Born to Bless
About the Guest
On the broadcast today, Dennis Rainey asks the Reverend Bryan Carter and his wife, Stephanie, what they've seen occur in the lives of their parishioners after Bryan preached a four-part series on "Honoring Your Parents" at his church.
Bryan Carter talks about preaching a four-part series on “Honoring Your Parents” at his church.
Born to Bless
Bob: Is it possible that you've placed your mom or your dad on an impossibly high pedestal? Bryan Carter says most of us have.
Bryan: We blame our parents for everything because you expect your parent to be perfect, and when the parent lets you down, it's more painful than a spouse, it's more painful than a friend, because you expect those that brought you into this world to care for you. When they don't, it's a deep, deep wound.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, November 22nd. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Is it possible to honor your parents when one of them has let you down? Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. You've been quoted in sermons before. You've had pastors all around the country who will read something in one of your books or read something you've written, and they'll quote you. You've had pastors who have recommended resources that you've written to their congregation to read. But I don't know that you've ever had anybody really park it and preach it on something you've written the way that our guest today did in his church. Do you think?
Dennis: I doubt it. Bryan Carter is a pastor in South Dallas, and he not only took a challenge that I gave him personally, but he took it a step up, a step further, and preached a four-part series on honoring your parents, and, of course, he's the pastor of Concord Church there in South Oak Cliff, and Bryan and his wife, Stephanie, join us again on FamilyLife Today. Welcome back, you guys. We're thrilled you guys have joined us this week and, Stephanie, we're looking forward to seeing the tribute that you're going to write your parents here in the coming 12 months. It's going to be fun to maybe have you back on the program and this time kind of switch the microphones. Instead of interviewing Bryan, we're going to interview you.
Stephanie: No pressure, no pressure.
Bob: You are on the hook, sister, you're on the hook.
Dennis: Bryan, you pastor a church of more than 3,500 people, as I mentioned, and you decided to do a series of sermons on honoring your parents. Why did you decide to do that? Share those reasons with our listeners.
Bryan: As I was working through the process of writing my own tribute, I preached a message on Father's Day entitled, "Honoring the Empty Chair." And after preaching that message …
Bob: Hang on, what's the empty chair? What did you mean by that?
Bryan: I meant when you have a function, and you look out there, and the chair is empty that should be filled by your father, but he's not there. So that's what I meant by that.
Bob: Okay. So you were talking about how do you honor your father if your father was absent or if you don't even know who your father was.
Bryan: Or if he was there physically but not there emotionally or spiritually, okay? And after preaching the message, I got so much response in terms of e-mails, feedback, it just kind of blew me away.
Dennis: This was a single message that you preached.
Bryan: This was a single message.
Dennis: And, generally, what was the response? What did they contact you about?
Bryan: I had one member contacted me and just told me thank you for helping me to look at my father. Because it was still based on the whole honoring concept, but it was how do you honor somebody that has let you down? And we talked about how to focus on what they did right. And so this particular member wrote me – it was a long letter, but it detailed how his father let him down, how he had been disappointed, but he understood now through this message that God was beginning to turn his heart to forgiveness.
A young lady in the church also wrote me another me about it as well – she said "I appreciate you helping me to see how God views this. That although he didn't measure up to my standards, I still have to honor him because God placed him in my life."
And so I was just shocked at the tape sales that Sunday as well as the response I got from it.
Bob: So you decided, we're going to unpack this a little bit more.
Bryan: I decided I would. After writing my own tribute and watching how that tribute helped me to work through my issues with my father, I said, "You know what? I'm not the only one that needs this. I believe there are others who need it." And so I led my staff through it. And so they read the book, "The Best You Can Ever Give Your Parents." We talked through it, they began to work on tributes, and then I told them, I said, "My plan is, shortly before Father's Day, I want to walk the church through a series on honoring your father and your mother."
Dennis: Now, this is an issue for churches across America. I mean, there's no single church has a corner on empty chairs. But for the African-American community, this has really been an epidemic over more than one generation.
Bryan: Yes, it has, particularly for the African-American community. I mean, it's an issue across, but ever since slavery, even through the civil rights movement, we have entered an age where some have called it, America has been a fatherless generation. And we have so many single-parent families, and many of those are with a father that's not absent. Because of the fact that manhood has not been defined the way it needs to be in our culture at times. And so it's a big issue.
