Critical Book Review
Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy by Dr. Jerry Pipes and Victor Lee
Pipes, Jerry, and Victor Lee. Family to Family: Leaving a Lasting Legacy. USA: North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1999.
Dr. Jerry Pipes leads the Prayer and Spiritual Awaking Team at the North American Missions Board and he assists other Southern Baptists Conference member churches to bring about revival and spiritual awaking. He speaks publicly, reaching millions at schools, businesses, crusades, revivals, conferences, and other church events. In the 1990s, Pipes served as a presenter for President George H.W. Bush administration’s War on Drugs. His other books include Becoming Complete: Discovering and Developing the Real You, People Sharing Jesus, and Building a Successful Family; and in addition, he has authored and developed numerous other pamphlets and training materials. Presently, Pipes has over 18 million copies in print. From Texas A&M University, Pipes earned a B.S., he earned an M.A. from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and at Luther Rice Seminary, he earned an M.Div. He is married and has two children.
Pipe’s co-author, Victor Lee is a reporter by trade has as authored hundreds of articles, mostly for Christian publications. Presently, he is a columnist for Sports Spectrum Magazine. He is also a Sports Evangelism Consultant for the North American Evangelism Board and he is the young adult and evangelism pastor for First Baptist Concord church in Tennessee. Lee is married, with one adult daughter and three foster children.
Family to Family is an evangelistic tool focused not on the complete stranger in a foreign land, but instead a guide for the family. According to Pipes and Lee, “Family to Family will help you discover God’s purpose for your family, develop a family mission statement, establish core values, make time for quality and quantity family time centered around God’s purposes, and equip you to lead your children to Christ and mentor them spiritually” (p 3). Later in the book, they boil this statement down further, saying that the book is all about “Raising your family to follow Christ” (p 114). In addition, they claim that the reader will “discover the critical link between being on mission as a family and passing the baton of your faith on to your children” (p 3). Family to Family is something of a “how-to” book for evangelical Christian families.
The book opens with a touching story of a family tradition that will surely continue for many years to come. Then, without wasting any ink, Pipes and Lee are quick to point out that Family to Family is a great tool to help families become healthy and mission-minded, but it is not a quick fix (pp 3-4). Chapter 1 starts to make the case that many families are not healthy and are not spending much time together. Referencing research from both the American Family Association and George Barna, Pipes and Lee show that “Only 34 percent of America’s families eat one meal together each day. [And] the average father spends only eight to 10 minutes a day with his children. This includes meal times” (p 6). As they continue, we learn that “Only 12 percent of America’s families pray together. [And] the average couple spends only four minutes of uninterrupted time together a day” (p 6). Yet, George Barna points out that family is the most rewarding and the most frustrating aspect of peoples lives (p 6). After the chapter has finished sharing some alarming statistics, Pipes and Lee identify what a healthy Christian family should look like.
From chapter 2 forward, Family to Family serves as a guide to help an unhealthy family navigate toward better overall family spiritual health. The family mission statement is where they start, which makes perfect sense considering Pipes and Lee believe that “A family mission statement will serve as a centerline and guardrails for your family on the road through life” (p 25.) Following an extensive amount of material on the importance of a mission statement and how to create one, the text discusses the ins and outs of teaching and sharing the Gospel with children. Considering that 90 percent of all Christians accepted Jesus before the age of 25, Pipes and Lee see passing the baton onto the next generation as early as we can as vital (p 51). The remainder of the book becomes a summary of other evangelical programs and ideas, shared in an effort to encourage the entire family to become an evangelizing force together.
Family to Family is simply written and includes many anecdotal stories to keep the reader moving through its pages. Where normally this tends to be a weakness for books reviewed in academia, it is a strength for this book. Pipes and Lee identify early on that this is a book for families in trouble, and the greatest single cause of that trouble is time and busyness. By keeping the book simple in its format, the obvious target reader should be able to fit this book into her schedule without too much trouble.
Pipe and Lee’s evidence about unhealthy families and the rates that children fall away from the church is significant and serves to convince the reader to continue into the meat of the book. While the mixing of the conversational anecdotal stories with the various facts and statistics is a little clunky, it is necessary for both to be included. The authors may have been more convincing had they provided a little more background info to the statistics rather than just burying that information in the endnotes. However, the overall format of the work is easy to read but still highly informative.
Pipes and Lee’s chapter on mission statements felt like a summary of a Franklin Covey seminar mixed with some scriptures. It certainly was not bad in its presentation and teachings other than that the reader might start to question the authors’ originality in their work. For example, there seems to be no citation regarding the comparison of Jonathan Edwards and the Jukes family, leaving he impression that the authors did all the research to develop this idea (pp 24-25). Another example is the example of the bucket of sand and the rocks. Franklin Covey uses this illustration extensively in their presentations and has for many years. While they may not of created the illustration, they are certainly well known for it. Pipes and Lee simply say, “maybe you have seen the illustration of the big rocks and little rocks” (p 26). If they did borrow material, they should certainly give proper credit where credit is due. And even if they did not (and by no means is this critic suggesting that they did) they could have provided many other additional resources where a reader could find more information on building a mission statement. That being said, this chapter is an outstanding block of instruction on mission statements for the family.
On some levels, the material on evangelism comes across like filler, there only to help Pipes and Lee get the publisher’s required page count. They summarized a number of other ideas, like Dr. Thompson’s Concentric Circles of Concern for example (pp 73ff). However, as previously stated, this summarization might actually be the best way to introduce the busy reader to the material.
With the study questions and workshop-like material, this book is perfect for a church class on the topics of family and doing evangelism as a family. Little preparation would be necessary, as Pipes and Lee have already done the work. Each chapter is the ideal length to serve as one class period. And with something as easy and important as Family to Family it only makes sense that family pastors or teachers should read this book and then find a way to implement its teaching into their local church congregation.
*I have no material connection to this book. This post was, in its entirety or in part, originally written in seminary in partial fulfillment of a M.Div. It may have been redacted or modified for this website.