Each day of the year in America, more than 3,571 families end in divorce. More than 50 percent of the children in America's public schools live in single-parent homes. Of the nation's children who live apart from their biological fathers, 50 percent have never set foot in their father's home.
At a time when the family is disintegrating, Southern Baptists want to bring hope and healing.
In the Kingdom Family Rally June 16 in Phoenix, the SBC Council on Family Life enunciated "Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family" by which families can embrace a Scripture-based path for the home.
James Dobson from Focus on the Family visited with the convention by video along with his wife Shirley. He commended Southern Baptists for their initiative.
"We simply can't let the institution of family be destroyed by the postmodernism that swirls around us," Dobson said.
Tom Elliff, chairman of the council, told the audience made up mostly of pastors and their families that the family pillars had been three years in development.
Elliff introduced Dennis Rainey, president of Family Life Today, who said he is "bullish" on Southern Baptists.
"I am personally excited about this new Kingdom Family initiative," Rainey said. "What you're about here this evening, in the launch of this initiative, is the most important battle Southern Baptists have waged since you struggled over the inerrancy of Scripture. You won the battle for the Bible. If we lose the family, we will lose the church."
Addressing the first pillar — Honoring God's Authority — Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer of the SBC Executive Committee, said America needs to hear from Southern Baptists and see them living as God-honoring families.
"We once again must show the world that God is our authority," Chapman said. "And He will honor our worshiping Him as the one true and living God."
Chapman introduced Captain Jeff Struecker, a chaplain and a U.S. Army Ranger whose heroic efforts to rescue soldiers endangered in the Somalian conflict are recounted in the book Blackhawk Down.
Struecker, appearing via videotape from Khandahar, Afghanistan, used his uniform to illustrate authority, saying the emblems of his uniform denote he is a soldier with authority and also under authority.
But the most important emblem on his uniform "is the cross of Jesus Christ," Struecker said. "It sits over my heart. My body belongs to the U.S. Army but my heart belongs to God."
Respect for Human Life
Richard Land, reflecting on the second pillar — Respecting Human Life — told the Kingdom Family Rally, "Respecting all human life from conception until natural death and everywhere in between is a central pillar of the Christian faith.
"It should be a central pillar of our families that sanctification of human life begins in the home," said Land, president of the SBC's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "God never created a nobody. Everybody is a somebody to God."
Land introduced a couple, Trey and Brenda Palmer, whose respect for all human life permeates their immediate and extended family.
In 1949, his great-grandfather was "one of the first black ministers to address this congregation," Palmer recounted. He cited numerous examples of people in his family — from a paraplegic uncle to a ninety-one-year-old grandmother — all of whom had received personal, compassionate care from the family and had not been institutionalized.
"God wants and expects you to honor Him by giving of yourself to your family and friends by showing them the care and interest they deserve," Palmer said. "People need to love each other because of what they mean to God and not how they compare to you.
"God wants and expects us to be sold out and determined, Spirit-filled protectors of human life," Palmer said.
Addressing the third pillar — Exercising Moral Purity — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, lamented, "We are living in a day of moral confusion that is leading to moral anarchy. The very idea of moral purity is derided in many elements of our culture. The academic elite dismiss it; the media often ridicule it; but, brothers and sisters in Christ, the church is called to be a holy nation."
Mohler introduced Peter and Debbie Livingston, who came to the podium trailed by seven multiethnic children — two who were born to the couple and five who are adopted.
Debbie Livingston described their marriage of twenty-six years as "ten years our way and sixteen years God's way."
Peter told how he ignored his family's needs while climbing the corporate ladder, which Debbie, calling herself a child of the '70s, said, "No man was going to tell me what to do."
Peter's love for career and Debbie's affair with another man almost destroyed their marriage, but both gave credit to God for rescuing them from their sin and, subsequently, their marriage as well.
"God healed our marriage," Debbie Livingston said.
Addressing the fourth pillar — Serving My Church — LifeWay Christian Resources President James T. Draper Jr. challenged the pastors in the audience to "guide your local church to be an avenue to spiritual growth."
Draper introduced Christian author and speaker Gary Chapman, who encouraged spouses to uncover joy in the home.
"Why is it so easy to build an orphanage in Cambodia and so hard to paint a bedroom for your wife?" Chapman asked. "It took a long time to learn the joy of service in my marriage."
Chapman listed three important questions to ask in order to improve a marriage:
"What can I do for you?"
"How can I make your life easier?"
"How can I be a better husband to you?"
"When I was willing to ask those questions, my wife was willing to answer them," Chapman said. "There aren't many women who will run away from a man who is serving her. Not a single wife in the history of this nation has ever murdered her husband while he was doing dishes."
Use of Time
Addressing the fifth pillar — Using Time Wisely — Jack Graham, Southern Baptist Convention president, stated, "In life you can't keep time or put time in a bottle. The moments I've given for my family, my wife, my children, I've never regretted a single moment. Time is a treasure, we should use it wisely."
Graham introduced Zig Ziglar, who has been married to his wife for more than fifty-six years. Commenting on the differences between men and women and the importance of understanding those differences, Ziglar said, "I didn't have a clue of what it was to love somebody until I was saved. I learned to love her through Him. That's when the romance really started."
For the sixth pillar — Practicing Biblical Stewardship — O.S. Hawkins, president of the Annuity Board, introduced fishing legend Jimmy Houston, who talked about the importance of tithing.
"What happens when you don't tithe is that you start lying to God and to yourself," Houston, speaking by video, said. "You're cheating yourself and you're causing yourself to miss out on so many blessings God has for you for your life. If you don't tithe, you're missing out on a lot of those blessings."
Evangelism and Missions
Addressing the seventh pillar — Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ — were Robert E. Reccord and Jerry Rankin, presidents of the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board, respectively.
Both men talked about the importance of families being involved in missions together and the impact on a family when ministering together in missions and evangelism.
At the end of the evening, pastors and their families were challenged to commit to being Kingdom Families by signing commitment cards to incorporate the seven pillars into their own families and the families in their churches. Less than twelve hours later, more than 2,000 families had already turned in cards.
LifeWay will partner with the SBC and the Council on Family Life to supply resources for the Kingdom Family movement, along with Kingdom Family Conferences that will be held nationwide in the coming months.
"We can't go back and unlive our past," Elliff said in a news conference that followed. "But by the grace of God, from this moment on, we can be what God wants us to be — as a family."
Kingdom Family Conferences
Kingdom Family Conferences will provide the first opportunities for pastors to strengthen not only their own families but also the families in their churches. The conferences will begin in August, with four scheduled before the end of the year: in Oklahoma City, Aug. 11-12; Wheat Ridge, Colo., Sept. 4-5; Brandon, Fla., Oct. 2-3; and Highland, Calif., Nov. 6-7. The conferences will be intensive twenty-four-hour sessions designed for a pastor and his wife to attend together. Conference topics will touch on a variety of family building matters such as premarital counseling and marital relationships. The conferences will be designed around the content of Elliff's new book, Unbreakable: 7 Pillars of a Kingdom Family.