“Abandoned Faith” by McFarland and Jimenez: A Book Review

Several years ago, as I began writing my book, Pouring In, I talked to a mentor friend of mine who had three adult children. Deb was/is older and wiser and we have known each other since I was in high school. I wanted her thoughts on the idea of passing on faith to our kids. Deb is a godly woman whom I greatly admire and I fully expected her to say her kids are passionately following the Lord, or at least still going to church.

As awesome as Deb is, as much as she loves God, and even though I know she has modeled Christ in her home, the directions her kids were taking caught her off guard. She wrote of her dismay at her kids wanderings in an email to me. I didn’t know what to think. She loved the Lord like no one I had ever known. She probably did almost everything right. How could they stray?

In a recent study, LifeWay Research, and Fuller Youth Institute estimated that over half of high school graduates will leave the church and become disengaged in their faith. (page xvi)

As a result of much research, I am painfully aware that a majority of kids raised in the church leave the faith when they leave their home. With a daughter graduating this year, this reality scares the begeebees out of me!

Abandoned Faith is an excellent resource for parents whose millennial has walked away from theABANDONED-FAITH-BUY-NOW-1 faith and for those who are currently launching. This book offers parents encouragement and hope that they can still make a difference in the lives of their grown children. The voice of a parent always matters.

As I must entertain the possibility that either one of my daughters could walk away from their faith, I am starting to face the regret McFarland and Jimenez talk about in the book.

Living with a seventeen year old is difficult. I find myself in turmoil as the familiarity of life as I once knew it fades away. I grieve the fact that our family unit will never be the same.

There is a sorrow that comes as kids become young men and women. Sorrow because you miss those little people that adored you, and sorrow for the sinful, imperfect human beings they have become.

It’s too easy to overlook the pain of parents when all the attention is on the problems of their children. Yet, if we are going to win millennials back to Christ, we first need to win parents back to hope and healing. (page 9)

I remember when I was eighteen to twenty-something. I was young and stupid. Most eighteen to twenty-somethings are. We all know that wisdom comes with age and experience. It is what it is.

My eighteen year old daughter is beautiful, smart, kind, and loving. In the words of Aibileen from The Help, “she (you) is smart, she (you) is kind, and (you) is important!” She always did well in school and loved God. We couldn’t be prouder of her.

At the same time, I worry. I see the flaws in her character—flaws we all have. I see her trying to get away with things. I see her being uninterested in her faith. And I grieve the better person she would have been if I had been a better parent.

You can’t help but think, What went wrong? Even if the answer is, nothing. Nothing other than your kids had an imperfect parent, and they happen to be human. As a wise person once said, even Adam and Eve rebelled, and they did have the perfect parent!

The fact is, there is not one single parent alive in this world free of regret. We all have regrets and know other godly parents who do as well. (page 11)

As a parent, it is impossible to look back and believe you did everything perfectly—because none of us have. Hindsight is 20/20.

What do I regret? Here are some things, to name a few.

  • I regret not having a consistent prayer time as a model for my kids.
  • I regret that I didn’t start reading Scripture with them when they were little.
  • I regret not making my kids do band, choir, or a sport—they struggle to have a consistent friend group.
  • I regret not being more consistent with our discipline.
  • I regret not controlling their screen time/social media time better
  • I regret that we brought our baggage into our parenting

I sometimes wonder how much better of a parent I could have been if I had not brought myself into the mix.

Holding on to regrets prevents you from experiencing true freedom in Christ…Being tossed around by waves of regret is actually where Satan, the great Adversary, wants you to be. He doesn’t want you to let your regrets go. (page 13)

Satan wants our regrets to eat us alive. Abandoned Faith encourages parents to look at their mistakes, learn from them, and move forward to a better relationship with their child. We must stop feeling responsible for our young adult children. Did we make mistakes in parenting—yes. However, we probably did a better job than we realize despite the wanderings of our kids.

At some point, parents need to let go of the guilt from mistakes their young adult children make. At some point, they are no longer responsible.

