Voddie Baucham's big move to Africa
The pastor, father, and speaker talks about his work at home and explains his move to Zambia with his wife and seven of their children
Voddie Baucham is a husband, father, pastor, author, professor, conference speaker, and church planter. He currently serves as pastor of preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, Texas. He’s also served as an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Houston. Whether teaching on classical apologetic issues such as the validity and historicity of the Bible or the resurrection of Christ or teaching on cultural issues, such as gender roles, marriage, and family, he says his goal is to help people understand the significance of thinking and living biblically in every area of life. We had this conversation at an event hosted by Alliance Defending Freedom.
You’ve become well-known within the homeschool community, at least in part because you have nine children in homeschool. How did you decide to homeschool them? I didn’t know anything about homeschooling. I was on staff at a church in Sugarland, Texas, and there was a strong homeschool group there. Our older two children were the only two children we had at the time, and they had started school at the Christian school that was part of our church. I met these homeschoolers, and I was intrigued, mainly because I hadn’t heard about it.
This was around 15 or 20 years ago. Homeschooling was fairly new. Why did you choose it over a Christian school? As I investigated and as I just understood and grasped the concept of taking full ownership of that discipleship mandate, it just became more appealing to me. When I found out what was happening in the home-education community … the idea of being able to tailor education to the needs of our children and to the specific desires of our family just became more appealing to me. The idea of not being sort of burdened down by someone else’s schedule and agenda and even curriculum, those things just became more and more appealing to me. Those are the things that began to lead us in that direction.
You’ve since become a very passionate advocate for homeschooling, and you’ve also become a passionate advocate for dads taking responsibility for their families, right? It’s interesting; I always make a joke. I said, “If you’ve been in pastoral ministry more than 15 minutes, you know that the No. 1 prayer request for married women in the church is that my husband will be the spiritual leader of our home.” Guys in pastoral ministry just start nodding their heads, like, “Yep, that’s the truth. That’s the yearning desire of Christian women.” There’s a dearth of leadership in Christian homes in terms of men doing and being what they’re called to do and be. That’s connected to a real lack of understanding among men of what that job description looks like, connected with some elements of the feminist movement that have sort of demonized even the very word patriarch itself. You bring all these things together, and you’ve got men who don’t know what to do, don’t know how to do it, and aren’t too sure that it’s okay to do it. Of course, the result of that is homes that aren’t being led by fathers.
What should men be doing? If you could give just a couple of minutes’ worth of advice to men, what would it be? In the book What He Must Be If He Wants to Marry My Daughter … I boil it down to the four Ps: priest, prophet, provider, protector. [He should be] the spiritual leader, the one who is the priest or intercessor for his family; the one who’s the prophet, the one who’s the instructor in his family; the provider, the one who sees that his family has what they need; and the protector, the one who puts himself between his family and anyone or anything that would do them harm.
More and more men are extending childhood into their late 20s, early 30s, and sometimes even beyond. What’s causing that, in your opinion? Is this a failure of the church? Is this a strategy of Satan? Is this the corrosive influence of the culture? It’s all of those things conspiring together. We don’t expect much from men, and for a long time, we’ve tried to convince our children that there are no differences between men and women. What that creates is passivity in men. Men don’t know if it’s okay to pull out a chair or open a door anymore, so what do they do? They stand there, and they don’t do anything. I think this passivity is a byproduct of all of those things that you mentioned. We’ve failed to instruct, and we failed to stand firm in the face of opposition. The result of it is men who just really have been neutered in many ways.
Is that one of the reasons why you wanted to homeschool your kids, so you could set them on the right path? Education is discipleship. Whomever is educating our children is discipling our children. Jesus said, “A pupil is not above his teacher, but everyone, when he is fully trained, will be like his teacher.”
What should we be teaching our young men to keep them from arrested development? I think we need to be teaching them biblical manhood. I think we need to be teaching them the four Ps. I think, early on, we need to help them understand when they are boys that they are actually preparing to be husbands and fathers. You say that, and people go, “Well, wait a minute. What if they don’t end up being husbands and fathers?” Well, if you prepare a man to be a husband and father, to be a priest, prophet, provider, and protector, and God doesn’t give him a wife, you’ve lost nothing. But if you don’t prepare him to be those things and God does give him a wife, which happens over 90 percent of the time, you’ve lost a great deal.
Some of the issues that we’ve been talking about relative to manhood are more acute in the black community these days. Is the solution the same? Yeah, for a number of reasons. I think number one is that there’s a 72 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate in the black community, and fathers are vitally important. We know this from all of the social sciences. We know that when you talk about incarceration rates, drop-out rates, when you talk about rates of violence, when you talk about criminal activity and all of these things, that fatherlessness is an indicator for all of these things.