Dennis: And so as you stepped off into the issue, you preached not one sermon but four. And what did you decide to preach on and how did you decide to address it?
Bryan: I struggled with it, because I had to find a title for the series that would keep people coming to church. So I called the series, "The Gift That Keeps Giving," because I said, "Okay, they won't quite know what this means, and so they'll keep coming, although this is a subject they may not be that much interested in because of the struggle that's associated with that.
Bob: Well, and the truth is that the gift of honor does keep on giving, because the Bible says …
Bryan: It does.
Bob: You honor your parents, God gives back blessings to you.
Bryan: Exactly, exactly. It's blessings on both sides. It's a two-way street. So the first message I preached was actually entitled that – "The Gift That Keeps Giving," and we went to Exodus, and we dealt with what does the Bible say about honoring your father and your mother. And also some principles – we talked about the pattern of dishonor in Scripture from Noah's sons to so on and so forth, just numerous examples in Genesis where constantly the parents were dishonored. And so based on that, we talked about how to break that cycle of dishonor.
Dennis: Now, tell me, Reverend Carter, as you were preaching this sermon on "The Gift That Keeps on Giving," and you were talking about dishonoring your parents, were there a lot of "amens" and "preach it, brother," or was the place kind of uncharacteristically quiet?
Bryan: It was quiet. It was a tough message to preach – probably one of the toughest series I have dealt with, to date.
Dennis: And why would you say that?
Bryan: Because we blame our parents for everything, and that's just how we are, and we talk about how they let us down, and how they didn't do this. The pain of a parent is so great because you expect your parent to be perfect, and when the parent lets you down, it's more painful than a spouse, it's more painful than a friend, because you expect your parent to be there for you. You didn't choose to be born. And so you expect those that brought you into this world to care for you. When they don't, it's a deep, deep wound.
Dennis: Stephanie, do you remember sitting out there as he preached?
Stephanie: Yes, and it was quiet, and it was like an eerie quiet, but you had to realize that it was the type of message where it was a listening message. It was a message where you evaluated your own relationship with your parents, and you could see people just how they were, like, "Oh, wow, I never thought about that," or how I treat my parents, and "I thought I treated my parents pretty well, but I need to do more."
Bob: It was one of those series where the preacher goes from preaching to meddling. You know what I'm saying?
Bryan: Sure, sure, yeah.
Bob: And you were poking around at some pretty sore areas, some pretty tender areas in people's lives, as you're trying to teach the Word of God to them. You said it was a tough series to preach, I'm sure that's part of the reason, but did you have any folks who came back and said, "Now, pastor, you know, I'm not sure you're right on this."
Bryan: There was a mixture. There was some after the first sermon, they told me of how they called their parents in the car on the way home and talked for 30 minutes. There were some who had a re-commitment to reconnect to their parents. There were others that I received a note after church, and she struggled because she said, "You know, my mother has been abusive to me." And I told her, I said, "Just stay with me. Just stay through the series, and let's see what God does during the series and the conference."
Because the next Sunday was "Forgiving Your Parents," and I knew there would be a drop in our attendance that day. I said I know – the church was packed.
Dennis: It was packed?
Bryan: It was packed on that – that sermon – I advertised, they knew what was coming, it was packed. I was shocked. But it just shows how much we want to deal – we may not say it publicly, but it shows how much we want to deal with it if somebody would help us through it. And so we walked through Scripture, and we tried to talk about how do you forgive your parents?
Dennis: You know, here is where the Scriptures are the spoken Word of God and the authority to today's culture. I mean, we want to punish our parents, we don't want to forgive them. But you called them to that higher standard of forgiveness. What happened on that Sunday when you called them to forgive? Did you have an altar call at that point at the end of that message for people to do some business?
Bryan: At the end of the service, we did have a time of prayer to ask God to help us to mend our hearts, to heal our hearts, so that we can be reconnected with our fathers and with our mothers.
It was a special day because you were challenged, but you knew you weren't alone, and I need to tell you this – the conclusion of the message was a testimony from one of our members. This particular member, his father had been distant most of his life – hear the message preached by my predecessor by D.K. Bailey about forgiveness. He wrote a letter to his father, poured out his heart to his father. Eventually went to visit his father and had hated his father most of his life just because of his absence.
