~By Nate Wilson
A few years ago, my wife and I dusted off my childhood set of Little House on the Prairie books and enjoyed remembering about the days when a pioneer could go out in the wilderness, build himself a house, and carve out a living without ever having to deal with traffic jams, inflation, TV, orthodontist appointments, or next-door neighbors. I think many of us would love to walk in "Pa's" shoes. We dream of living happily in the country, where mother can stay home, where we can grow our own food and home school our own kids. There are a growing number of us in the "home movement" who say, "That would be the life!" But something profoundly disturbs me about the whole thing. The danger is great for Christians to confuse the end with the means and subtly deny their faith. You are familiar with the concept of means and ends. The end is a goal that you want to reach. The means are the methods you use to achieve that goal. Some people follow the way of Macheavelli and say that "the end justifies the means." If that's true, we might rob a bank in order to give a donation to our favorite charity. But that's not the danger I see in the home movement. The danger I see is much more subtle. It is the tendency to forget what the End is and start thinking that the means ARE the ends.
What do you want to have accomplished by the time you die? What do you want written on your tombstone? Is it enough to say, "He owned the most beautiful homestead in Colorado." How about, "She never bought produce at a grocery store, because she grew it all herself!" Or, "They homeschooled seven children." Is that all you want on your tombstone? Let me suggest that these are not healthy ends, but merely means to a much greater end! So what should be a Christian's end in life? We should fulfill the two great commandments that Jesus outlined in Matthew 22:36-40: "Love the Lord thy God with all..." and "Love thy neighbor..." One man of God put the two commandments together for a concise life purpose statement: "To Know Him and to Make Him Known." King David put it in his poetic Hebrew way, "God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and cause his face to shine upon us; Selah. That thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations..." (Psalm 67:1-2). So the dual purpose of the Christian Home should be first to grow in intimacy with God, then secondly to be a witness to the world. Now THAT's worth a lifetime of investment! This same dual purpose is found way back in Genesis when God makes His famous covenant with Abraham and repeated it to Isaac and Jacob. "I will bless thee and...in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." (Gen. 12:3; 18:8; 22:16-18; 26:4; 28:14) Bible teacher Bob Sjogren talks about the two halves of this covenant as the top line (Our relationship with God and His blessing) and the bottom line (Our part in making God known to the whole world). These are the two purposes that God set out for Abraham, which were passed down through the generations and must be embraced by any Christian as a spiritual son of Abraham. But Christians in the United States focus a lot on the top line, so let's focus on the bottom line for a little bit..
Jesus fulfilled the second half of the purpose of the Christian life by making God known to the world. John the Revelator tells us that the saints in heaven praised Jesus "for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation" (Rev. 5:9). Jesus saved people from every ethnic group in the world! God also gave a tremendous bottom-line purpose for the apostle Paul's life: "he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Paul elaborates later, "I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named..." (Romans 15: 20-21). In contrast to these patriarchs, the characters in Little House on the Prairie did nothing to share their faith. They were more concerned with their own survival than with God's kingdom and the world around them. In the same way, we can also make the home movement ideals of personal peace and autonomy an END IN THEMSELVES. My concern is that many of us in the home movement will lose sight of the bottom line of preaching the Gospel where Christ is not known.Things like freshly-ground whole wheat and family worship are not ends, but a means to the end of knowing God and making Him known. TO WHOM, then should we make God known, and how can we use the home movement ideals as a MEANS to that end?
We all know the great commandment "Love your neighbor". Who, then is our neighbor? Jesus answered that very question by telling the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The "neighbor," in that story was a man of a different ethnicity living in a nearby country. Jesus was defining the word "neighbor" in a much wider sense than the family next-door! Now before you breathe a sigh of relief that you don't have to love the crotchety guy next door, hold your breath and look at Acts 1:8. Here Jesus gives His followers a Great Commission similar to the one He gave Abraham, "...ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Jesus was teaching the principle that His followers should show His love to everyone, from our next-door neighbor, to the people of other ethnicities nearby, to the utterly unknown people on the other side of the world. "Mister Wilson," you say, "that is too much for me. Can I just leave off the last category--the 'uttermost' one?" I think you know the answer. Isaiah prophesied, "It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob...I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayset be my salvation unto the end of the earth." (Isa. 49:6) When God gives us a purpose in life, it's a big one! Practically it's true, we can't actively show God's love to each of the 6 billion souls on earth, but if we operate with anything less than this big picture, we are bound to disobey our Lord. Let us hold fast to this unbounded love as God leads us to focus on particular people in His big world. Let us also teach our children to show God's love to all our neighbors, both near and far away.
