Month: June 2017

The Forgotten Value of Time with our Children

Recently, I took my 10-year-old daughter to a baseball game. It was just the two of us. Our other three children were home with my wife. For nearly four hours, we spent time together in the car and at the stadium. My phone mostly stayed in my pocket (except for taking and posting a few photos), and we talked.

Over the course of the game, we talked about the rules of baseball; I showed her how to tell if the umpire was calling a ball or strike; we even met the people sitting next to us and talked about their experiences watching baseball. My daughter got randomly selected to receive a game-used baseball during the game because she was wearing her Texas Rangers shirt and hat. Clearly, it was a wonderful evening at the ballpark.

The value of that time at the game was priceless. Had it not been for a letter that my 12-year-old daughter penned to my own mother, this opportunity would likely never have manifested itself. Back in November, as the kids were making out their own Christmas wish lists, my oldest daughter put a letter in the mail asking my parents to buy me season tickets to the Texas Rangers for Christmas.

In our fast-paced world, we lose sight of the fact that we need to slow down to teach our children. We need to put our cellphones away (in this, I am, as Paul says, “the chief” of sinners), turn off the television, and invest time in our children’s lives. One of these days, they will no longer be in our homes and that valuable time will be gone. Let us not waste it.

Her motives were pure. She knew how much I loved watching the Rangers play baseball on television. We went to a few games last season and loved every minute. The final reason that tugged at our heartstrings was when she said that she missed being able to go with me to a game—just the two of us—and spend time together. Although my wife and I intercepted the letter before it ever made it to my parents’ house, the letter still had an impact. This year, I started the summer-long goal of taking each of my four children to at least one baseball game by ourselves.

My second daughter was overjoyed about the opportunity to go first. She now has a memory of getting a ball at the game that will never fade from her mind. I even stopped on the way home at 10 p.m. to get ice cream—something only a dad would do. But most of all, we simply spent time together.

We talked. We listened. We slowed down.

If your life is anything like ours, you are busy. Between work, school, church, sports practices and countless other activities, it can be difficult to slow down and enjoy being in the presence of our children. However, my oldest daughter’s letter and my second daughter’s joy demonstrate that we often forget the value of time. They simply enjoyed being with me and having my attention.

In Deuteronomy 6:6–7, we read, “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” How can we teach our children the words of the Lord if we do not take the time to have conversations with them and listen to their hearts?

For our family, the cure for slowing down is baseball. We love watching the games and acting as if we know the players well. However, watching the sport live gives us an opportunity we rarely get with other activities—uninterrupted time talking. We can sit and watch the game while also having a three-hour conversation.

For you, the activity may be different. You may enjoy gardening, working in the yard, hunting, fishing or another activity. Why not involve your children in those activities so that you can spend invaluable time with them and hear what is on their hearts?

We see that training children in the ways of God is an essential part of parenting. At least 11 times in the opening eight chapters of Proverbs, Solomon stops to remind his son to listen to his instructions (Proverbs 1:8; 2:1–2; 3:1–2; 4:1–2, 10, 20; 5:1–2; 6:20–21; 7:1–3, 24; 8:32–34). In our fast-paced world, we lose sight of the fact that we need to slow down to teach our children. We need to put our cellphones away (in this, I am, as Paul says, “the chief” of sinners), turn off the television, and invest time in our children’s lives. One of these days, they will no longer be in our homes and that valuable time will be gone. Let us not waste it.  

3 Benefits of Discipleship

What happens when you get a group of women in a room to discuss life and the gospel?

Talking. Lots of talking. And questions. More questions than you can imagine. Why? Because we need each other, and sometimes life can be confusing and include insurmountable circumstances. During my time in settings like this, I’m reminded of the importance of discipleship.

Discipleship can take on many forms. It can be as simple as inviting someone into your kitchen for fellowship to organizing a normally scheduled lunch. However it looks, it involves honesty, seeking advice, and Scripture, and someone willing to do all of the above.

