Brian Haynes, Lead Pastor at Bay Area Baptist Church in League City, Texas, offers a model for parenting called the “legacy path,” which he defines as “an intentional way to lead the next generation to faith in Jesus in the way trodden by others” (3). He goes on to note, “the legacy path changes the culture, as we know it, moving our children and grandchildren toward life in God’s way” (3). From the outset, Haynes admits he is no expert on parenting but rather “a fellow sojourner who is struggling to be a godly, biblically driven, husband and parent” (xiii). Honesty, insight, and biblical obedience characterize this well-written manual on spiritual parenting.
In the beginning chapter, Haynes builds a strong theology of legacy, emphasizing God’s character traits as the master planner, shepherd and guide, and ever-dependable Father. God thus serves as our supreme example for parenting. In chapters two through four, Haynes builds foundational practices for parents to embrace while on the legacy path. Haynes describes the role of parents in the process of the legacy path, describing the spiritually formative practices of unceasing prayer and diligent study of the Scriptures. Haynes rightfully asserts that the main obstacle parents have to overcome in their spiritual leadership of their children is their own mediocre relationship with God (17). The author then describes practices of simplicity, time management, dealing with the issue of stay-at-home parents in an exceptionally realistic manner by acknowledging that this may look different from family to family (37- 38). These practices undergird the legacy path model and create a family environment based on Scripture, prayer, and quality family time.
For Haynes, the legacy path model consists of seven “legacy milestones” which “serve as markers of progres- sion in the spiritual formation journey” (60). When these milestones are attained, “growth is celebrated as praise for how God is working in the person and as motivation to continue on the path” (60). These seven milestones are baby dedication, the child’s commitment to faith in Christ, preparation for adolescence, commitment to sexual purity, passage into biblical manhood or womanhood, high school graduation, and life in Christ once the child has progressed into adulthood. Haynes describes these seven milestones with a heavy emphasis on theology. Haynes weaves personal narratives throughout these sections as he reflects on his experiences with his family and the tensions that they have wrestled with together.
Haynes’ research into original meanings behind words and concepts within Scripture is evident. For
example, Haynes explains that the word for “hate” in Hebrew literally means to be distant. This changes the way we understand a verse such as Exodus 20:5 (6). Haynes also interlaces imagery from the land of Israel throughout his writing, enlightening readers with a better understanding of biblical times and moving beyond traditional Western interpretations of passages.
Haynes deals with sex in a mature and honest way. Milestone three, preparing children for adolescence, offers helpful advice for parents during this crucial time of adolescent development (68-73). Haynes’ section on milestone four, commitment to purity, gives a robust explanation of sexual immorality and even builds a brief theology of sex (78-87). Haynes moves beyond the traditional notion of sexual immorality, noting “purity is multi-dimensional. It is not just physical but it is also mental, emotional, and spiritual” (80). This milestone also emphasizes the importance of the adolescent finding his or her identity in Christ, a necessity in a Christian’s personal spiritual development.
Haynes’ authenticity is evident in The Legacy Path. Haynes acknowledges that he and his wife struggled over whether or not she should stay home and raise the children (38). Also, Haynes deals honestly with the cultural notion that “life is all about you,” noting “when it’s all about you, then you will have sex before marriage…you will get divorced when things are difficult,” and “you will spend money you don’t have on material possessions to find happiness” (71). Surprisingly, Haynes includes a chapter entitled “What If It Doesn’t Work?” which is based on Luke 15 and provides comfort to parents whose children have walked away from the legacy path.
The Legacy Path offers parents a way of parenting that builds on foundations of Scripture, prayer, and family cohesiveness. Haynes doesn’t promise an easy model for parenting, but he does provide a biblical model for doing so. He consistently urges parents to take their time moving through the legacy milestones, emphasizing the tender heart which parents must demonstrate to their children through compassionate and honest discussions.
[Editor's Note: This review originally appeared in the Journal of Discipleship and Family Ministry 2.1]