We don't start with the "uttermost parts of the earth;" we must start with our own family. We must be faithful to disciple our children "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever" Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:18). From a solid family foundation, we can grow into the opportunities that God may give us in our city ("Jerusalem"), state ("Judea"), different people nearby ("Samaria"), and the "uttermost parts" of the earth.
Home-schooling is such a tremendous way to carefully teach and equip our children to be pillars in God's kingdom. Along with "reading, writing, and arithmetic:"
One way to keep the "big picture" before the eyes of your children in home-school is to plan a field trip once or twice a month to visit a neighbor, an urban ministry, someone sick, someone in prison, a widow, and an immigrant community. Visiting foreign countries to round out the "big picture" will take more effort, but you can study information on foreign cultures, pray for and correspond with missionaries, and plan at least once in your life to take a short mission trip overseas.
As I've searched for a way to take my family on a visit to a foreign country, I've been disappointed with how few mission agencies are truly family-friendly and with how few family-friendly expeditions are oriented toward the unreached. I am interested in developing a family-friendly short-term mission trip and would be glad to talk to you if you are also interested in this.
More and more Christian literature is being published nowadays about different ethnic groups around the world and their spiritual needs; check with agencies such as Caleb Project, Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse, and the Joshua Project. There are also a growing number of Christian home-school curriculums with a world focus, such as Families for Missions, Sonlight Curriculum, Through The Bible Publishers, and Voice of the Martyr's LINK. See addresses listed at the end of this paper to help you find resources!
What a blessing to those of us who have not abandoned the blessing/mandate God gave Adam to "be fruitful and multiply"! God gives us precious children to be raised as citizens of the kingdom of Lord Jesus. Most of us will not become missionaries ourselves, but could we seek for the Lord to call one or two of our children to a place where the Gospel is not known, preparing our children for the demands of such a call?
Give of thy sons to bear the message
Give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;
Pour out your souls for them in prayer victorious
And haste the coming of the glorious Day.
--Mary Thomson 1834-1923
An advantage to large families is that children can gain valuable interpersonal skills. Ministry is usually carried out in teams, and missionaries often have to share homes with other people. Life with lots of brothers and sisters can teach crucial ministry skills such as being considerate of others and being able to work in teams.
Many of us chose to have our children at home because of the increased safety and comfort and decreased cost. In addition to saving money that we can re-allocate in God's kingdom, it can provide a valuable resource in two-thirds world missions work. I know several missionaries personally who have struggled with the question of whether to fly home to a hospital or have a home birth like everybody else in the village does. Perhaps if your children have already dealt with this issue, it won't be a problem for them! Midwives are also greatly needed on many mission fields.
Taking care of yourself can save tremendous amounts of money over regular visits to doctors who charge $100 an hour! By doing things more economically, we can have more money to invest in supporting missionaries. Additionally, the knowledge of how to deal with illness and medical emergencies is crucial to anyone in a rural location. Half the world's population is rural and may be without access to professional doctor care. Medical knowledge is a good thing to have under your belt, wherever in the world you are! This goes for almost all the items on this list; home birth, cooking from scratch, home schooling, etc. can lead you to a lifestyle that is much better suited to adapt to other countries should God call you or your children to be a missionary.
We need to do what we can to maintain a healthy body that our Lord can use to the fullest capacity. Eating healthy, home-made food is one way to do that. Preparing your own food from scratch can be yet another small way God can prepare you and/or your children to live in other cultures where "plastic food" is not available or where food preparation is more important.
There are two things on earth in which I want to invest because they will last forever: the Word of God and the souls of men. Can living outside the city enhance my investment in these two things? Yes! I find the beauty of the country to be very invigorating to my personal worship of Christ, and I have found that it can be a refreshing context for ministry to others. City folk love to come out to the country--it's like a vacation for them. Get them out to the country and minister to them in your own home! As much as we may enjoy the rural life, we must never let it be an excuse to live a reclusive life. Out of obedience to the commandment to "love thy neighbor" we must discipline ourselves to take an active interest in the souls of other men. My life is not my own; I belong to Jesus, and my life purpose is not to make myself happy, but to make Him happy by growing in intimacy with Him and showing His love to my "neighbors." For some people (I've struggled with this myself!) this will call for the personal sacrifice of our love for the Country in order to work in the City, when God calls us to work there.
