SAN ANTONIO (BP)–Parents should aim at creating an environment that emulates God’s heart, one in which children are receptive to the Holy Spirit working in their lives, a family leader told pastors at a breakout session during the Southern Baptist Pastors’ Conference June 11 in San Antonio.
Tim Kimmel, executive director of Family Matters in Scottsdale, Ariz., noted, “God left a plan behind to sustain His Kingdom agenda … and it comes through the family. The church plays very much into the equation but it’s really the family through the church.”
The state of the family affects everything from determining the health of the church to the morality of entertainment and the character of political leadership, Kimmel said.
Parents need to have a clear job description, he said. Without one, they tend to focus on surface behavior, looking at the image of what they think a good Christian family looks like and becoming “checklist” parents.
An evangelical enclave is not what God had in mind, Kimmel said. The evangelical mindset is captured in the biblical story of the spy who came back to Joshua saying there were giants in the land and they shouldn’t enter it.
“There’s always been giants in the land,” Kimmel said. “It’s irrelevant because our God is mighty. He’s awesome. He can show us how to stand in the middle of this thing and glow in the darkness.”
God has given His people the power to administer His grace to others, including their children, Kimmel said, reading 1 Peter 4:10. Parents must realize their children are sinners and neither they nor the church should be surprised when they sin.
Ephesians 6:4 tells fathers not to exasperate their children, but to train them in the ways of God, Kimmel said. It’s easy to exasperate children, especially when all the focus is on image control, monitoring behavior, deportment and “looking the right way.”
But life is decided at the heart level, not the behavior level, Kimmel said, and bad behavior should be corrected — keeping in mind that correction and discipline both can be forms of grace.
In creating an environment which allows the Holy Spirit to work, Kimmel said parents can expect to watch God work.
“Salvation is the work of God, not the work of a parent,” Kimmel said. “It’s a lot easier to get God to change the heart and then the behavior follows.”
Grace-based parenting accepts children regardless of merit, serves their needs without a sense of obligation and motivates them to a higher holiness without condemnation, Kimmel said, warning that the relationship between parent and child should not be based on the child’s behavior.
Kimmel listed four parts to grace-based parenting:
— Provide an atmosphere of grace in the home. Such an atmosphere gives children freedom to be different, even weird, which may translate into odd hair or fashion choices.
— Fulfill children’s inner needs. Children need to know they are secure, significant and of value, and that they’re strong enough to meet their future. These three needs are vulnerable points where Satan may attack, Kimmel said. Parents must give their children a secure love, a significant purpose in life and a strong hope to fulfill those needs correctly.
— Build children’s character. Give them faith, integrity, poise, discipline, endurance and courage so they can make the right decisions when they’re lonely or afraid and can put themselves back on the correct path when they have sinned.
— Aim children toward true greatness. Most parents aim their kids toward success, focusing on wealth, beauty, power and fame. Instead, parents should try to raise children who look “upwards and outwards all the time.”
“True greatness is a passionate love for Jesus Christ that shows itself in an unquenchable love and concern for others,” Kimmel said.
Kimmel described four qualities of true greatness:
— A humble heart. Micah 6:8 tells believers to walk humbly.
— A grateful heart. Kimmel referred to Philippians 4:11-13 in which the Apostle Paul tells how he is content in any situation because Christ strengthens him.
— A generous heart. Luke 6:38 talks about how people get in return what they give out.
— A servant’s heart. Philippians 2:3-4 instructs believers to view others as more important than themselves.
Children are a heritage from the Lord, Kimmel said, referring to Psalm 1:27, and parents must treat them and form them as a heritage that will continue.