Leaving a Spiritual Heritage
About the Guest
What kind of inheritance do you want to leave your grandchildren? Pastor Josh Mulvihill encourages grandparents to leave behind an inheritance that will last into eternity-a lasting faith. Ways to do that include sharing how God has moved in your life and teaching the Scriptures by reading favorite Bible stories.
Josh MulvihillJosh Mulvihill is the Executive Director of Church and Family Ministry at Renewanation, where he equips parents and grandparents to disciple their family and coaches church leaders to help them design Bible-based, Christ-centered family ministries. Josh has served as a pastor for nearly 20 years, is a founding member of the Legacy Coalition, and has a PhD from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Biblical Grandparenting, Preparing Children for Marriage...more
Pastor Josh Mulvihill encourages grandparents to leave behind an inheritance that will last into eternity-a lasting faith.
Leaving a Spiritual Heritage
Dennis: So what Barbara and I have started doing—
Bob: Not two one dollar bills—
Bob: Yes; a single bill worth two dollars.
Dennis: Two-dollar bills; yes. I don’t remember if it was tied to my age—I don’t think it was. So Barbara and I—I said, “Let’s go to the bank and get a bundle—
Bob: —of two-dollar bills?
Dennis: —“two-dollar bills.” So, you get a hundred—that’s $200 worth.
Dennis: We tape them together, length-wise—one for each year of their lives.
Bob: So if they’re seven, what happens?
Dennis: If they’re seven, they get seven two-dollar bills—14 bucks.
Dennis: So they go spend that, and they also get a Christmas gift, too; but if you start running it out here—[Laughter] —we’re soon to have 23 grandchildren / one of them is in heaven;, so we don’t get the privilege of giving her birthday gifts—but it’s really a treat to get pictures. In fact, I just got one back—I’ll pull it up and show it to you, Bob—of my granddaughter, Katie, who pulled out—she’s—I forget; I think she’s eight. She pulled them out, and they unfolded all the way to the floor—it was cool!
Now, what’s going to happen is—they’re going to listen to the broadcast, and I will have missed the age; and I will have offended my granddaughter. [Laughter]
Bob: I’m just thinking that, between Christmas and their birthdays, there are some third-world countries that have a smaller budget than you have for buying gifts for your grandkids.
Dennis: I’m just telling you—it takes some real strategizing to be able to do it and do it well. We have a guy with us, though, who is an expert on grandparenting.
Bob: His oldest child is ten years old.
Dennis: That’s right! [Laughter] This is a paradox! FamilyLife Today is excellent about bringing paradoxes to its listeners. Josh Mulvihill joins us on FamilyLife Today. You’ve never been introduced as a paradox; have you?
Josh: No; but that’s okay, I guess.
Dennis: It’s a first.
Josh: There’s always a first.
Dennis: It is a first. He and his wife Jen have been married since the year 2000. They do have five kids, ages one to ten—two girls [and three boys]. Josh serves as the pastor to children and families at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, on the outskirts of Minneapolis. He has written a book—actually, you’ve edited a book—called Equipping Grandparents: Helping Your Church Reach and Disciple the Next Generation.
I want you to go back to what you shared earlier, Josh.
I want you to share: “What is the essence of the purpose of a grandparent?”
Josh: What I see in Scripture is that they are there to pass faith on to their grandkids. I wanted to get down to one word from the Bible that you could define the role of a grandparent; because I think we can do that with a husband, a wife, and a child, in Scripture. But what is that one word? That was part of my PhD dissertation—was to find that one word. I spent a year studying Scripture, cover to cover / 100 pages of text, writing down everything I found.
Bob: Okay; okay! Alright!
Josh: You ready for the word?
Dennis: We’re waiting, but we need a little drum roll here [drum roll sound]—there you go.
Josh: Yes; the word is “heritage.” We use the word, “legacy”; but this is a word seen in Proverbs 13:22: “A good man passes on an inheritance to his children’s children.” I think that has many applications—financial would be looked at, obviously—but I think spiritual is in there—a good name / a good reputation is part of that.
Josh: We see “Children are a heritage from the Lord [Psalm 127:3],”—I think that applies to grandchildren as well. In our Psalm 78 passage that we have—towards the end of that passage—it says, “God turned His wrath on His heritage.” There’s a piece of heritage building, then, that’s part of the goal. It’s not a grandparent who’s building their own heritage—it’s the Lord’s heritage.
Bob: So I think—and correct me here if I’m wrong—but I’ve always seen this as: “What we leave is a legacy. What is received is a heritage,”—it’s really just—it’s the same thing.
