FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — A seminary chapel service turned into a family affair as Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and 18 of their 19 children spread across the stage to share Scripture, play instruments and sing hymns.
In addition to the musical performances, Jim Bob and Michelle recounted their life stories and how their family was selected for the hit cable television show “19 Kids & Counting,” which airs on TLC.
Jim Bob and Michelle, speaking in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s MacGorman Chapel on Oct. 24, began their story by recounting how they came to faith in Jesus Christ. Jim Bob grew up attending church and became a Christian at an early age. Michelle, however, never attended church as a child but became a Christian in high school after a friend shared with her how she could have a right relationship with the Lord.
Shortly after Michelle became a Christian, Jim Bob and a friend were making neighborhood visits to people from church. As they considered where to visit next, his friend said, “Hey, I know this girl who just became a Christian and she’s a cheerleader.” Jim Bob promptly replied, “Well, let’s go see her!”
“It was love at first sight,” Jim Bob told the chapel audience.
A year later, Jim Bob and Michelle went on their first date to a high school banquet. Afterward, they talked for hours about spiritual matters, and according to the couple it was the night that God knit their hearts together.
The two married after high school and, like most couples, they were unsure if they wanted to have children right away, so Michelle took birth control pills. Three and a half years later, Michelle stopped birth control, became pregnant and gave birth to their first son, Josh.
“Then, we didn’t want to have them too close together, so she went back on the pill,” Jim Bob said.
“But we did not realize — and this is not something that is really well known — but sometimes the pill can allow you to get pregnant but can then be abortive. And that’s what happened in our situation. Michelle was on the pill, got pregnant, and then the pill caused a miscarriage, and we lost our second child.”
“We were devastated,” Michelle said. “Here we were, Christians, loving being parents, holding this one baby in our arms and then realizing that with our own hands, our own lack of knowledge, we held out our [other] baby to be destroyed.
“We got on our faces before the Lord, and we cried out, ‘Father, forgive us and give us a love for children like You love children.'”
Jim Bob and Michelle committed to receive whatever gifts — that is, children — God would give them. Soon thereafter, Michelle gave birth to twins, and the Lord continued to bless them with one child after another.
“Before you know it, we had so many kids running around, we thought, ‘What have we done?!'” Jim Bob joked.
“It was a busy time,” he said, “and we were so overwhelmed that we thought, ‘We don’t know if we can handle it anymore.'”
Providentially, the couple said, the Lord brought encouragers and helpers into their lives as they learned to trust in His strength. One lady they knew, for example, offered to help Michelle with laundry each week, and did so faithfully for 13 years.
Jim Bob admitted they are not a perfect family nor are he and Michelle perfect parents.
“I really never had an anger problem until we had started having children,” Jim Bob said. “I realized that when we started having these kids and I started blowing up in anger to correct them, it was building a wall between me and my children.”
Jim Bob said he asked his family to forgive him and requested that they keep him accountable when they noticed him reacting in anger. He encouraged the chapel audience to consider doing likewise.
“You can take your children to church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night,” Jim Bob said, “but if you’re blowing up at home, it will undermine your whole ministry.”
Additionally, Jim Bob challenged fathers to “be the spiritual leaders of your family.”
“Read the Bible to your children, explain what the Scriptures mean, give illustrations and make it practical for them.”
The Duggars’ love for children not only extends to their own children and grandchildren, but they also have a passion to support the rights of unborn children in America. Inspired by a pro-life rally at the Arkansas state capitol, Jim Bob ran for and was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives, where he served from 1999–2003.
During a bid for Congress in 2002, an Associated Press photographer took an image of him and his large family on Election Day. Though he lost the race, the photo appeared the next day in The New York Times, which sparked interest from a writer for a parenting magazine.
A few months later, an executive with Discovery Health Channel saw the parenting magazine story and contacted them about filming a documentary on their family.
“I really believed that this was an opportunity to share with the world that children are a blessing from the Lord,” Jim Bob said. Eventually, the documentary became one of the top shows on cable television.
Jim Bob and Michelle concluded their time in Southwestern’s chapel service with a challenge to seminary students.
“Our challenge to you,” Jim Bob said, “is to follow the Lord wherever He leads you, to do whatever He puts on your heart — maybe to be a missionary overseas or to be a pastor or maybe getting involved in politics.
“Following the Lord is an exciting adventure, and I pray that each one of us will follow that still, small voice of the Lord and watch Him work in our lives in a miraculous way.”
To watch Jim Bob and Michelle tell their story, go to www.swbts.edu/DuggarStory.
Keith Collier is director of news and information for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas (www.swbts.edu/campusnews). Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).