My Agrarian Family Vision

Dateline: 10 May 2006

In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, I tell the story of my debt-free home. I tell how I don’t like banks and would never go to one for a loan to build my home. I tell how, twenty-one years ago, my father-in-law, Jay Myers, loaned Marlene and I $10,000 to get a start building our house. And, since then, we have slowly expanded it and worked to get it finished. We are still working at it. Last weekend I got the electrical inspection done in the 12ft by 14ft addition I framed on the back of the house a year ago. Now it is insulated and drywalled and I hope to paint this weekend.

It’s not a big house and it’s not a beautiful house, but it’s solid and looking more respectable as time passes, and it is our home. It sets on only 1.5 acres of land, most of which is woods and gully. My dream is to one day have more land—a farm with our home on it. My boys share in this dream too. A stand of hardwood, some field for pasture, a stream, perhaps even a pond, would be nice. These things would give us more room to establish home-based agrarian enterprises.

I envision my sons, with families of their own, living close by, perhaps even on the same land. I envision the land being held in a family trust. I envision the woodland being wisely and sustainably harvested for generations. I envision grandchildren growing up in this place, loving it, caring for it. It is fun to envision such things.

But that’s just part of the dream. I also dream of owning this land with a home on it debt free! Now there is a dream for you! Some would say it is a pipe dream— especially for a guy like me with a relatively meager job and financial resources.

I do not have a college degree and have never had a high-paying job. Ours is a single income family. Most of our married life, we have struggled to get by. Only in the past 6 years have I had a job that pays steady and relatively well. I have not made stock market investments that returned big bucks, and I have not inherited a lot of money. Years ago, my grandmother indicated to me that I would receive an inheritance from her. When she died a couple years ago, I thought maybe the dream would become a reality, but it did not. As is so often the case, things don’t always work out the way

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a blessed man and I know it full well. The Lord has been good to me and my family and we live the good life here. We have been blessed more than we deserve. I am also a thankful and contented person (read the chapter on contentment in my book for more on that subject). But still, I have this vision and, until the Lord directs me otherwise, I am pursuing it. I am painting the picture of my situation for you here because, in the event that the Lord does “bring us into the new land,” it is going to be a truly remarkable thing.

Some Christians will, upon reading of this, think to themselves that my vision for family land is all wrong. They might think that I should, instead, be doing something like establishing a big evangelical ministry that will win souls to Christ. Or, perhaps, they will think that my focus should be on making lots of money in business or industry so I can support a big evangelical ministry that will win souls to Christ. Or maybe they will think my vision is too worldly and self-centered; that I should do something else, like become a missionary and go to spread the gospel in different lands.

Well, the older I get, the more I see that God works in the hearts of His people in different ways. Some Christians are called to ministry in one way, others in another. All are called to bear witness to the glory of God. With that in mind, it seems to me that a family, anchored by roots that go deep in a rural place, nourished by a simple Christian faith, a faith that is humble, loving, caring, forgiving, and generous, can bring glory to God and build the kingdom of Jesus Christ in a very profound and lasting way.

I have, on more than one occasion, sat in the pew and listened to a preacher say that family can become an idol. The inference being that more parishoners need to get involved in church ministry outreach. I have a problem with that line of reasoning.

While it is certainly possible for family to become an idol, I don’t see that as a big problem in our modern, mainstream culture, or in the modern Christian culture, which, in so many ways, reflects the mainstream.

The much bigger problem is that men and women are neglecting their homes and families to acquire wealth, prestige, some form of greater power, or to pursue personal pleasure. I dare say more men make idols of their career or even their fishing equipment than their family. And let us keep in mind that one can also make an idol out of Christian ministry—even a ministry committed to reaching out and winning souls to Christ.

How many men in Christian ministry put such tremendous energy and effort into their ministry while neglecting to be the fathers they should be to their children? I’ll tell you how many...Lots. How many people in the church, endeavoring to serve the Lord, do so at the expense of their families? Plenty. How many decent people in churches are guilt-manipulated to serve in so many church outreach misistries only to burn out from overcommittment? I’ve seen my share. There must be a balance.