I remember Martin Luther King Jr. saying the most segregated hour in America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning. From where you sit as a black pastor, are things getting better or worse? Things are incredibly better. They’re not turning dogs on black people and fire hoses on black people. Things are better, for sure, but I think there are people who have a vested interest in things not being better, or at least a vested interest in not allowing people to acknowledge the fact that things are getting better. The racial-grievance industry is a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Are you talking about people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? Absolutely. Not just them, but also other organizations like the NAACP and others that raise millions upon millions of dollars based on the idea that things are bad and they’re going to get worse unless we have these organizations leading the way. When you have a multi-billion-dollar industry committed to communicating to people that no matter what you see, things are bad, they’re worse than they’ve ever been, people are going to believe that to a large degree, but yeah, things are better.
What about in the church? Whenever I go to meetings like this, for example, they’re still overwhelmingly white. There seems to be a lot of angst about needing to reach out to African-Americans and other minorities. Is that misplaced? You see an event like this, and white people come in, and there are just a few black people, and there is that angst. There’s that sense of, what do we have to do? But you go to an event that’s predominantly black, and my experience has been that angst is not there. The black people are not sitting around going, “What do we have to do in order to change this?”
So we should just not worry about it? I’ve had conversations with pastors in the middle of places like Nebraska and Wyoming, where there just aren’t very many ethnicities. They bemoan the fact that their churches don’t look very diverse, but their churches are healthy. They’re welcoming to all people. They’re not being openly negative, offensive, or unwelcoming. They’re not rejecting people. It’s not a sin problem where they’re saying, “You’re not welcome here,” but still there’s that angst. I don’t think that’s healthy at all. I think what we need to do is we need to make sure that we search ourselves and know that we’re committed to doing and being everything that we can do and everything that we can be within the community that God has given us, to reach all of the people that God would send us and not sit there and say, “Oh, I’m sad because the soul of this person that was saved was this color on the outside versus that color on the outside.”
Now, if we have a problem of not being welcoming, if we have a problem of racism within our churches, then that’s sin, and it needs to be dealt with, and it needs to be repented of, but if you’re talking about diversity for diversity’s sake, that’s not healthy.
You’re an adjunct faculty member at Reformed Theological Seminary. The black church tradition in America usually seems more Wesleyan or non-Reformed. Is that fair to say? No. Thabiti Anyabwile wrote a book tracing the historical roots of the Reformed movement among blacks in America. It was surprising to many people to know that hasn’t always been the case. There are more black Reformed thinkers, pastors, theologians than you would probably know. … The fact of the matter is, there are not a lot of Reformed people, period, black or white. There are fewer Reformed people than most people think because most people think if you’re a Calvinist, then you’re Reformed. That’s only a part of the puzzle.
What’s the core of Reformed theology for you? For me, the three Cs: Calvinistic, covenantal, and confessional. Ironically, the earliest Baptist confessions are Reformed Baptist confessions. Our church is a Second London Baptist Confession church. … Our roots and our heritage are Reformed. We are the radical Reformers. We reformed on baptism when our Presbyterian brothers left off there, so we would argue that we’re actually more reformed than Presbyterians are. That’s our roots.
You played football at the college level, but you’re reluctant to talk about it. Why? There is a temptation to do that. There is a temptation to make our ministry about us and about our story. I had to come out of that. I had to learn that there’s a story that I’ve been called to tell, and it’s not my story. It’s Christ’s story.
You’ve been going to Zambia for a number of years, and now you’ve made the decision to move to Zambia with your family. I went for the first time seven years ago. Paul Washer, a dear friend of mine, told me about the work there among the Reformed Baptists of Zambia. … I went and preached at a conference that they do annually at the end of every August, a pastors’ conference and family conference. I came back seven years ago, and I told my wife, “I think I want to be buried there.” It was so incredibly impactful, and the compatibility between the work to which God has called me, the preparation that God has given me, and the needs in that place, as well as many other things, have really just sort of caused it to be a priority for me for the last seven years. … My wife and I and our seven youngest children were there this August, and it just became evident to us that now is the time. We submitted that to our church and to our eldership to see what the Lord would say through them and whether or not they would confirm that this is what the Lord would have us to do.
Tell me about African Christian University, what the opportunity is and what you’ll be doing there. African Christian University, and you can find them at acu-usa.com, is the brainchild of the Reformed Baptists of Zambia, who for the last 25 years have seen, in my opinion, the most fruitful indigenous work that I know of anywhere. They’ve planted 25 to 30 churches, raising up and training pastors who are doing … an incredibly fruitful and faithful ministry. This university is an outgrowth of that and the seminary an outgrowth of that. Their influence has grown throughout that region, and people throughout the continent are beginning to come to them and ask for their help to do in other places what God has done in Zambia.
What do you like to do for fun? I’m a competitive martial artist. I train and compete in Brazilian jiu-jitsu. It’s also really kind of the principal outreach for me, as well. I tell people all the time that when I started BJJ, for the first time in a long time, I actually had friends that weren’t Christians. I mean friends, not just people that I see sometimes, but people that I share blood, sweat, and tears with on the mat and go and compete with as a team. … There’s nothing like hand-to-hand, man-to-man combat, and I enjoy it.
It is appointed unto man once to die and after that the judgment, the Bible says. What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone? That I made much of Christ. That’s what I want the judgment to be, that I made much of Christ.
Listen to Warren Smith’s full interview with Voddie Baucham on Listening In.
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