The Preacher in Ecclesiastes writes, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9–10).

Paul tells us in Titus 2:3 that the older women in the church should teach what is good and train the younger women. They are to equip other women in how to walk in step with the truth of the gospel. And this isn’t a suggestion—it is God’s instruction for how we should relate to one another.

He is writing about the vanity of trying to work alone as a means to outdo another. But labors aren’t the only benefit of working together. Two are also better than one as we live out our faith in Christ. We really need each other, though we often try to go at it alone. We truly need reproof and instruction, though we seldom seek it out. This is why discipleship is so important.

Here are three simple benefits of discipling relationships:

1. Discipleship builds humility.

Our temptation might be to think we know what is best for ourselves. As you’ve heard, and maybe said before, “we know ourselves better than anyone.” Scripture says that we might actually be more confused than we think. The heart is deceitful and so to trust yourself at all times is probably not the best route to take (Jeremiah 17:9). Wise counsel from a friend, pastor or spouse could be just the thing God uses for our protection.

Proverbs says that a wise man will hear, learn and acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5). So we can safely assume that an unwise man will not hear from others, will shut them down and not listen, will lack understanding, and will not acquire wise counsel. We need to resist the temptation to be wise in our own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). This isn’t so easy, but as we seek to gain understanding, we must first acknowledge that we don’t always know what is best. 

2. Discipleship unites us with fellow believers.

The body of Christ isn’t simply meant to exist for us to gather together on Sundays and then move along with our lives the rest of the week. God’s Word paints a picture of believers doing life together (Acts 2:44–47). Seeking counsel and discipleship is one way to invite others into your life.

Most of the time people won’t know the details of your life unless you are willing to share with them. Being willing to be discipled by another provides an opportunity for prayer and mutual encouragement (Galatians 6:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:11). We want to pursue one another because we are members of his body (Ephesians 5:30).

3. Discipleship equips us for faithfulness.

Paul tells us in Titus 2:3 that the older women in the church should teach what is good and train the younger women. They are to equip other women in how to walk in step with the truth of the gospel. And this isn’t a suggestion—it is God’s instruction for how we should relate to one another.

This is Discipleship 101. It’s yet another proof that we need each other. We can’t obey the commands in Titus 2 without being willing to be discipled (and being available and willing to disciple others). 

This article is used with permission and first appeared at

REVIEW: Is “Wonder Woman” family-friendly and OK for kids?

Diana is the lone child living on an island inhabited by super-humans called “Amazons”—warrior women who were created by the Greek god Zeus after his son Ares, the god of war, revolted. Their mission: restore love and peace to the world.

These Amazon women are far from passive. They spend their days training for battle with swords and bows, preparing for the day when they may face Ares in a battle for the ages.

Diana wants to join the exercises, but her mother won’t allow it.

“Fighting does not make you a hero,” she says.

As times passes, though, mom becomes more lenient. And when a World War I British pilot crashes near the island and warns the women about an imminent mustard gas attack on the Allies—an action that would halt an armistice and keep the war going—Diana decides she must act. She becomes Wonder Woman.

Wonder Woman (PG-13) opens in theaters this weekend, giving us our first live-action theatrical film based on the DC Comics character that was popularized by the 1970s Lynda Carter-led TV series.

It stars Gal Gadot (Fast & Furious series) as Wonder Woman; Chris Pine (Star Trek Beyond) as Steve Trevor, the pilot and her love interest; Connie Nielsen (Gladiator) as Diana’s mom, Queen Hippolyta; and Danny Huston (Wolverine, The Aviator) as Erich Ludendorff, a German general who is leading the effort to develop mustard gas. It was directed by Patty Jenkins, who is best known for her work on several TV series (The Killing) and movies. Stone Cold Creamery, Dr. Pepper, Orville Redenbacher’s and Tyson Foods are some of the leading partners.