Let there be no more regrets—only anticipation of the coming blessings. No more doubts—only hope in knowing that God has placed you in your millennial’s life for a divine purpose. God has uniquely equipped you to minister to your children. (page 19)

How are my girls going to survive my parenting? By the grace, immense love, and goodness of our God. When my parenting job is finally done, and it soon will be, I must put my kids in God’s hands—far greater hands than mine.

 

Bump into a Tree and See What Falls

My husband gave me the book, Blessed are the Misfits, for Christmas last year. He knows me well. I have always felt like a misfit—in my family of origin and in most Christian misfits 2circles. This is my place. This is my role. Is it okay to be a misfit? I often wonder. How does God view misfits? That is the question.

In Blessed are the Misfits, Brant challenges the status quo of what we aspire to in our spirituality.

What if we don’t fit the mold of what American Christians believe faith should look like? What if we don’t get choked up with emotion during worship songs? What if we don’t feel God’s presence at church, or feel much at all? Does that mean our faith is inferior compared to those who seem to “emote” easily?

While this is not my issue, I cry at the drop of a hat, this message of reexamining our standards of how we judge one another’s faith is worth pondering.

If you can’t rely on your feelings, how can you tell God is there, working in your life? Jesus said if you want to judge a tree, you look at its fruit. Someone might immediately, like clockwork, break down in tears of genuine emotion at the first chord of every worship song. Wonderful. But that’s not “fruit.” —Brant Hansen, Blessed are the Misfits

How can you tell if God is working in your life? Brant asks. If you are having amazing spiritual experiences? If you speak powerful, poetic prayers? If you lead an awesome ministry? “Nope,” he says. It is all about the fruit. He uses the analogy of bumping into a tree and seeing what falls. Brilliant.

Bump into a tree, and see what falls . . . 
Sometimes it’s love and gentleness . . . 
Sometimes it’s jealousy, anger, and power plays . . .
Sometimes it’s lawyers . . .   
Sometimes it’s patience and kindness . . . 
Now you see what kind of tree it is.

This analogy gives us a simple image with a profound truth. It is the fruit of the Spirit in us that God desires. Brant points out that most of the teaching in the New Testament consists of instruction on how we should live. Christ, and later, the Apostles, talk mostly about how we should love, forgive, be patient, show mercy, and foster peace—not how to evangelize.

Hansen describes this largely overlooked fact about the New Testament.

You’d think Paul would have filled his letters to the churches with evangelistic emphases, commands, encouragements, and advice, but it’s just not there. Yes, Jesus tells His disciples to “Go into all the world . . . ” to make disciples (Mark 16:15), and the Twelve did exactly that. But Paul doesn’t seem to think this was a message intended in the same way for everyone. His letters to believers have almost nothing about this.

This book challenges the group-think of the Christian community at large. Within the church are many stigmas and stereotypes. We must accept and love, not judge and compare. In matters of discernment, we must always measure things against the Word of God, the ultimate authority. What does it have to say about who or what is most highly valued?

For those of us who don’t seem to ever measure up, this book is an encouragement. Are we buying into the “one size fits all” Christianity? There is no such thing.

Yes, God is at work, but if the Bible is any indication of how He actually operates, He’s at work on the margins, not on the stages. —Brant Hansen, Blessed are the Misfits

Those who mourn, don’t pray poetically, are evangelical failures, who struggle, and who don’t have amazing spiritual stories are God’s beloved, and are blessed. The unfeeling, wounded, depressed and lonely are some of God’s most powerful warriors.

Our culture values achievement. God values those who love him and humbly serve Him.

Children of God come in all shapes and sizes. Not just physically, or ethnically, but in personality and temperament. We serve a God who loves diversity. The body of Christ is made of many parts. Though some might not be as shiny as others, each has equal value.

Misfits, outcasts, or those who are just plain different will find comfort and understanding in this book. Learning about someone who is awkward, an introvert, and one diagnosed with Asperger’s, like Brant, and an influencer in today’s culture is powerful. It gives the rest of us hope.

Together with radio producer, Sherri Lynn, you can find him on “The Brant and Sherri Oddcast,” or speaking at groups, conferences, and churches. Check out his website at www.branthansen.com.

Thank you, Brant, for sharing who you are in Blessed are the Misfits. Because you are me.