Book Review: Gospel-Powered Parenting

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As I continue my journey through parenting resources, I stumbled across this book called Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and Transforms Parenting by William Farley. This was quite refreshing and gives a different dynamic to parenting that is very evangelistic, heart-centered, and God-centered.

Author: William Farley is a pastor at Grace Christian Fellowship Spokane,  Washington  has written for Reformation 21, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Enrichment Journal, Discipleship Journal, and Focus on the Family. He has published several other books as well.

Summary: The book begins with addressing some assumptions related to parenting (Ch. 1) and then discusses the thesis of the book: the power of the Gospel (Ch. 2). The next three chapters hit specific topics related to the Gospel such as the fear of the Father (Ch. 3), the holiness of the Father (Ch. 4), and the Grace of the Father (Ch. 5). Farley then talks more directly to parenting as he deals with the importance of living as an example (Ch. 7, a chapter I highly recommend) and Gospel fatherhood (Ch. 7). He addresses the foundation and methodology of discipline (Chaps. 8 and 9) and how to instruct the children (Ch. 10). He ends the book positively with emphasizing love and affection (Ch. 11) and an encouragement for parents to persevere in the grace of God (Ch. 12).

Weaknesses: The book can be slightly repetitive in certain portions. It is somewhat lengthy in its theological sections as he builds his argument. But the section is necessary for those who are not yet biblically convinced of such an approach.

Strengths: Good theological foundations for the approach. He explains it clearly and thoroughly. It is truly a Gospel-centered book. Parenting with respect to the character of God appeals greatly to the reader as Farley unfolds it. He connects biblical concepts to parenting exceptionally well. I also recommend the chapters on discipline.

The books strength lies in the ability to converse with your kids and answer the question “Why?” And as you are guiding them and shepherding them on the choices they make every moment of the day, you really addresses the motivation behind their choices as opposed to merely focusing on behavior modification.

I thought it was interesting for Farley to discuss his “different” approach to a parenting book. His focus is less on a “technique” emphasis and more about a “God and yourself”focus. As you develop how to think about you with respect to God, he the argues that the techniques will take care of themselves. “What we do is a by-product of how we think. People change their behavior as their understanding of God and man changes” (69). Therefore, this will also ring true for our children, our parenting methodology, and our own lives as well.

Recommendation: Parents don’t have time to read lots of books, since they live very busy lives. Having said that, the book seems to overlap a bit with Shepherding a Child’s Heart so you’re in a good place if you’ve read that book. And since time is short for parents, I would still recommend buying both books to keep on the shelf. My suggestion is reading slowly through one and particularly reading the unique contributions of the other.

But there is a place for this book. It aids you in your conversations with your children, and this is where it truly shines. It teaches you how the Gospel can be inter-woven into daily life and how to flood your children with the Gospel. If you have children that are in the toddler range or beyond, I recommend this book. But as the book says, even with infants, it’s never too early to be teaching them the Gospel.

Some Lessons Learned:

  • “Effective Christian parents are shrewd about new birth. They do not assume it” (37).
  • “Effective Christian parents labor to focus their families on God, not their children” (37).
  • “The believing parent labors to prepare each child for the day of judgment. The stakes are inexpressibly high” (41).
  • “The fear of God teaches parents to fear God, not their children” (66).
  • “The cross motivates parents to hate sin, first in themselves, then in their children” (82).
  • “[Grace] motivates fathers to put their wives and children before careers or hobbies” (102).
  • “Kids also internalize their parents passions. They alone see what or who you really love, and not what you merely pretend to love… Example is the first principle of parenting” (107).
  • “The rebellion against fatherhood is part of a general rebellion against authority and God, and a step toward narcissism” (133).
  • Not addressing issues does not address the “Self-will problem.” It just defers the conflict to another day (146).
  • “If we don’t discipline our children, God will” (171).
  • “Individualism can be the enemy of family devotions” (189).
  • “Unless you love God more than your children, you will not be able to effectively love your children” (199).
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