Meet Adam Madden.
Adam is the pastor of Christ Fellowship in Salt Lake City. Adam and his family serve the Lord as North American Mission Board appointed church planters in the Salt Lake City Baptist Association. Adam brought several men from the church in SLC to our fatherhood conference last year. I’ve counted it a blessing from the Lord to get to know this young pastor and his family over the past couple of years.
I asked Adam to write about his personal reformation as a father and pastor… You’ll want to read this and pass it on to others. Thanks Adam, great work on this. I’ll broadcast an audio interview with Adam on BridgeCast, March 10, 2014. Don’t miss it.
SATURATING CHILDREN WITH THE WORLDVIEW OF THE TRIUNE GOD
The personal reformation of a father and pastor…
I grew up on a 2500-acre ranch in the rolling hills of southern Missouri. Much of my childhood was spent riding around in an old, yellow pickup that had a partially rusted out floorboard. I spent countless hours in that vehicle, going from pasture to pasture, feeding and checking cattle.
Guess what I was doing to pass the time in the cab of that Chevy truck? I was memorizing tremendous amounts of information! That’s right, my brain was literally soaking up volumes of material that was being transferred from a medium in that area called KKountry 95 radio. I accomplished the impressive feat of data collection and mental storage through repetitive auditory learning.
So today, like it or not, I am pretty sure that every country song written in the 70s, 80s and 90s is securely tucked away in my memory bank until the consummation of the kingdom of God. I can relate to Barabra Mandrell when she sang, “I was country when country wasn’t cool.” As a side note, I would consider trading my birthright as the firstborn son in my family to be able to get the lyrics from Achy Breaky Heart by Billy Ray Cyrus out of my head. And yes, even as an adult, I still consider reporting my parents to social services for their inhumane treatment of a minor through country music indoctrination.
Anyway, what I experienced in my youth was a subtle but effective form of worldview immersion. When I say worldview, I mean the sum total of our beliefs about the world in which we live, the big picture in each of our minds that direct our daily decisions and actions. The mental framework through which we view, interpret, and understand life. And this worldview saturation is basically accomplished in large degree through consistent repetition of potentially large quantities of convictional beliefs about a wide variety of topics, such as the nature of God and humanity, authority, politics, economics, ethics, philosophy, biology, history, sociology, and so forth. And although it is probably difficult to imagine, country music and a whole host of other mediums, are continually streaming information like this into our melons.
Every person obviously has a functioning worldview of some sort, whether thoughtfully and strategically deduced or not, and therefore pretty much everyone has been repeatedly indoctrinated by multitudes of presuppositions through a wide variety worldview mediums, such as movies, teachers, books, coworkers, friends, blogs, newspapers, music, and so forth.
It may go without saying, but I am going to say it anyway: biblically speaking, there are only two possible worldviews under which people may be instructed and thus ultimately submit their lives to. According to 1 John 4:1-6, there is the worldview of Christ and the worldview of anti-Christ (also see Romans 12:1; Colossians 1:8; Acts 20:28-31; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Corinthians 10:20…). That is all!
As a child, it was primarily my parents who had the greatest influence on the formation of my beliefs and practices. And though unintentional and informal, they trained me extremely well in their understanding of who God is, who I am, and why I exist simply through their repetition of words and actions in ordinary life. My parents didn’t become followers of Christ until I had kids of my own, so as a child I was thoroughly discipled in their anti-Christ perspective.
Today I live in a packed subdivision in southwest Salt Lake County, a far cry from my days in rural Missouri. In my cul-de-sac, most of the neighbors are obviously devote Latter-Day Saints, but there are also two practicing Hindu families, one postmodern, pluralistic-type household, and then my crew of evangelicals. These four very different worldviews are represented within 300 feet of my front door. There are also four very distinct worldviews being spoken and modeled to the children represented in each of these households.
The point I am trying to drive home is that every family, religious or otherwise, is actively involved in imposing a system of beliefs on their household, whether formally or informally. In the words of that famous redneck theologian, singer and song writer, Hank Williams Jr., “It’s a family tradition.”
