A review of Ajith Fernando’s book The Family Life of a Christian Leader
Consider Paul’s qualifications for elders in 1 Timothy 3:1–7. An elder must be a “husband of one wife” and one who manages “his own household well”, for if someone can’t manage his own house well, why would God trust him to lead His church?
Ajith Fernando, president of Youth For Christ Sri Lanka, knows this well from several decades of leading ministries and his own family. The contents of this book were forged in the caldron of ministry adversity, providing timeless and life-tested truths from the Scriptures to guide Christian leaders toward faithful family lives.
Fernando skillfully combines a theology of the family and of leadership and also equips readers practically with a well-rounded crash course on the most important topics relating to Christian leaders leading their families. A few of the most helpful portions (and reminders) for me include:
- Seeking first Kingdom individually and as family. Consider how Fernando applies this with prayer, “I believe praying is the most important thing we do on earth. Our children recognize this when they observe the seriousness with which we approach the task of praying. This encourages them to respect and honor God.”
- Living selflessly and bearing my cross as a husband and father (the opposite of our nature and culture). Fernando writes, “In a Christian marriage or church, when there is conflict or disagreement, the end we desire is not victory but unity under the will of God.”
- Practical guidelines for disciplining and instructing children. One such guideline: “We must not forget that discipline is actually an expression of love, and that fact must sine through in our discipline.”
- The importance of prioritizing family fun and traditions for children. Fernando suggests pursuing “holy fun” as a family, side-stepping how sin has hijacked what many consider fun, and pursuing relationship-building activities that faithfully enjoy God’s many good gifts in life. This “holy fun” can also be a great avenue for evangelism and discipleship by inviting others into family activity to model how believers can truly enjoy life and each other without swerving into sinful activity.
Other topics include: Sexual Love, Joy, Disappointment and Pain, Unity, and guidelines for fighting well.
I enjoyed seeing how Fernando applies biblical truth in the Sri Lankan context through various stories and illustrations and was reminded of the challenge of biblically leading family in any culture. His writing is clear, immensely practical, and filled with real-life situations and illustrations to drive home Scriptural truths.
Although my wife and I do not yet have children, I read this book for biblical grounding in what will (Lord willing) be my most vital leadership role: the leader of a family.
I highly recommend this book for every Christian leader, whether a pastor, non-profit ministry leader like Fernando, and even Sunday school teachers. The family plays a vital role in advancing the gospel, and we would all be wise to think through family opportunities and issues in biblically-shaped and gospel-centered ways.
I suspect this book would be most helpful for Christian leaders who didn’t have the best family life growing up. If this is you, instead of defaulting to what your parents did, let Fernando mentor you in leading a godly family. The importance of leading your family well cannot be overstated.
Buy The Family Life of a Christian Leader on Amazon.
I received this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.