Bob: If you’re giving it, it’s a legacy; if you’re receiving it, it’s a heritage. That’s kind of helped me get my arms around it. Is there a differentiation between a legacy and a heritage?—it’s just the perspective from which it’s passed on.
Josh: Yes; we use the word, “legacy,” much more—
Josh: —regularly than we do the word, “heritage.”
You know, we don’t see that word, “legacy,” in Scripture; so that idea of “heritage” is really what we’re leaving our grandchildren.
That’s a great question for grandparents to ask themselves: “When you’re no longer there, what is it that your grandchildren will have from you?” Of course, we want that, first and foremost, to be a strong faith in Jesus Christ that is passed down many generations.
Dennis: And that reminds me of Psalm 71—I just love this passage, increasingly: “Oh, God, from my youth, You have taught me; I still proclaim Your wondrous deeds. Even to old age and gray hairs, oh God, do not forsake me until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come.” That’s really the assignment of a grandparent.
You mentioned earlier that we do that by telling stories—it’s not just telling yarns.
It’s telling stories of how God intercepted your life, beginning with your testimony of how you came to faith in Christ.
Bob: I’m thinking of Joshua, Chapter—I think it is Chapter 4. That’s the chapter where, after crossing through the Jordan River, God tells the heads of the 12 tribes—the priests—to go get the memorial stones and to set those up. There’s a specific reason—it’s so: “You’ll remember what happened; and so, when your kids ask what happened, you can tell them; and so that all of the nations around you will know that God is God.”
We may not have physical stones that we can point to; but when you talk about sharing from your walk with Jesus, you’re talking about the memorial stones of your life; aren’t you?
Josh: Grandparents are storytellers. They have an important place in God’s story to pass on the message of Christ. They do that as they focus on their own place in God’s story—centered in God and Who He is—and what He has done in their life.
Man, that’s such a high calling and a wonderful, wonderful thing when grandparents do that with their grandkids. You see those grandkids gather around—you know, they’re built to listen to those stories. They’ll ask the same ones again and again. I would encourage every single grandparent to capture that—whether you’re living close by your grandkids and you can do that verbally—or you can write that down in some format and give that, even as a keepsake for them, that they can have for many years to look at.
Bob: My mom lived into her early 90s. In the year before she died, my oldest child—my daughter, Amy—brought the video camera and sat down with grandma over at her place—and spent about an hour-and-a-half, I think, just asking grandma questions. That’s an artifact—that’s one of those memorial stones that, if the house was on fire, those are the things you grab first.
I have, in my drawer, a book of letters that my dad sent home from World War II, with pieces of the letters cut out from where the censor board wouldn’t let him say, “We’re here today.” Again, my kids are going to want to know who gets to keep that stuff—the history of the family, whether it’s a spiritual history or not—there’s something that connects us in that history. If it’s a spiritual history, it just takes it a step deeper; doesn’t it?
Josh: Yes; that’s true.
Dennis: Give us an illustration—one of the best illustrations you’ve heard—of a grandparent passing on the story of God’s work, in his or her soul, to a grandchild.
Josh: I’ll just share one from my experience. When my mom was dying of ALS, I took two weeks and I sat at her feet. She wasn’t able to move a lot at that point. I took—at the time—a digital recorder and recorded her sharing some key God stories and some of her favorite passages.
I even had her read some of our favorite children’s books that she wouldn’t be able to read with her grandkids. We have all of those today. At that point, she only had one grandchild who was living. I knew that, if there were to be anything specifically from grandma to her grandkids, that was something that I needed to do. Man, I treasure that—I look back on that regularly. I love it!
Dennis: We’re talking with Josh Mulvihill about grandparenting.
I mentioned that you had shared earlier there are two ways that grandparents can, spiritually, pass on their faith to their grandkids. One is by stories—that’s telling. You also said there’s another way we do this—by teaching. Explain and unpack that and give us an illustration of what that looks like too.
Josh: Deuteronomy 4:9 gives a very explicit command to grandparents—is to teach coming generations—their children and their children’s children.
Not only are we to teach our kids, but our grandkids, as well. Many parents, I think, get to the point, where they say, “I’ve done my job, and now that’s my adult children’s job to pass their faith on to their children.”
What we see in Scripture is that grandparents are given a very specific role—it’s a verbal role, very often; but they are expected, by God, to open their mouth / open God’s Word and teach—teach the commands of God / the things that God wants those children to know—to build their character, to help them mature in Christ, to help them walk in a way that is in agreement with God and His Word.