At times, Wonder Woman is, well, wonderful. The action is fun but not over the top, and the story is engaging and easy to follow. Our heroine has several characteristics that nearly all parents would want their daughters to emulate. Additionally, the movie delivers a clear worldview that can lead to multiple discussions.   

Still, the movie has a few head-scratching and problematic scenes that left me wondering: Why’d Hollywood put that in there?

So, is it family-friendly? Let’s take a look …

Warning: Minor spoilers!

The Good

Diana doesn’t just want to save a few people from dying in World War I. She wants to save all the people. When she learns that townspeople in a Belgium village are starving, she decides to act even though her primary goal is to find the evil General Ludendorff. “We need to help these people,” she says. “We need to stay on mission,” her companion, Steve, responds. Her empathy is a core theme throughout the film.    

Her lack of knowledge about the world is played for laughs and is entertaining. Diana knows nothing about jobs (what’s a secretary?), clothes (why aren’t the women dressed for battle?) or relationships (what’s marriage?). When a woman sticks her hand out, ready to shake Diana’s hand, our heroine simply stares at it.

The film has several examples of self-sacrifice, including a major one in the film’s final minutes.

The Bad

Wonder Woman contains the typical level of bloodless violence found in a superhero film, although some parents will find it problematic for children. We see people shot with arrows and bullets, with dead bodies across the landscape. We experience (sort of off-screen) a soldier being shot and killed by his superior. We watch men fight in a bar. Diana kills people with her sword, stabbing one of them through the torso. There’s also a disturbing scene involving a mustard gas test on an individual (apparently against his will).

I counted five instances of coarse words: he– (3), da–it (1), OMG (1).

The film’s most problematic moments involve suggestive dialogue and sensuality. Following his plane crash, Steve bathes in a futuristic-looking hot tub. As he exits the tub, Diana—who has never seen a man—surprises him by walking in. (She’s clothed; he doesn’t take cover, and we briefly see him walking to his clothes as he covers himself with his hands.) She begins asking questions. “Would you say you are a typical example of your sex?” (He says he’s above average.) She then asks, “What’s that?”—a reference to his watch but a question that he initially misinterprets.  

Later, on a boat, they talk about procreation. (She says the Amazons decided men are necessary for procreation but not pleasure.) There’s also a discussion on the boat about “sleeping together.” He says it’s not polite to assume an unmarried woman will do that. (They end up sleeping side by side, clothed and facing up.)

A soldier, upon seeing Wonder Woman in action, says, “I’m both frightened and aroused.”   

The romance between Diana and Steve leads to physical contact one late night when he enters her room and they kiss. Did anything else happen? We don’t know; the scene quickly changes to an outdoor scene the next morning. But some moviegoers will say sex was implied.

Finally, Diana’s outfit isn’t one I’d want my daughter to wear. But, honestly, it likely covers more than Lynda Carter’s 1970s outfit did.

Spiritual Content

From a strict Christian perspective, there’s little to be found. We see a couple of nuns, but that’s it.


Warning: major spoiler ahead!

Wonder Woman may take place in the real world, but its worldview is grounded within the Greek universe of gods and goddesses. It’s a world where gods can have multiple offspring, battle one another and then die. Certainly, families of young children may want to address the subject of false gods, but the film provides an equally significant topic.

Diana naively believes that by killing Ares, the god of war, people will stop fighting. Yet when she kills Ares, the war doesn’t end. Why? She believes she has found the answer: It’s because there is darkness and light in each person, and each person then must make his or her own choice. “Only love can save the world,” she says.

We’ll call it “Wonder Woman theology,” and lots of our friends and family members believe it. Scripture says something very different (Romans 3:10-23; Ecclesiastes 7:20). We’re dreadful, sin-filled creatures in need of a Savior (John 3:16). In other words, there are no good people.

Thumbs Up … Or Down?

Some are calling this the best superhero movie ever. It’s not, but it’s definitely good. Thumbs up.

