Family life council, helping families in crisis
Wednesday, Jun 13, 2001
By Jon Walker

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--America's families are in trouble, and Southern Baptists are no exception, said Tom Elliff, chairman of the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life.

"Families will not be rescued simply because we hope so," said Elliff, as he reported for the Council before messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention June 12. "Families will not be rescued because we think God owes it to us. Families in America -- and families in our convention -- will be rescued because we decide to do something about it."

Doing something about it is why the Council on Family Life was established at last year's convention amid concerns that Southern Baptist families showed little difference -- statistically -- from the general population. The council's report was a work in progress, with the full report not due until next year's SBC.

Elliff said the council's charge is to present a strategy for how Southern Baptists can not only strengthen their own marriages, but also proclaim to the nation that they are family friendly. He said over the next few months the council would add more members for ethnic and gender diversity.

In a news conference following his report, Elliff said the council's goal is to "provide authentic ministry to people whose lives have been ravaged by the adversary. We want to provide for them the kind of encouragement and the kind of compassion that is typified by the Lord, made possible by his grace and in line with his scriptural principles."

Although the council is still in the discovery stage for making proposals, Elliff said part of its strategy will call for a "specific purpose of the heart" when it comes to applying biblical principles in the home. In addition, the council suggests consistent family devotionals, faithful involvement in a local church, fiscal responsibility and Great Commission activities for everyone in the family.

"There is no more winsome argument for the gospel than a healthy, Christ-centered family," Elliff said.

Noting denominational polity, Elliff said the council cannot demand anything from Southern Baptists, but it will issue a serious call to strengthen marriages, including many practical helps.

As an example, Elliff said the council might inform pastors about premarital counseling techniques that work and those that don't.

"We have put aside authentic Christian faith and substituted it with synthetic Christian faith," Elliff said when asked why Christian families are in as much trouble as the general population. He said it's similar to wearing synthetic clothes; you just don't have to care for them as much.

Regarding alternative lifestyles, Elliff said it's clearly not God's plan that a couple cohabitate. The biblical standard set by Christ would be one man with one woman for life, he said.

Marriage is a covenant, not a contract, Elliff noted. "A contract is based upon mutual distrust," he said. "A covenant is [an agreement] between two people and a holy God."

To illustrate the importance of "purpose of heart," Elliff recalled a story by Michael Hargrove. While waiting at an airport, Hargrove saw a man disembark from a plane and greet his family.

The man took time to affirm each child individually, and then he passionately kissed his wife. Hargrove asked, "How long have you been married?" The man said it had been 12 years.

"I hope my family is a passionately in love as yours after my wife and I have been married 12 years," Hargrove said.

The man replied, "Son, you don't hope for that, you decide."

Elliff said it's time Southern Baptists decide to strengthen the family.
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