Although it seems to be a norm in the U.S. to have big congregations with buildings, full-time pastors, and lots of fun programs, this is more the exception than the rule world-wide. Before they are sent out, missionaries need to understand the dynamics of small, family-oriented, laity-led churches, as can be experienced in some home churches. This model is much closer to the circumstances that they will face overseas. Also, the finances freed up by not making payments or repairs on a church buildings and other such things can be invested more directly in the Word of God and the souls of men. [Please note, I am not talking about so-called "house churches" consisting of one family that is unwilling to associate with other local Christians. A Biblical church shows unity with other believers in Jesus and is governed by a plurality of elders.]
Mothers and Fathers working in the home can take advantage of the natural opportunities this affords to invest more in the training of your children, an investment of eternal significance. A challenge of working at home will always be to discipline yourself to accomplish high-quality work without neglecting the nurture of your family or the fulfillment of loving your "neighbor." Learning this kind of self-management can be very important for anyone pursuing missionary work or motherhood where there is typically not a close supervisory structure. If you can train your children with this discipline, they will be a step ahead.
Let us not pursue the movement's ideals for selfish reasons, but instead let us develop our home lives in order to fulfill God's purpose of loving Him and showing His love to our "neighbors" around the world. Let us build homes that will count for eternity! Applying this principle in our own lives may require a shift in thinking from being consumed with accomplishing the next home ideal (building that house in the country, starting home-schooling, getting the grain mill, etc.) to being consumed with seeking how God would use us to impact the world of people He has made. It's a change in perspective from home movement ideals being an END to be achieved, to using our home resources as a MEANS to build God's kingdom. This difference in perspective which affects WHY we live our lives can make all the difference in the world! May God give us grace to apply this principle fully in our lives.
Please be aware that this article was written in the 1990's. An update was attempted in 2016, but some of the information that follows may be obsolete.
Parents, Get a copy of the book Unveiled At Last, by Bob Sjogren (YWAM Pub.). It will change your life!
· Joshua Project Website: www.joshuaproject.net
· Global Prayer Digest, 1605 Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104 Website: www.globalprayerdigest.org
· Foreign Mission Board of the S. Baptist Convention, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230 804-353-0151
· Within Our Reach, The C&MA, POB 35000, Colorado Springs, CO 80935-3500
· Also get a copy of the Book Operation World or Window on the World from a Christian bookstore!
· Many Christian schools and homeschool curricula nowadays have good material on world history, world geography, and missions.
· Voice of the Martyrs, P.O. Box 443, Bartlesville, OK 74005 Website: www.persecution.com
· Wyclife Bible Translators: https://www.wycliffe.org/resources/kids/
· Perspectives on the World Christian Movement [www.perspectives.org] (College)
· Family Mission Vision Enterprises, P.O. Box 7198, Bend, OR 97708-7198 Phone/Fax: 1-800-201-1668 Website: www.harvestministry.org
· Also check your favorite bookseller to get missionary biographies!
· Writing a missionary that you know and asking if your family can come visit.
· Forming a Family Prayer Journey to an unreached people group.
· Accelerating International Mission Strategies, P.O. Box 64534, Virginia Beach, VA 23464 [www.aims.org] Phone: 804-579-5850
· Youth With A Mission - Strategic Frontiers, 5250 Star Ranch Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80906 Phone: 719) 527-9594
· 10/40 Window For Kids, Prayerwalking For Kids-From Joey and Fawn Parish, 540 W. Highland Dr., Camarillo, CA 93010.
· Kids Around the World series (includes, Turks, Riffi Berbers, Kazakhs, Uzbeks, and more) http://cmmpress.org/family-mobilization.html
· also check www.worldchristian.com
NO GREATER JOY, published by the Church at Cane Creek. Delightful blend of child training articles and information on missions in SE Asia with a heavy dose of independent fundamental baptist theology. 1000 Pearl Road, Pleasantville, TN 37147. http://nogreaterjoy.org/