Timothy A. Sisemore
Reviewed by: Larry Wilson
Date posted: 02/19/2006
Of Such is the Kingdom: Nurturing Children in the Light of Scripture, by Timothy A. Sisemore. Published by Christian Focus Publications, 2000. Paperback, 192 pages, list price $12.99. Reviewed by editor Larry Wilson.
"Don't judge a book by its cover." I found Of Such Is the Kingdom in the clearance bin at a local bookstore. The title caught my eye, but the cover didn't particularly attract me. The fact that the author, Timothy A. Sisemore, has a doctorate in clinical psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary did not lead me to expect this book to be very helpful. On the other hand, the back cover included endorsements from Edmund Clowney, Charles Dunahoo, Sinclair Ferguson, and Tom Patete. And it was 80% off! So I bought and read it.
What a pleasant surprise! This book is Reformed. In fact, I think it's the best comprehensive overview of Christian nurture of children - both by parents and by churches - that I know of.
Francis Schaeffer lamented that people tend to see things "in bits and pieces," rather than as a coherent, comprehensive whole. This is certainly true when it comes to the Christian nurture of our children. Accordingly, we tend to look for a surefire recipe that guarantees a desired outcome if only we press the prescribed buttons. Then we censure our brethren who follow different recipes. Dr. Sisemore writes, "We in the West are a pragmatic bunch. Tell us how to do it and don't slow us down with explanations. Give us the 'how' and don't bother with the 'why.' As a result, we end up with lots of strategies but are not really sure why they should work. For Christian parents this results in basing our approach to raising children on unexamined assumptions of what we are working with and trying to accomplish. Most often these assumptions are tied to the Bible in some way, but fail to incorporate the 'big picture' of all that Scripture has to say about children and raising them" (p. 39).
Dr. Sisemore instead proposes "to examine the entire teaching of the Bible that relates to children, to systematize it, and use this foundation to develop strategies that more adequately enable us to minister effectively to our children" (p. 18). He does an excellent job in pursuit of that aim. Two chapters look at the challenge of covenant nurture in our current evil age. Six chapters address parents on nurturing children in the Christian home. Five chapters address pastors and church leaders on nurturing children in the church. (Tom Patete says that this section "is worth the price of the book.") The final chapter challenges parents, church officers, and church members to take practical steps toward change.
Of Such Is the Kingdom is doctrinally sound; it reflects the health and balance of biblically Reformed faith and life. It reflects commitment to covenant theology; indeed, it instructs and challenges us to nurture our children in a manner that puts into practice the covenant theology we profess.
Although this book is very readable, it is deceptively simple. Clearly, Dr. Sisemore has done a lot of homework; he has digested a lot of complex material in order to explain it so clearly. Of Such Is the Kingdom reflects submission to God's Word; it keeps pointing to Scripture and not just to tradition. It is pastoral; it takes into account how sin messes things up. For example, he also addresses single parents and families where only one parent is a believer.
This book is hopeful; it keeps directing readers to the sovereign grace of God in Christ. It is kind; even though it reflects awareness of various Christian approaches, and even though it implicitly critiques some of these, it does so in a manner that builds up, rather than tearing down. This book embodies a lot of biblical, practical wisdom.
Dr. Sisemore addresses Christian parenting in a hostile and seductive world: how to educate our children (spiritually and academically); how to cultivate godliness in our children; how to discipline our children; how covenant children are saved; the church's responsibility toward her children; children's involvement in public worship; children and baptism; children and the Lord's Supper; and more.
Of Such Is the Kingdom is an excellent text to use for training parents, church officers, educators, etc., in regard to ministry to covenant children. It would be an ideal text for adult education in a Sunday school quarter. It is relevant to the whole church family. Highly recommended.