And when he went to visit his father, he told his father, "I forgive you," and he ended up leading his father to the Lord. Eventually, their relationship began to grow; it never was perfect. I went to the funeral, and when he stood up to talk about his dad, he told the story of how he forgave his father and how he could stand at this funeral service, although his father had not met all the expectations, although his father had not been there for all the times that he wanted him to be there, but he had forgiven his father as a believer, and he also had the joy of knowing he led his father to the Lord. And that's how the sermon ended – is it possible, and I played this clip of this member telling his testimony about how God gave him the strength to forgive his father.
Bob: When somebody takes a biblical message like that and wraps flesh on it, and you see not just a theoretical, but you see it lived out, that's powerful. I'm sure there were people who left that second Sunday and now they were at a crossroads – am I going to do business or am I just going to continue keeping on keeping on, right?
Bryan: Mm-hm, yeah, of course.
Bob: You came back on the third Sunday, and what did you preach on that third Sunday?
Bryan: "The Gift of Understanding."
Bob: And that had been key in your own journey when you came to understand the context of your father's life, it opened up a whole new relationship for you with your dad.
Bryan: It did, and it had the same impact on many who heard the message – that they had never walked in their parents' shoes. They understood their father and their mother on their terms, but they never saw, living in the '60s or living in the '70s, and having to deal with the struggle. They'd never thought about what kind of home life their parents had. Did your father have a father? Or how did your mother's mother treat her?
I mean, that message, I think, opened so many eyes. They grew up in the civil rights movement era, so how does that impact the things and the choices they had to make. And so I think that again began to help us to again connect with who our parents really were or who our parents really are.
Dennis: Bryan, you were about, what, 30 years of age when you gave that message?
Dennis: That's a pretty young man to stand before the elders of the church and give such a challenge. I mean, you're cutting – as Bob said earlier – you're cutting to the quick where people have been hurt profoundly. Did you sense people folding their arms? Putting their arms across their chest a little bit, pushing back? Or did you sense that they were open to what the hospital had to say to each of them?
Bryan: I think some had been so hurt they just wanted some source of healing, and if this will give me some type of relief from some of the pain that I'm experiencing, that I won't even talk about his name, I don't even acknowledge his existence. Can you help me find some type of healing in the midst of what I am struggling with? If not for me, for my children? And so I think with time– I think that's one of the reasons it took four weeks, and then we added a conference afterwards, because it took so much time just for people to soften their hearts and even consider it, in some cases, that it just took that time for them to be softened to what God was trying to say to them.
Bob: What was the content of the fourth message you gave?
Bryan: The fourth message was "How To Bless Your Children." So I turned the table and went from focusing on the adult child to now focusing on the parent, and how a parent and adult children can relate better to each other.
Bob: So you were talking to older parents and saying, "You can still play a part in getting this right?"
Bryan: Yeah, exactly.
Bob: And you followed all of that up by a service where people came and just gave testimony.
Bryan: Exactly. We had a conference that lasted for three days, and the final night of the conference was a tribute service. So for three nights, we had general assemblies and small groups, and then those who had finished their tributes agreed to read their tributes in front of the church on that Wednesday night.
Dennis: And what took place on that Wednesday night, I mean, was that a powerful …
Bryan: Oh, incredible. I mean, the tears were flowing all night long, but there was so much power in the room because you heard adults from the age of 60 to the age of maybe in their 20s. Some parents were alive, some were deceased, some were present, some had been absent, but regardless of situation, you heard people honor their parents as they shared, "This is what my mother meant to me," "This is what my father meant."
Dennis: Bryan, there is undoubtedly a person right now who has listened to you all this week, and they've heard God's work in your heart as you work through your own relationship with your dad and then your mom and your grandmother and wrote tributes to all three of them. But they're still on the fence and haven't decided to go ahead and step off the fence. We both know Stephanie, your wife, has already gotten off the fence. She is now on the line.
Bob: She's committed.
Dennis: She's committed to writing the tribute.
Stephanie: I'm in the web.
Dennis: But I wonder if you'd give a challenge to a person who is wondering if the risk and the fear and working through all the stuff is worth it.
Bryan: I would challenge anyone who has not honored your mother, father, stepfather, stepmother, guardian, whomever it may be, to answer God's call and to get the book and to do a written tribute to them. If they're living, it's a great opportunity to do so; if they're not, you still can do it. Do it for your own relationship with God. There are some things that God wants to do in our lives, but it's only through working through relationships that we begin to really see him in the proper light. So I challenge you to do it.
