In 1997, I wrote my first book, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens. I felt God calling me to write more books, but I was equally as persuaded that Age of Opportunity would be my only one on the topic of parenting.
But for the past two decades, as I saw how people were using that book (and my brother Tedd’s book Shepherding a Child’s Heart), I grew increasingly uncomfortable. Something was missing in the way these parents were interpreting and applying the strategies detailed in the pages of our books.
It took me a while to figure out what was off. Then it hit me: The missing piece was the gospel. It sounds obvious, almost cliché, but it’s more significant in our lives than we realize.
The Centrality of the Gospel in Everything
After I speak, I always have someone ask for an effective strategy for this, a guaranteed formula for that or a proven approach to something else they’re struggling with. I try to impart helpful guidance in the moments we have together, but what they (and I) really need is a big picture gospel worldview that can explain, guide and motivate all the things that God is calling them to do.
Take parenting. If you’re going to not only cope but thrive with vision and joy as a parent, you need more than seven steps to solving whatever. You need God’s helicopter view of what he’s called you to do. You need a big gospel parenting worldview that will not only make sense of your task, but will change the way you approach it.
The same applies to marriage. If you want a healthy relationship with your spouse, built on the foundation of unity, understanding and love, going to BuzzFeed to find the latest 14 ways to make date night more romantic won’t be your best choice. I love surprising my wife with romantic acts, but Luella and I need the gospel of Jesus Christ to be central in our marriage, and we need the big-picture themes of Scripture to be our guide more than anything else.
Church growth strategies, discipleship curricula or evangelism training sessions don’t work very well if the gospel isn’t central. I’m in favor of all these things, but we need so much more than a 75-page binder for those participating in building the local church, making disciples and witnessing to the lost. We need our hearts to be awe-struck by the glory of God, captivated by a love for our Savior, and broken by the lost and blind condition of the human race. Only then will strategies work.
Here’s the bottom line: What’s missing in all areas of our everyday life are the big grand perspectives and principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
These perspectives and principles are radical and counterintuitive. They’re simply not natural for us, but they’re essential to being what you’re supposed to be and doing what you’re supposed to do. When you live with what the gospel says about God, you and your world, you not only approach life in brand-new ways, but you carry the burden of living in a very different way.