The Verdict: Family-Friendly?   

Perhaps the suggestive dialogue will fly over the heads of children while other moviegoers are snickering. Perhaps. I’m not so sure. This one certainly is family-friendly for most teens. I just wish Hollywood would stop making parenting, while moviegoing, so difficult.    

Discussion Questions

1. Is there “good” in all of us?

2. Why are superhero films so popular in our culture?

3. What does Scripture say about women fighting in battle?

4. Was Diana naïve about humanity?

5. Can love save the world?

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5.

Wonder Woman is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, and some suggestive content.

In the SBC, making disciples is getting some welcome attention

When Jesus gave his disciples their most significant job assignment, he emphasized making disciples of all kinds of people.

When the Southern Baptist Convention meets in Dallas in 2018, a discipleship task force will issue a report recommending ways the denomination’s churches can better fulfill that central task of Christ’s Great Commission, recorded in Matthew 28.

The renewed attention to making disciples comes at a spiritually opportune time: The denomination has been seeking ways to reverse declining baptisms in an increasingly secular culture while holding to its biblical moorings.

If churches can produce New Testament disciples, more baptisms and new disciples should follow, the Southwestern Journal of Theology contended in a 2009 issue that examined Christian discipleship.

Genuine disciple-making provides “a powerful apologetic that enhances the success of the preaching of the gospel,” Benjamin B. Phillips, assistant professor of systematic theology at Southwestern’s Havard School for Theological Studies in Houston, wrote in that issue of the journal.

Jim Shaddix sees the same gospel implications in biblical discipleship. Shaddix, the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, features prominently in a video introducing Disciples Path, a new adult discipleship series LifeWay Christian Resources has developed to help churches produce disciples who will win and make other disciples.

“Discipleship is the life process of growing into the image of Christ and being trusted with the stewardship of his glorious gospel—knowing it, embracing it, living it and entrusting it to others who will do the same.”

Jim Shaddix, the W.A. Criswell Chair of Expository Preaching at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

“Discipleship is the life process of growing into the image of Christ and being trusted with the stewardship of his glorious gospel—knowing it, embracing it, living it and entrusting it to others who will do the same,” Shaddix told the TEXAN in an email.

Promoting reproducible discipleship

For LifeWay, creating discipleship resources falls under its convention assignment to “assist churches” in their multifaceted ministries.

Among the other 11 SBC entities, the six seminaries see themselves discipling students who will shepherd churches. The North American Mission Board (NAMB), tasked with domestic church planting and evangelism, emphasizes discipleship in its church planter training. The urban planter track, called BLVD, for example, sets reproducible discipleship as a prominent objective for new congregations.

The International Mission Board, for its part, is offering a discipleship resource, called Deepen Discipleship, to the churches that supply it with new missionaries. Like LifeWay’s resource, the IMB’s study aims at making disciples who also make disciples.

The website for LifeWay’s discipleship series offers a video with IMB President David Platt, Tennessee pastor Robby Gallaty and Shaddix talking about the crucial task of discipleship.

The three men have a connection—Shaddix discipled Platt when Platt was his student at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Platt joined Shaddix on long jogs and mined the scriptures with him, as they challenged each other to deeper Christian devotion. Their wives spent time together as well, doing many of the same things.

Platt met Gallaty when Gallaty was a new believer seeking someone to help him grow in his faith. Now pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church outside Nashville, Gallaty is known for prioritizing discipleship, having written two books on the subject.

In fact, Gallaty is chairman of the task force on disciple-making that will report to SBC messengers next year. That task force was appointed in 2016 by LifeWay President Thom Rainer and NAMB President Kevin Ezell as a result of a 2014 study on declining baptisms in the SBC.

‘Irreducible components’

Turning a denomination with declining baptisms into a disciple-making force could appear daunting, given the variety of cultures in which Southern Baptists minister. But Gallaty sees some irreducible components that apply to making disciples, regardless of culture.