Did God establish the institution of the family in the Old Testament, only to have godly men forsake it in the New Testament? I say no way. We must follow Jesus and tend to the responsibilities of being fathers and mothers to our children. Indeed, to raise our children to know God, to fear Him, to embrace His salvation, to love His word, and to glorify Him all their lives is following Jesus. Everything else falls into place when faith and family are in focus and in balance.

All of which makes me think of something related to this matter... I am not theologically confident—nor theologically arrogant—enough to condemn modernized methods of Christian mass proselytization (i.e. televangelism) because God’s word, even in the hands of emotionally theatric and crass purveyors is still powerful and compelling and it brings lost people to Christ. But so many conversions from the techno-industrial evangelical methods are shallow and short-lived. And, by the way, have you seen “christian” stand-up comedians on the television? I have, and I’m not edified by watching these people. I fail to see how God is glorified by their antics. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

In stark contrast to the mass approach or to church outreach programs run by overcommitted and over stressed mothers and fathers, is that of godly families, living simply on the land, worshiping God in their humble churches and in their daily lives, being good neighbors, being salt and light in their communities. I can’t help but think these people can be a far more sincere, effective and long lasting witness for Jesus Christ now—and in the generations to follow—than so many evangelical outreach schemes.

But, alas, I have digressed from my initial topic. And, oh my, I think I've been much too opinionated. Oh well, In my next blog entry I’ll return to the subject of my family vision and how we are endeavoring to get there from here.


Kansas Milkmaid said...

Amen! This post takes my breath away.
This is a vision that we have too. You make a great point about strong families. It is through strengthing our families that we can make a tremendous impact on the community and nation. I learned this lesson when I was a social worker. I spent so many late nights helping families while my own was alone and neglected. I was banned from telling those families about God-Code of Ethics--Ha, what is ethics without God? Most of the families I helped continued their dysfunctional patterns despite my skill and education or latest therapuetic technique. I realized if I could go home and tend to my family and teach them the ways of the Lord and make a significant effective difference in our community. You are right on Herrick.

Leslie said...

My first marriage failed because my husband was married to his career. It still saddens me to think about that, over a decade later. He was confused by the failure, because he was pursuing success in his career "for the family". He never heard me when I said I'd rather live with him in a tiny trailer than without him in a mansion.

I've seen other people married to church or ministry, too - and they got chastized by the priest for it, thank goodness.

Great observations.

HomesteadHerbs said...

Another loud AMEN!! Building and strengthening the family, while living and teaching the next generation to know, serve and glorify God, will make each successive generation a Godlier generation who will have a positive effect on the community and nation!

I have seen the difference in my children when I contrast myself at their age, and who they are! There is no comparison. They are more mature, better equipped and have more Godly wisdom than I did, and hopefully will not have to struggle with the 'dysfunctions' this generation is struggling with.

Already as a community, many families have been convicted of an agrarian lifestyle. Many have lived and seen the drawbacks/negative effects of a self-pleasing life. I can't help but me amazed and impressed at the children and how they blossom under these new convictions.

Emily said...

Herrick, I believe that if the Lord has given you this vision, He will enable you and provide the means for you to fulfill it.

I so agree with you that as husbands, wives, and parents, our first and most important ministry is to our family, and being that it is the role the Lord has given us, to do otherwise would be disobedience. If there is to be any revival in this nation it must take place FIRST in the hearts and homes of individuals. I am not putting down the mission field but as you point out, too often various ministries have thrived and in the meantime families are left torn asunder while the goal is pursued.

Please, continue to be opinionated! Your voice is a breath of fresh air. May the Lord continue to guide your thoughts and steps as you lead your family.

Scott Terry said...

Amen, Herrick. Very well said, my friend.

Jet Set said...

"Did God establish the institution of the family in the Old Testament, only to have godly men forsake it in the New Testament?"

I can't quote exactly or site specifically, but our Lord did say that he did not come to do away with the old laws, but to teach us how to follow them as was originally intended by his Father.

Herrick, I would have to say that you are spot on here.

Joe said...

As a pastor you are correct. Well written article. We need to hear this in our society today. Thanks