Every family is saturating their child/children with a worldview of either Christ or anti-Christ. Of course, I realize there are other significant mediums in play when it comes to molding the next generation of young people, everything from academic institutions to billboards to entertainment platforms of every shape and size, but at the end of the day, pretty much all other worldview saturating mediums are at least initiated and/or controlled from the position of parental authority. Therefore parents are usually either the primary hindrance or tool in which young people are saturated with the worldview of the Triune God.
With this stated, I repented and believed the Gospel just before I shipped out to college in my late teens. Two years later, I married my high school sweetheart in addition to getting hired on staff at a church (and yes, at that point in my life, I was way too immature for marriage and not even close to being ready for the office of elder, but that is another story for another time). Four years into marriage, my wife and I had our first child. At this point in my life, I hadn’t received much Christian instruction about anything, but in particular, I had given very little thought toward what God’s Word says about the discipleship of children. It actually wasn’t until my first two children were around the ages of three and four that I began to look seriously at my God-given responsibilities as a parent and particularly as a father.
As I examined texts dealing with the discipleship of children, such as Ephesians 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9, it occurred to me that these commands were very similar to Jesus’ great commission in Matthew 28:19-20 and also the early apostles’ pattern of disciple-making in the book of Acts. Parenting children and general disciple-making both have common elements in reference to content and context. They both involve calling people to repentance and faith in the Gospel and then saturating those individuals with the content of the Word/worldview of the Triune God. All of this content is being shared 24/7 in the context of community with life-on-life examples to witness. I remember one author, commenting on the overlap between Deuteronomy 6 and Matthew 28, stating something like this, “The Word of God was to be the topic of ordinary conversation, by ordinary people, in ordinary homes, in ordinary life from breakfast until bedtime.”
I am sort of a slow thinker, no doubt due to the massive quantities of country music clogging up my mental faculties, but one day all my synapses and neurons (or whatever is in my brain) began to fire and it became crystal clear to me. What better context to make disciples than in a household! What better means to saturate children with a Christ-centered worldview than through parents! Genius! A mom and dad, taking ownership of methodically indoctrinating their children with the worldview of the Triune God, day in and day out, for almost two decades.
As a result of this new-found clarity and conviction, we began to memorize Scripture as a family. This quickly evolved into a new household rhythm of setting aside time to read the Bible, sing songs to God, and pray together several times per week (a year or so later, I found out this is called family worship – unsurprisingly numerous folks had already beat me to this invention many years earlier). Then I began to read guys like puritan preacher Richard Baxter who wrote things like, “You are not likely to see any general reformation till you procure family reformation.”
Baxter and others would go on to speak passionately of the importance of family practices, like fathers catechizing their children. (Note: catechisms are basically theologically-driven questions and answers that are memorized through significant repetition. You can go to www.ChristFellowshipSLC.com and find samples of catechisms if you are unfamiliar with them.) Slowly but surely, as a young husband and father, I began to thoughtfully and consistently saturate my family with the worldview of the Triune God. These types of things began to greatly transform the culture of my household.
After this personal reformation in thinking, it didn’t take me long to figure out that as a pastor I was to call other husbands and fathers to disciple their families as well. Basically, I was to admonish, instruct, and encourage the men I shepherd to immerse their households in the Word of God, both formally (potentially through methods like family worship and catechizing) and informally (being diligent to apply the Word to our thoughts, actions, and events we experience in ordinary life). When parents, and particularly fathers, in a local church begin to take this biblical responsibility seriously, it is a powerful sight to behold!
To this point in my life, God has been very kind to give me five children and almost 15 years of pastoral ministry and church planting experience. More than ever, I realize that the home is a wonderful context to make disciples and also a fantastic training ground for learning what it means to be a disciple-maker. In addition, I have learned that if parents are not thoughtfully making disciples under their own roof, they rarely are making disciples of anyone else. Thankfully the inverse is also true. Parents have the unique opportunity to wake up every morning and, in the Spirit’s authority and power, get right to the business of making disciples of Christ, even before they start making eggs and bacon. Parents have the privilege and duty of filling the minds of the next generation with the person, work, and ways of Jesus! Remember, for God’s glory and our joy, “It’s a family tradition!”