Q. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.
A. I was raised in the mountains of Western North Carolina as an only child. My parents both worked outside the home, so I spent a good amount of time with my grandparents. My dad’s parents were farmers and my mom’s parents served in the local church as pastor/wife until retirement. My father was a superintendent in the industrial maintenance field, and my mom worked for many years in the textile industry. My parents and I spent lots of time together attending sports events or traveling to a nearby city for a special shopping trip or dinner, but mostly our lives revolved around church involvement and activities.
Q. Tell me about the Christian heritage your parents and grandparents passed on to you.
A. As you can imagine, my grandfather who was a pastor influenced my family and me tremendously. In fact, five of his grandsons became pastors, including me. Two important family memories are the unity in our immediate and extended family and the deep connection between what we experienced in worship and everyday life. My parents had deep integrity, and I did not need to look past their lives to understand what was truly important.
Q. Your new book is called From Generation to Generation: Building a Godly Legacy. What do you mean by “legacy”? How does it differ from an inheritance?
A. Legacy is an important word to me. It is easy to be caught up in our culture’s obsession with building and leaving an inheritance of money and material goods. In the busyness of life, Christ’s followers must understand that, while an inheritance consists of things (houses, land, money, possessions) we leave for loved ones, a legacy is what we instill in them. It is unlikely that many people living today can remember my grandfather’s sermons or my grandmother’s testimonies, but enumerable people have been impacted by their five grandsons who have served as pastors and the family members who have served as leaders in their churches, workplaces, and communities.
When our time on earth ends, our degrees, positions of service, and recognitions will be meaningless. Each person’s legacy will be evident not by our personal accomplishments but by our intentional investment in others. We must ask the right questions. Was I an effective steward of the people God placed in my life, those He called me to influence for Him and His glory? Did I take advantage of God-given opportunities to pour into my family, or was I distracted by my pursuit of positions and possessions?
Q. Why did you write this book?
A. I have a great concern that contemporary culture offers little encouragement to those who choose to prioritize building a spiritual legacy over personal comfort and self-gain. Few will stand and applaud parents and grandparents who choose to live according to eternal truths and principles that are contrary to popular opinion and practice. The drumbeat to which society marches emanates from the prince of this world, and he desires to damage and destroy all that is good and godly.
Recent studies indicate that more than 65% of children who grow up attending church will walk away from their faith before they graduate from college. When a few years of higher education can dismantle 18 years of church attendance, as Barney Fife would so eloquently say, “We have a situation on our hands.” Of course, some of the wanderers later return. But my experience has shown that many of those who return are drawn to the institution of the Church rather than to Christ.
My heart in writing the book is to encourage and challenge parents, grandparents, and anyone else who has the opportunity to impact the next generations to take seriously our role in shaping the future. I hope others will learn from my experience how God has uniquely positioned their lives and wants to use them to honor Him and bless the next generations.
Q. What would you tell someone who hasn’t been the recipient of a spiritual legacy?
A. If there has never been a clear spiritual direction in your family, perhaps you are thinking you have been “cheated” by your ancestors because they did not intentionally invest spiritual truths in your life when you were young. Maybe your family was once strong spiritually but that covenant of faith has been broken along the way.
Be encouraged that your family’s spiritual legacy can begin with you. If there has been brokenness or lack of legacy, God does not intend for you to feel remorse, anger, or guilt. He desires for you to find hope and courage as you surrender your life and family to His agenda. Claim the truth of Jeremiah 29:11 that God has a hope and a future for your family that is far greater than you could ever ask or imagine. Commit your life to following Christ and allow Him to instruct your children and grandchildren through you.
Q. What do you wish you had known about building a legacy when your children/grandchildren were younger?
A. Wow, there is so much I wish I had known. Of course, I believe God designed us to grow. Many times, the only way to know more is to experience more and learn from our successes and failures. So, don’t feel overwhelmed with all that leaving a legacy demands; learn to commit each day and each conversation, decision, situation to the Lord and allow Him to give you the wisdom you lack (James 1:5).
When I reflect on my early years as a parent, a few things stand out as lessons I wish I had learned more quickly. First, life is much shorter than we realize. It seemed that before I knew it, my preschooler was entering college, and I was wondering how time had passed so quickly. Live in the moment more, cherish each day, and do not be distracted by the past or the future. Plan well, but do not get so caught up in what will be that you miss what is happening now!
Second, understand that it really does matter how we live in front of others, especially our family. Scripture challenges us that “whatever you do in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). I missed a myriad of opportunities to impact my children, because I was distracted by my own agenda.
Finally, understanding what is important is monumental. Too often, I focused on things that were minor and failed to give adequate priority to what had eternal consequences for my children. Fight the right battles. Do not lose your influence in your children’s lives because you didn’t recognize what mattered.
Q. Is there hope for parents or grandparents who have not always been the best spiritual role model for their family?
A. It is never too late to do the right things. God loves your children and grandchildren even more than you do and wants the best for them spiritually. He always stands ready to join us in repairing damage we may have done to relationships. He can give us wisdom and courage to admit our mistakes to our family, ask for their forgiveness, and help us begin living in ways that honor Him and bless our descendants.
Q. What are some practical things people can do to start investing in the next generations?
A. Here are a few suggestions:
*Ask God to help you see your children and grandchildren the way He does. Doing so will help you focus more on what really matters and what will have the most lasting impact on their lives.
*Ask God to make you sensitive to teachable moments. Young people do not respond to lectures as well as they learn from everyday moments and conversations. One of the prayers I pray is “God, help me see others the way you see them, hear their words the way you hear them, and respond in a way that honors you and blesses them.”
*Intentionally teach them the Word of God. As you spend time in God’s Word daily, He will give you words from His Word for your children and grandchildren. Because “the Word of the Lord stands forever,” it is vital to our descendants’ future spiritual health that we invest God’s Word in them. In the book, we share several specific ways to integrate Scripture into your child’s life.
*Pray, pray, pray! Scripture encourages us to pray about all things, and certainly our family members are at the top of the list. It is crucial that we pray for them in specific ways. Again, we share a number of those ways in the book.
From Generation to Generation: Building a Godly Legacy is available here.