A few months ago I was contacted by Julie Ferwerda, who asked if I would review a book she had recently written -- One Million Arrows: Raising Your Children to Change the World. After some consideration I agreed, and eagerly dove into the book when it arrived in the mail shortly afterwards.
If I had to describe the book in one word, I think I'd have to pick "challenging." I wasn't sure what to expect, but what I find inside was timely, direct, and convicting. The book primarily emphasizes the importance of visionary parenting -- parenting that focuses on training children to serve in God's kingdom.
Looking around at modern Evangelicalism, it's easy to see that there's a problem with the current "system" of raising children. Most Christian teenagers in America blend in with their secular contemporaries, and the church is losing more and more of its children as they grow up and head off to college. As One Million Arrows points out, "The Enemy wishes nothing more than to coax our kids, if not into rebellion, into pursuing passionless, insignificant, and potentially empty lives. As long as he can hamstring them with apathy, he need not worry about them doing damage to his kingdom." (pg. 21-22)
Using the Biblical imagery of Godly children being arrows in the hands of Godly parents, Julie Ferwerda shows just how important it is to capture the hearts of children for Christ -- our children's hearts, and also the hearts of millions of abandoned, homeless, and impoverished children. She contends that "the ultimate goal for all arrows of God is that wherever they land, they produce mortal wounds against the Enemy of darkness -- wounds of light, love, truth, and life. This is exactly the pictures God had in mind when He referred to our children as arrows in the hands of a Warrior!" (pg.27)
One Million Arrows lays the responsibility for raising and training children squarely on the shoulders of parents, which is exactly where it belongs. It claims that being "good parents" (giving your children clothes, food, and a good education) is simply not enough; in fact parents who give their children only material advantages are missing out on their most important Biblical responsibilities, as stated in Psalm 78:4-8:
"We will not hide them from their children, but to the generation to come we will show the praise of the Lord, His power also, and His wonderful works that He hath done: How He established a testimony in Jacob, and ordained a Law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should teach their children: That the posteristy might know it, and the children, which should be born, should stand up, and declare it to their children. That they might set their hope on God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments: And not to be as their fathers, a disobedient and rebellious generation: a generation that set not their heart aright and whose spirit was not faithful unto God. " (1599 Geneva Bible)
Mrs. Ferwerda does not stop at telling parents what they should be doing; she gives practical suggestions for how to fulfill their responsibilities. Using the examples of parents who have done this (such as the Tebow and Harris families), she analyzes what these families have done and how it has positively impacted their children -- and through their children, the world. Just what is the distilled "formula?" According to One Million Arrows, "Training = teaching + modeling + accountability." (pg. 70) In other words, warriors for Christ don't just happen; they are the result of faithful, intentional parenting.
One of the points I appreciated most was the author's emphasis on the home. As she puts it, "I believe when parents have the mindset of making arrows instead of just raising good and happy kids, the results speak for themselves. When we take to heart that the home -- not the church, not the youth programs, not the Christian school -- is the Great Commission Training Center, the lives of our kids are truly impacted soul deep.... We can't leave the real spiritual training of our kids up to anybody else." (pg. 70-71)
So much for our own children. But beyond that, there are millions of children throughout the world who desperately need both physical and spiritual help. One Million Arrows pleads their case, pointing out the importance of reaching children and training them up to be arrows for Christ. However, Mrs. Ferwerda identifies four excuses that keep people from reaching out as they should (pg. 88-89):
~ Inadequacy (how can one person make a difference?)
~ Lack of call to the mission field
~ Fears that money will not really go to help children
~ "Good" old American-style selfishness
As she goes on to point out, none of these excuses are acceptable or reasonable; when it comes to something as important as this, excuses will not do!
The "mission" of raising Godly children involves sacrifice -- it is not an easy task. Giving up time, money, and personal dreams is not appealing to any fallen human. However, the spiritual rewards far outweigh any temporary earthly sacrifices. While One Million Arrows does not use the "guilt trip" approach, it is simultaneously shaming and motivating.
As with any human "production," I have my quibbles -- I differ slightly from the book's interpretation of eschatology (I don't believe that by obeying God in this area we can somehow "hurry" His second coming; His plan is complete and not dependent on us), but to me these are minor details that in no way detracted from my reading of the book. When it comes to identifying the problems with modern Christian parenting and offering solutions, One Million Arrows scores exceptionally well! Any Christian (parent or not) who can come away from this book without feeling the urgency and importance of furthering the kingdom of Christ must be strange indeed. I can only hope that the message of One Million Arrows -- which is no more and no less than the message of Scripture with regard to children -- will be heeded throughout the modern evangelical world.