As I go through each year, I try to read in a variety of fields (theology, leadership, church, preaching, history, philosophy, apologetics, biography, family, fiction). Books are an important way for me to continue learning and growing as a follower of Christ. Recently, I finished an excellent book on parenting boys: Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys, by Stephen James and David Thomas. If you are a parent of boys, I would heartily recommend this book.

It is insightful, humorous, and helpful. At times, I found myself laughing at the hysterical accounts of the wild things boys do (things flushed down the toilet, adventurous activities, becoming superheroes). You’ll have to get the book to enjoy the benefit of those accounts. James and Thomas’ humor and candor provided a healthy framework for truly beneficial insights.

Following are a few parenting principles I gleaned from the reading. While they are centered on my own responsibility being a father to two sons, there is certainly overlap for parenting in general.

What your children see, they will do. Any parent knows that self-control is a difficult virtue in raising children. Sometimes our voice volume goes too high. Sometimes we are quick tempered. Sometimes we veg out of engaging with our family by being addicted to our screens. There’s a funny insurance commercial out now about how young adults are turning into their parents. That is a reality long before adulthood. My boys raise their voice and escalate arguments because that’s what they see/hear me do. Moms and dads, what you model is what they will become.

What you see in your children, what you speak to your children, and what you draw out of your children, they will become. This principle flows out of a section where the authors argue that parents (dads in particular) should see their sons, name their sons, and draw their sons out. Parents, you have enormous power in the lives of your children. How your children see themselves is a direct result of how you see them, what you say about them (naming them), and what you draw out of them. Does your vision for your children reflect unfulfilled dreams in your own life (athletics and success) or unattainable expectations of perfection for your children? If so, then you need to evaluate your words and how attentive you are to who your children should be. Recently, one of my children confessed that he felt the need to be perfect and felt guilty when he wasn’t. Where do you think he got that idea from? Yes, he got his internal need to be perfect from me. And that is not a healthy burden to carry. It is our job as parents to speak truth, encouragement, gospel, and purpose into the lives of our children.

What you value for your children will shape them. If you value grades, then your children will judge their competency by grades. If you value athletics, dance, friends, health, character, relationship with God, those values will shape who they become. Notice I didn’t say they will become your values. Sometimes parents value the wrong things and our children react against our values (shaping a contrarian value system in their own lives). Other times we say we value one thing, but model something different and our children react against our hypocrisy. I’m not saying we need to be perfect as parents, but we do need to be aware of the tension between what we say and what we show. Here are a couple of quotes that reflect this principle:

As parents, we must decide which is more important, material success or character. Too often, parents, educators, and coaches focus on behavior modification with boys and not enough on character development.

James and Thomas, Wild Things, 175.

I make Sam go [to church] because the youth group leaders know things that I don’t. They know what teenagers are looking for, and need–they need adults who have stayed alive and vital, adults they wouldn’t mind growing up to be. And they need total acceptance of who they are, from adults they trust, and to be welcomed in whatever condition life has left them–needy, walled off. They want guides, adults who know how to act like adults but with a kid’s heart. They want people who will sit with them and talk about the big questions, even if they don’t have the answers; adults who won’t correct their feelings or pretend not to be afraid. They are looking for adventure, experience, pilgrimages, and thrills. and then they want a home they can return to, where things are stable and welcoming.

Anne Lamont, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, quoted by James and Thomas, Wild Things, 80-1.

Parents, the value systems you instill (or not) in your children (faith, character, church) will affect them the rest of their lives. If you want your children to follow Christ as young adults and parents in the future, then it is your job to instill those values by model and voice now while they are in your home.

What love and preparation you provide will dramatically influence the emotional and spiritual health of your children. Children are sinners just like everyone else. They’re going to do foolish and sinful things. They do need our correction, discipline, and instruction, but they also need our unconditional love, guidance, and blessing. Following are several more quotes that undergird this principle.

About our boys as teenagers: “You will need to pray often–for wisdom, mercy, and forgiveness–because you will likely say and do a lot of things you will later regret. You’ll also want to pray for your boy’s safety, because he will likely do a lot of things that he will later regret.”

James and Thomas, Wild Things, 68.

Moms, this one’s for you: “A powerful paradox of motherhood is that if you do your job well, your son will leave you completely.”

James and Thomas, Wild Things, 236.

Dads, this one’s for you: “A boy needs a dad who is looking ahead of him, mindful of his tomorrows.”

James and Thomas, Wild Things, 260.

Parents, it’s our job not just to get through today’s trials and difficulties. It’s our job to be mindful of the future of our children. We are to look out for their tomorrows and prepare them to be adults in a difficult world.

This book has been one of the most meaningful and impactful that I’ve read this year. It is worth your time and investment in reading. If you do have sons, the chapter entitled, “Rituals, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage,” is worth the price of the whole book. Parents, if you have boys, they will become men when you tell them they are men. Creating an individualized rite of passage into manhood is an important part of your role as a parent.

  • Dads, this one is on you. You are the primary voice and example for developing your boys into men. Buy this book. Read about rites of passage and develop one for your son(s).
  • Single moms, don’t lose heart. Pray that God would provide men in your community and church to invest in your boys to model manhood for them.
  • Moms, love your boys. They need your encouragement and inspiration more than you will ever know. I would not be the man I am today without the voice of encouragement and guidance from my mother who is now with Jesus.
  • Church, pray for our families. Our church will only be as strong and healthy as our families.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

This is my fourth post on biblical polity contending for a plurality of elders. I’ve already addressed the arguments from the Bible, health, and responsibility for our church having a plurality of elders. I believe the need for pastoral accountability is a significant reason for embracing a plurality of elders at Wilkesboro Baptist Church. In some ways, this is both the hardest and easiest post to write.

