

Develop a mission statement for the future

I also greatly appreciated the authors’ discussion on developing a family mission statement. While I do not currently have a wife and kids, it cannot hurt to be prepared and forward thinking on how I would like my family to one day be, and being specific about it. I once heard pastor and evangelist Cary Schmidt preach a message about how our actions and intentions now dictate our future. He said if you were to ask a group of teenagers what they wanted in ten years, most all would say the same thing: a wife/husband, children, a good job. Then he asked, if everyone wants that same thing why do so few experience it? The answer is because we don’t get to live however we want and then flip a switch and have the future we desire. He suggested, “sow honesty, get trust; sow purity, get intimacy” and so on. By developing my family mission statement now I can prepare to properly lead my future family.

Learn from families in my church

Lastly, I plan to pay closer attention to families in my church and learn from them. There are so many godly examples of good marriages, great parents, etc. in my community and I ought to embrace them as role models. Specifically, my shepherding small group is made up of mostly young married couples with children. At first, I was somewhat disappointed with that outcome to be completely transparent. I figured I’d much rather have young people like me make up the group, but in the end that would only grow me in the present. There is so much to learn from Christians of varying age groups. I hope to never neglect the wisdom of people older than me—it is one of the bedrocks of human society.

In addition, Pipes and Lee suggest several evangelistic methods that can be employed by anyone, not only those as part of a family. I am excited to take their advice and test their approach.


[1] Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee, Family to family: families making a difference, (Alpharetta, GA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999), 27-34

[2] Pipes, 43

[3] Ibid., 70-72

[4] Ibid., 114-115

Phil Shiver

A seminary student living in Greenville, SC.

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