My encouragement to you, as a grandparent—this doesn’t need to be anything extensive. It can be simply a single verse or a short passage that’s read—it takes a couple minutes / a few questions to discuss it.
Whether you have five days a year with your grandkids—or they’re over at your house / you’re babysitting them every single week—that can be part of the process that they do with you, as a grandparent, at some point during each day. They know, “When I’m with grandma and grandpa, we’re going to be reading God’s Word.”
A commitment to that, over a long period of time, makes a big impact on the grandchild. They’ll remember, as they look back—they might not remember specifically some of the subject matter that was talked about, although I trust that God’s Word says it does not return void—I trust that it will do its work. They will remember: “My grandparent treasured God’s Word. It was important enough that they opened it up and made it a priority in their home.”
God, in Psalm 78, verse 5, says, “…which He commanded our fathers to teach to their children.” That word, “fathers,” is the Bible’s way of saying forefathers or grandfathers. It’s good to point out that God’s Word commands us—it’s not optional.
Therefore, as grandparents, we need to step into that role that God expects of us.
Dennis: Here’s something that I’d like you to comment on; because I think a lot of grandparents, much like an old well, need to be primed—you know—how you pour a cup of water down an old well to begin to take the plunger and get it to bring forth the cool, crisp water that’s down deep in the well? I think grandparents need adult children to ask questions and to maybe set the grandparents up to win with the grandkids. Why not have an evening—the next time the grandparents are over visiting the grandchildren—where you let the grandparents know, in advance—you are going to ask them.
Bob: You prime the pump.
Dennis: You do—you prime the pump, and say, “I’m going to ask you what your favorite top two or three Bible verses—and explain why—and share that with the kids.”
Josh: Great idea.
Dennis: That will give them a win, right there. Then, another thing to set them up to win would be to ask them a couple of questions, where you know that God showed up in their lives.
Just toss them—like slow pitch softball—just toss it right over the plate, where the grandparents can hit it and can share the story of how God, maybe miraculously, showed up in their lives—but it was unmistakable that it was the Lord God Almighty—they can share that to the wonder of those grandkids.
Josh: It helps to solidify the truth of the gospel and God’s Word—that God is real, and He has been active and moving in a grandparent’s life. I think that helps fortify the faith of a child.
Bob: Josh, Romans 12:2 says we’re not to be conformed to this culture—we’re to be transformed through God’s Word. Do you think there are ways in which grandparents are being conformed to a cultural assignment and are forsaking the spiritual assignment God’s given them?
Josh: Part of my study was to interview grandparents / evangelical grandparents all over the country and ask them what they perceived their role to be, as a grandparent. From that, I can tell you that there is a lot of role confusion. Many grandparents have absorbed the cultural messages as far as what their role is and what they’re to be doing with their grandchildren.
One scholar summarized this by calling it “the new social contract”—so this is an unwritten agreement that the generations have with one another regarding what their role is in the home. Really, it’s summarized by a couple of things. There’s to be non-interference from grandparents with adult children and grandchildren. There’s to be emotional independence—so “You live your life; we live ours.” You raise kids, they grow up, they move out, and they go do their thing. Grandparents, then, are now free to rest, and travel, and play.
You interact on a limited basis; and then, there’s to be personal autonomy—we don’t want to burden one another in the generations.
Bob: “Be available for holidays and, other than that, kind of leave us alone.” That’s what you’re saying most grandparents are feeling from their kids?
Josh: I’m saying probably 50 percent are that—where they’re distant and pretty passive as far as their interaction with grandkids—if you want to call them “holiday grandparents,” where they interact on those big days a couple times of the year. That was largely what culture is saying to our grandparents—they’re saying: “You’re on the periphery. You’re not really needed in any main kind of way in the life of children.”
Nothing could be further from the truth regarding what Scripture says.
Bob: It’s a good point. It may not be the adult children who are sending that message to the grandparents. The adult children may be thinking, “I wish my mom and dad were a little more active,” but mom and dad are far away, thinking, “They probably don’t want us to get involved.”
So they’re just checking out and trying to do gardening, or play bridge, or do something to busy their time rather than investing in their grandchildren.
Josh: When the relationship for grandparents has centered around emotional support, which is what it primarily has become, grandparents have then moved into this companionship-type of role: “We’re going to be friendship-focused with our grandkids. We’re going to be in charge of fun. We’re going to spoil our grandkids.” I had one grandparent that said, “Let me show you my vegetable drawer,”—showed me a picture. It was literally a drawer full of candy bars—maybe 100 of them! [Laughter] That’s okay.