“Our goal is not to promote a curriculum to follow,” Gallaty told the TEXAN. “Our aim is to provide some key principles that could guide churches in their mission of making disciples, which includes both inviting people to Jesus and investing in those we invite. But LifeWay and the IMB have been extremely helpful and instrumental in listening to the task force and providing critical research data to assist our efforts.”

Gallaty said such data is being gathered from as many Southern Baptist ministry contexts as possible.

“We want to know what is happening in rural churches, urban churches, church plants, large churches, etc.,” Gallaty said. “Equipped with this data, we hope to offer recommendations and practical principles that lead to greater disciple-making solutions for churches across the spectrum in the SBC.”

To connect with the SBTC on discipleship tools and strategies, go to or email Lance Crowell at

Reaching, teaching, replicating

Lance Crowell, discipleship associate at the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, agrees that a new emphasis on discipleship is crucial to the health of New Testament churches but says churches must do something they are not doing.

“As I have engaged leaders on discipleship ministry in their churches, they often share about a program or class they provide. There is nothing wrong with great teaching, but this cannot be the focus or main component of making disciples.”

Crowell has identified five indispensable elements present in churches that are effective in disciple making:

  1. Clear Definition—Church members have a well-defined understanding of what it means to make disciples that make disciples.
  2. Senior Leadership fully buy into the process—The pastor has to be a disciple-maker and a key part of the process.
  3. Replication—The key objective is disciples who make disciples.
  4. Relational—Disciple-making is a people-focused ministry with accountability in small groups or one-on-one.
  5. Plan—Disciple-making churches use a deliberate process to develop leaders. Once a church begins developing disciples, then it can think about developing leaders.

Crowell also emphasizes identifying people who are ready to take the next step of discipleship.

“I use the acronym RAFT to describe someone who: has a heart for Replicating a next generation of disciples, and is Available, Faithful and Teachable,” he said. “A good mentor will also be a disciple; he or she must model these basic traits.”

Crowell co-authored SBTC’s discipleship manual, Rhythms, with Spencer Plumlee, pastor of Riverview Baptist Church in Osage Beach, Mo. The book describes disciplemaking as the continuation of an “empowered effort” on the part of Jesus’ disciples, which has resulted in millions of believers today. There’s a Great Commission duty to pass along the relationship with God and men that we have seen modeled in those who taught us.

Preparing missionaries

Meanwhile, the IMB’s curriculum, Deepen Discipleship, focuses on three objectives in daily reading and reflections in the New Testament: “Read and Learn,” “Reflect and Grow” and “Go and Do.” The six-month, online curriculum, which is offered free of charge at, is broken into four sessions in six-week intervals and has the missionary mandate of the church in mind.

“Ultimately,” says an introduction to the material, “the process of daily reading God’s Word should naturally enable God’s people to teach this Word simply and plainly in other contexts; put simply, you can’t teach what you don’t know.”

According to the website, the curriculum is intended to be experienced in community with other believers, with the recommendation to “regularly” meet with at least one and preferably two other people who also are going through it.

Zane Pratt, IMB’s vice president of global training, has drawn parallels between what the IMB calls “life-on-life discipleship” and the best methods in missionary preparation.

“[T]his is how disciples are made—we read God’s Word, which informs our thoughts,” Pratt wrote at “Right thinking transforms who we are on the inside, which then leads us to act more like Jesus (and less like our sinful selves!). This pattern applies to training God’s people for mission.”

Pratt told members of the Fellowship of Baptist World Ministries last June that true discipleship happens in the church, but too often discipleship has been seen as conveying information without emphasizing transformation.

“We’re not going to train people unless we disciple, and we’re not going to disciple outside the local church,” Pratt said. “What we need are churches who take the discipleship task seriously.”

As Gallaty told Baptist Press in March: “We want to empower an army of people to go out in the community and share the gospel, and live the gospel, and love like Christ loved.”