I have to admit I was initially turned off reading this book due to the very casual writing style early in the book. If I recall correctly, much of the early section of the book was adapted from presentations Wilkinson has given to large groups. In that setting, the familiar style probably worked better. But I really got tired of sentences being punctuated by “friend” so frequently. However, I’m glad I kept reading because Wilkinson offers up some great advice in this book.
The book is divided into three main sections. The first (and largest) section of the book talks about individual faith. The second talks about marriage and the third explores relationships between parents and their children.
Wilkinson says there are three types of faith: the First Chair, Second Chair, and Third Chair. As you might imagine, the First Chair believer is the one who is all in. As Wilkinson describes it, “First Chair living is anchored in a person’s whole intellect, will, and heart.” The Second Chair believer sounds like an accurate description for many of us; this person has committed to belief in Christ but is inconsistent and often compromises with the world around him or her. As Wilkinson says, “The Second Chair person has God on the tip of his tongue but self on the throne of his heart.” Meanwhile, a Third Chair person has not personally committed to faith in Christ, although they may be immersed in something Wilkinson calls “churchianity” – surrounding oneself with the trappings of faith (such as church attendance) but not having a personal relationship with Christ.
Wilkinson’s goal in this book is to help the reader move into First Chair faith. He uses Biblical examples of men from these different chairs to illustrate the impact our position has on our relationship with God and those around us. He also then gives an example of each chair from modern life. He has a good discussion about how goals differ from these different chairs and does a nice job of showing the slippery slope of compromise.
Most of Wilkinson’s target audience would likely identify themselves as Second Chair Christians, under the rubric he proposes. It is of some note, then, when Wilkinson says, “From personal experience I can tell you the most unhappy, frustrated, stressed, and disillusioned people in the world are not non-Christians as you might expect, but Second Chair people who know Christ yet who fight Him and His leadership for years and even decades.”
Wilkinson spends significant time explaining the effects of being a Second Chair Christian and then begins to work toward a solution by proposing a series of questions to work through in order to gain a better understanding of lordship in our lives. The primary tool he recommends is confronting personal sin, and he devotes significant time to discussing how to confront these sins in our lives. He also offers practical tips for recognizing recurring sin and developing a strategy to avoid remaining ensnared by it.
He says there are two primary motives at the root of sin:
- We seek the pleasure that comes from that sin, and
- We seek the absence of pain that is the immediate source of our temptation to commit that sin.
He then begins to turn the book toward personal relationships, noting that 70% of “our inner conflict” results from unforgiveness. This leads him to a discussion of marriage that at first felt a bit out of place in the book, but seemed appropriate once I got a little further in. Of course, he talks about having a First Chair marriage, too, and he spends some energy discussing how a marriage should look. He addresses the roles of husbands and wives. Although he generally espouses traditional headship and helper roles (with a good bit of clarification since there is such misunderstanding in public discussion), he also cites Scriptural authority for the wife to rule her household. He also discusses what he calls the “The Seven Stages of Marital Slide” and calls on men and women to find joy in their marriages. He had a great personal example from his life of taking a year away from ministry to focus on his marriage and his wife because his wife confronted him on the fact he had prioritized his ministry over her. This section led to a very nice discussion on restoring marital oneness.
He then moved on to discussing being a First Chair parent. By now, I was looking forward to the advice he would offer in this section. He exhorts parents to raise godly kids, not just good kids, and he makes good use of a sports metaphor to explain how critical it is that we pass along true faith to our children.
A relay event has always struck me as a powerful illustration of parenting. Success for us as mom and dad isn’t just about how well we run as individuals, but about how well we pass the baton. And only when the story of the generations who follow us is told will our “win” at raising godly kids be known.
Wilkinson goes on to discuss different parenting styles and the effects these styles can have on our children, and he proposes seven steps to raising godly children. He spends the last chapter explaining that pain in a child’s heart can haunt them as adults, so he suggests an approach in order to deal with this sort of “heart wound.”
Overall, the guidance in the book is good, and I certainly felt much better about the book when I finished it than earlier when I was frustrated so many statements ended with a causal address. On the whole, I recommend the book, and there are some sections that are particularly strong. If you want to check out the first few pages of the book, you can do so for free at Amazon.
Disclosure – I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.