Bob: That sounds like Dennis!
Dennis: More like a treasure chest that’s full of candy bars. [Laughter]
Bob: You need to call it “the vegetable drawer”—that’s a great name for it!
Dennis: A great name! [Laughter]
Josh: And those are important—right?—but they’re not the end. They’re means to a greater end.
Dennis: That’s exactly right.
Josh: So have fun with your grandkids—you know, be that companion / that friend who invests emotionally; but if that’s where it ends, we fall short of what God wants for grandparents.
Dennis: Josh, I’ve really been encouraged by what you’ve said here today, because I think our country is at a crossroads around its soul. Families are not addressing the spiritual needs of one another, whether it be husband to wife, or dad and mom to children, or, as you’ve pointed out, very, very well this week, grandparents on spiritual assignment from God to address the needs of children’s souls today.
I guess I just wish, at this point, I could commission every grandparent, who’s listening to us, to be sent on a mission by God—to go: “You know what? I don’t know whether you’ve got one month to live or whether you’ve got 20/30 years to live, you can make a huge difference in the lives of your grandchildren.
“You can be there, as they become young adults, to help direct them in the way they should go. We can’t be passive!”
I’d like to ask you, before we’re done here—I’d like to ask you to pray over grandparents to be commissioned. And I’d also like you to pray over parents, who need to be commissioned to engage the grandparents with the grandkids. Parents can be shrewd in reconnecting grandparents and grandkids to one another. Will you do that?
Josh: I would love to!
Bob: Before you pray, tell us about the event that you’re going to be speaking at in November. It’s at Stonebriar Church in Dallas / I guess it’s Frisco, Texas, where Chuck Swindoll is the pastor. This is a national conference on grandparenting?
Josh: God’s timing is interesting. As I was finishing up my dissertation on grandparenting, God was moving, nationally.
There were a handful of others thinking about this same subject. In God’s providence, we connected—formed an organization called The Legacy Coalition, which is working to help equip grandparents to pass faith on to their grandkids—intentional, Christ-centered grandparenting. Our first conference is this November—15 through 17—at Stonebriar Church in Frisco, Texas. We have a wonderful line-up of speakers.
Bob: Yes; you do. You’ve got Chuck Swindoll, Crawford Loritts, Josh McDowell, Gary Chapman, John Trent, Tim and Darcy Kimmel, Michelle Anthony / you’re going to be speaking.
Folks can go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link there for The Legacy Grandparenting Summit—get more information, sign up, and plan to attend. If you’re interested in Josh’s book on grandparenting, we have that. I don’t know if it’s in the warehouse yet, because you just finished the book.
If it’s not in the warehouse yet, you can get in touch with us and we’ll get a copy to you as soon as it becomes available. Again, get more information when you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com or call, if you have any questions, at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
Again, just before you pray for grandparents, we want to wish a “Happy anniversary!” today to Beto and Yoheydi Parada, who live in Sylmar, California. Today is their tenth wedding anniversary. “Congratulations!” to the Paradas. Thanks for listening to FamilyLife Today;and “Happy tenth anniversary!”
If today is your anniversary, “Happy anniversary!” to you as well. Anniversaries are important—they matter a lot! We hope you’re taking time to really celebrate well today and to reflect on God’s goodness through the years of your marriage.
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Last thing—tonight we kick off the fall season of Weekend to Remember® marriage getaways.
We’ve got a getaway that’s starting at seven o’clock tonight in Delray Beach, Florida—hundreds of couples are going to be joining us for what will be a great weekend getaway. We’ve got getaways happening throughout the fall. You can get more information about the Weekend to Remember when you go to our website at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Dennis: We’ve been talking with Josh Mulvihill around the noble assignment of being a grandma and a grandpa. I asked you if you would come back and commission the grandparents—and also throw in a little side commissioning for the adult children, who want the grandparents involved in their kids’ lives but it’s not happening right now—they need to be commissioned too. Will you do that?
Father, we want to lift up grandfathers and grandmothers. We recognize how important they are in families, and we pray that they would see that same importance. Lord, we pray that grandparents would rise up to tell of who You are and the work that You have done.
We pray that they would teach Your words to their grandchildren— that their hearts would be turned to their adult children.
We pray that their adult children would open the doors to see that these grandparents can invest heavily. Father, we pray that You would do a mighty movement in families and in churches in America— 30 million grandparents, who know You and walk with You, can make a mighty difference in this country and in the lives of so many young people. We pray that they would get serious about their faith and about what that means in their later years. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
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