I challenge you to maybe talk to your pastor or someone to get some assistance with it, but the blessings on the other side outweigh anything that you may be dealing with now. When we harbor regret and anger toward others, it does more damage to our souls, we pass it on to our children, and it's just not worth it.
But I want to challenge you to get started today. Get the book so you'll have some guidance, but just start doing it so you can honor God in your relationship with your parents.
Bob: And anybody who is ready to step up to that challenge can contact us. I guess – I was going to say step up to Bryan's challenge, but it really ought to be those who are sensing the conviction of God, the Holy Spirit is stirring in your life and saying, "Maybe I ought to do this."
Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, click the red button in the middle of the home page that says "Go," and that will take you right to a part of the site where you can get more information about the book by Dennis Rainey called "The Best Gift You Can Ever Give Your Parents." It's available, of course, in our FamilyLife Resource Center. We've also placed there a number of articles and online helps to walk you through the process of writing a tribute to your mom or your dad or to both of your parents.
Again, the website is FamilyLife.com, click the red "Go" button in the middle of the screen and if, for some reason, you find that your relationship with your mom and your dad has been a challenging one, a difficult one, and you feel you can't get past some of those issues in order to write a tribute, let me encourage you to get a copy of David Stoop's book, which is called "Forgiving the Unforgivable." It's a book designed to help you press through some of these issues. You know, forgiveness is not an option for Christians, it's a commandment of God for us, and David's book addresses how we get there as believers, especially when there has been a difficult relationship when there have been issues in the past.
It's available in our FamilyLife Resource Center as well. Again, our website is FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go," on the center of the home page, and that will take you right to the area where you can get more information about these resources and other resources available from us here at FamilyLife. You can also call, if you'd like. The number is 1-800-358-6329, that's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY.
Let me also encourage you, if you do get in touch with us, someone may ask you if you'd like to help with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. Interestingly enough, I don't know if our listeners realize this, but about 30 percent of the folks who do get in touch with us to request one of these resources will also make a donation of some amount for the ministry of FamilyLife Today. And we appreciate those of you who are able to do that. We are grateful for your generosity, and this month, if you can help with a donation of any amount, we'd like to send along to you a special thank you gift. It's a hardback book that is actually a prayer guide for parents. It's called "While They Were Sleeping," and it's designed so that moms and dads or grandparents can be praying for specific character traits in the lives of their children.
I know we usually think about praying for our young children or for our teenagers, but I was thinking about, as a parent of adult children, a lot of these character qualities are things that I still want to see God cultivating in the heart of my adult children. So it's never too late to pray for your children, and this book, "While They Were Sleeping," helps guide us, as parents, in that assignment.
You can request a copy of the book. It's our way of saying thank you for your support of the ministry when you are able to make a donation of any amount during the month of November. If you're donating online, as you fill out the donation form, you'll see a keycode box. Just type the word "pray" in there, if you would. That way, we know you'd like to have this book sent to you. Or call 1-800-FLTODAY, make a donation over the phone and mention that you'd like the book for parents on prayer, and our team will know what you're talking about and, again, we'll be happy to send it to you.
We do appreciate those of you who are able to help with financial support for this ministry, and we want to say thanks for your partnership with us. Dennis?
Dennis: Well, I was just sitting here reflecting, Bob, about our guests on today's program, Brian and Stephanie Carter – how far Bryan came from earlier this week when I gave him a challenge to writing a tribute, and he was mad at me. He went from being mad at me to preaching four sermons and making his whole church mad at him. He's a glutton for punishment.
I want you to know, Bryan, and I really mean this, and you, too, Stephanie, you give Bob and me and my wife Barbara much reason to hope for the next-generation church, because you represent that. Your commitment to the Scripture, your desire to obey Him and follow Him and do the courageous thing, and I don't think you've seen anything yet how God is going to bless the work of your hands if you stay faithful as you raise those youngsters of yours, and I just love you guys and appreciate you and look forward to hearing of great exploits for Jesus Christ as you continue to walk faithfully with Him.
Bryan: Thank you so much.
Stephanie: Thank you.
Dennis: Thanks for joining us this week.
Bob: And we'll look forward, Stephanie to hearing your tribute very soon.
Stephanie: Of course, of course.
Dennis: You're tougher than me, Bob. I'm kind of glad, Bob, because I think she's going to be mad at you.
Stephanie: All right, it's no pressure, no pressure.
Bob: FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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