I’ve written previously on accountability being too often missed in the lives of Christians and leaders. In truth, God demands holiness and righteousness from each follower of Jesus. Our sanctification through Jesus and his gospel and our participation in obedience is God’s will for our lives (see 1 Thessalonians 4:3). Part of God’s plan for sanctification in the life of the believer is the community of faith.

We need each other to encourage, inspire, comfort, and call out. We need each other for accountability. I have a great pastor friend of many years. We talk regularly, pray for one another, ask each other hard questions, and confess failings to one another. I’m deeply grateful for him. But he and I have recognized the need for accountability within our own community.

In our current church structure, regular accountability within our structure is a challenge. I had a conversation with a deacon at our church more than five years ago on this very topic. We were working through our staff evaluation process because he was serving as the personnel chairman. As we talked, I acknowledged this question, “Who holds me accountable?” As the supervisor of the staff, I hold the staff accountable. Positionally, it is not viable for my church staff to hold me accountable. Structurally, it is not viable for the deacons to hold me accountable. Truly, it is the congregation’s job to hold the pastor accountable. But accountability to the congregation is final and not personal or pastoral in nature. It would not be beneficial to confess my struggles regularly to the congregation nor expect the congregation I’m supposed to lead to hold me accountable in my job duties or my spiritual walk. In truth, I would expect the congregation at Wilkesboro Baptist to fire me if I failed to preach the Word or failed morally or ethically. The aim of regular accountability for spiritual health and pastoral leadership is to protect our pastors from those kinds of failures.

It is true that we have discipleship groups that provide functional and real accountability for church members. This is part of our mission. I will address the mission argument for a plurality of elders next week. And I lead a discipleship group that does offer some accountability. But the guys that I lead don’t regularly bear the weight of pastoring the church. There are some struggles I have and some stories I live that I cannot share with them.

A plurality of elders functioning biblically would become a mutual group of elders accountable to one another for our spiritual health.

In the model I am proposing for our church, the elders would function as the accountability structure for myself and the other elders. Here’s what that could look like:

  • We would know one another. Elders would meet together formally for prayer and to discuss spiritual and leadership issues. Informal meetings could consist of developing individual accountability partners from within the elder team.
  • We would care for one another. Elders would be responsible for each other’s spiritual health. We would expect to hear how our private devotions are going, about our times of prayer, our spiritual disciplines, our day of rest, our healthy boundaries, and our families.
  • We would question one another. Elders could ask any question at any time of any elder. The beauty of a plurality of elders is the mutual care and accountability shared. Look at any of the major failings of spiritual leaders over the last few years or decades. Most of these leaders were isolated. They did not have people who knew them (their struggles and souls) or who were aware of their temptations and their burdens. Isolation whether out of fear or out of being on a pedestal is unhealthy and unscriptural.
  • We would challenge one another. Elders should not be yes men. They should be prayerful, thoughtful men. An elder team should not set out to be contrarian, but it should set out to be thoughtful and honest. Real accountability cannot occur if there is an unwillingness to speak candidly.
  • We would pray for one another. Elders should care about the health of the church so much that they pray for each other. A church’s health is not singularly tied to its leaders. Thank heavens that the church is ruled by King Jesus, and many churches have overcome significant leadership failures (morally, ethically, or with regard to wisdom). But when a church’s leaders fail in one or other of these areas, the church body is most affected. So we would pray for one another to experience protection from the enemy and direction from the Holy Spirit.
  • We would bear one another’s burdens. Elders who share the responsibility of leadership, ministry, and soul care, will spread out the burden of ministry. This will provide better care for our congregation, but will also provide a true sense of care for one another. An elder team will give each of our elders (pastors) an opportunity to be shepherded as well.

There is a scriptural basis for this type of accountability. Paul tells Timothy in one of my favorite verses in all the Bible:

Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

1 Timothy 4:16

Pastors and elders need to be attentive to what they believe and how the behave. Pastors and elders need to be attentive to their disciplines and to their doctrines. While I do my best to remember this verse, a team of elders holding each another mutually accountable is the most biblical model for being attentive one’s words and walk.

There is an experiential basis for this type of accountability. I wrote in the first post on this topic:

Too many churches crumble because of internal wars of preference and power. Too many churches falter because of an unwillingness to hold onto theological fidelity. Too many churches are crushed because of leadership failure rooted in pride, a desire for power, or immorality.

Biblical Polity, pt. 1

I could relate story after story of church difficulty. Some are caused by the power struggles and lack of spiritual maturity in the church. But many are caused by the lack of holiness in the life of the pastor.

  • There are the stories of pastors who have committed adultery, fraud, or abuse.
  • There are the pastors who have too much authority and give themselves a pay raise.
  • There are the pastors who are unwilling to address difficult issues in the church leaving the church in a mess for the next pastor.
  • There are the workaholic pastors who are married to the church leaving their congregation with a poor model to follow as husbands and fathers.
  • There are the pastors who are hiding closeted sins that eventually burst into familial chaos and church hurt.
  • There are the pastors whose stress and anger damage family and church.
  • There are the megachurch pastors whose stories of failure are known by many.
  • There are the smaller church pastors whose stories are only known locally.

In any of these cases, if elder accountability could have prevented the spiritual and church damage done, the cost of accountability would have been worth it.

It is my prayer and desire that a healthy and biblical model of church leadership will aid Wilkesboro Baptist Church in creating a structure of accountability for pastors and elders. For the health of the church and my own soul, this is the structure that I’m leading us to embrace.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash