Jumping Ship (Part Two)

by Michael Pearl
July 2005


    There is an epidemic of young adults jumping ship from their Christian upbringing to join the world’s parade.

    Following is just one example of many letters we have received.


Dear Pearls,

   We know a family who homeschool their children and have been used by ministries as an example of a model Christian family. Their oldest son just jumped ship. He has a wild tattoo, pierced his ears, and dyed his hair. Besides his bizarre looks, he is totally rebellious. I must admit his jumping ship left me shaken until I read your article, and then I could see what led to his demise. His parents are fretful folks, always worried about spending money, the state of the country, or the evil influence of the neighbors or church. The last word I would ever use to describe them is joyful. Their relationship seems strained. If I were a child, I would not want to live with that family. I think that is a pretty good gauge to check myself with.



    In our last issue, we addressed a growing concern: far too many homeschool kids are jumping ship at the first opportunity, throwing their Christian teaching to the wind and joining the world’s parade to hell. The first crop of homeschoolers has matured; the fruit is ripe; the time of reaping has come. It is not the day of judgment, but to many parents it feels akin to the Great Tribulation. Parents are seeing their own flesh and blood take on characteristics of the enemy. This is not a surprise to many of us. We have seen it coming for many years, predicted it in our writings, warned parents that carefully constructed religious teaching and withdrawal from worldliness were not enough. The fences parents build are able to constrain children when they are young, but the time comes, around sixteen to eighteen years of age, when the kids have the power to choose and act for themselves. Every parent holds his breath. It reminds me of a verse found in Joel 3:14: “Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision.”

    Where can a family go to save their children? Escaping from the world is like escaping from your own skin. While we peer behind us, hoping to have eluded the enemy, we discover that he is standing in our shoes. Many Christian families have been very careful to protect their children, only to discover that the devil is in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and even in the sex organs of a thirteen-year-old.

    Many parents have had their faith shaken. “We didn’t watch television or associate with sinners; we taught our children Christian principles; why didn’t it work?” It is almost as though Christians are believing the leftist propaganda that environment and heredity are the factors that determine a person’s behavior. Parents seem to believe that they can condition their children into being good Christians by protecting them and teaching Christian principles. Reality has proven that old premise to be false: “Save them from corrupt influences, and they will never corrupt.”

    The old theology had a lot of truth in it after all. The fallen sons of Adam, in every generation, have the inherent capability and propensity to recreate sin, even in the protected vacuum of a Christian home. Children do not need to be exposed to “bad people” to do bad things. The children of Christians are not exempt from the lure of the flesh. Innocence is not a protective hedge, as we know by the example of Adam and Eve. Christian character cannot be transmitted at birth, or passed on as a family heritage. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:10-12, 23).

    Enough! This is depressing. What of the Scripture that promises “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6)? It is still true and has proven so in the experience of tens of thousands of kids who have gone on to become stable, hard-working, righteous children of God who are now starting their own families and are already seeing blessed third-generation fruit.

    We hear it often, “I did train them, but it did not work.” The key is in the word “train.” Not just any training will do, and that is what this ministry is all about. Biblical and practical teaching is what God has called us to, training up parents to train up their children so when they get older they will not depart from it.

    We will now turn to practical teaching, most of which we have said or written before, but this will be the most direct, condensed, pointed discussion to date on these issues. We cannot complete the discussion in this publication, but we will continue it in future issues. Before discussing several of the concepts, we will first give a summary of all the points that we will discuss in this and coming publications. The many points to be made are framed in somewhat of a parable.


The Family Cruise
    Every family is a ship with a captain, a crew, and sometimes passengers and cargo. It may be a pleasure liner, a research vessel, a boatload of pilgrims headed to a new city, a mercy ship, a cargo vessel seeking riches, or a stinking old tub hanging around port. There are many ships leaving port, each with its own captain, crew, cargo, and passengers. Every ship has a purpose or destination before it leaves port; all on board are participants, regardless of the degree of their commitment, their lives affected by the passage and the destination. No ship is alone. Others are sailing nearby, and the crew becomes acquainted with many ships and their crews. In each port, there is a mingling and exchange of news and gossip. Every crew member is always weighing the possibilities and deciding if he is on the best ship.

    No ship is an island unto itself. If a captain were to simply anchor offshore to avoid the corruption of society and to prevent his crew members from being tempted to switch ships, the hands would become very discontent. The ship must be going somewhere with a meaningful purpose, otherwise the crew would not long tolerate the drudgery of their daily duties. There is no romance in simply retreating, in seeking one’s own survival. The thrill of life is in the conquest of the obstacles of life. Many fathers/captains are afraid of failure, so they go nowhere and do nothing but seek to stay afloat just outside the influence of other ships. The crew of a self-quarantined ship will stand at the rail and longingly watch other ships sail past to destinations unknown. They know that those ships going someplace, any place, are certainly more interesting than the stagnant calm in which they must exist. Younger kids will wish for something different, but fear and insecurity will keep them at the rail. However, there will come a day when they can swim well enough to risk going overboard to catch a ride on a passing vessel.

    To keep kids from jumping ship and booking passage to a different port, they must have confidence that their ship is going somewhere, sailing to a port that offers tremendous possibilities. They should be able to stand up there on the bow and imagine the great new world to which they are sailing. They must have an exciting vision of great things to come and a hope of being significant in the coming events.

    They must have a sense of mission, a full understanding of the history of their captain’s and ship’s endeavor. They should be familiar with those who have gone before and made to know that they are needed to carry on the worthy tradition. Only then will they endure the hardships of the voyage without crumbling under the burden of daily, monotonous routine.

    They must feel that their voyage (and their part in it) is primarily a means of service to others, and that the boat and those on it are not the final end. Without a moral sense that comes from dedicating one’s life to service, they cannot have great courage and fortitude. The sense of moral rightness that comes from serving others is a driving force that will not accept defeat. It gives courage and fortitude.

    The ship must be provisioned with entertainment, although the crew will not be satisfied simply being entertained passengers. The very essense of the ship must lie in its purpose, a mission beyond a simple pleasure cruise. They will not be satisfied being nothing more than cargo. They must feel needed as a vital crew member, not just a passenger.

    They must be learning to pilot the ship. They should be made to know that they are in training to become a captain of their own ship and that they can be trusted with real responsibility.

    They must taste of the glory and the triumph from time to time. They must be kept on the edge of expectancy.

    There must be authority on the ship that provides security and promotes admiration. There is nothing more emotionally dissatisfying to young people than disorganization, lack of a top commander who is decisive, resolute, even hard and unyielding at times, but always accessible. The ship must have one authority that is respected. If the chief officer is subversive and disrespectful, it will cause the crew to commit mutiny or to abandon ship in some promising port.

    It should be well known that the ship, though seeming alone most of the time, is part of a large armada, all traveling to the same location for the same great purpose. The ship and its crew should be in contact with other ships of the line who share the same destination. The crew should never be left with a feeling of isolation.

    Every person on board must know that the captain is answerable to a higher commander who holds the power of life and death. The crew must be caused to fear the higher powers, including their captain.

    The captain must conduct himself with dignity, integrity, and honor if he is to maintain the respect of his crew. Yet he must be approachable, willing to work harder and serve more diligently than they all.

    The captain must be willing to mete out discipline when it is called for. He cannot vacillate or be squeamish in his role as commander.

    Weathering storms together and overcoming adversity are not things to decry, for they create a bond between the officers and the crew.

    The ship must be maintained in such a manner that every person on board takes pride in his ship.

    Now let’s give closer attention to the first three paragraphs in our parable. The third paragraph sums up our present subject. We state it again.

    To keep kids from jumping ship and booking passage to a different port, they must have confidence that the ship is going somewhere, to a port that offers tremendous possibilities. They should be able to stand up on the bow and imagine the new world out there to which they are sailing. They must be given an exciting vision of great things to come and a hope of being significant in the coming events.

    Children are, after all, people—unfinished adults, full of untested passions and expectations. They are experiencing many new drives and pleasures. I remember when I was a child, the world into which I was growing was exciting and wonderful. I felt like a kid at one of those carnivals where admission is five dollars and you can ride everything as many times as you want. At ten years of age, I wanted to eat one whole fried chicken and two chocolate pies all by myself (in one sitting), with no one there to stop me. I wanted a girl of my own to smell and touch. I wanted a boat to sail, and a gun and all the shells I could shoot. I wanted a truck so I could go places and see wonderful things. I dreamed of painting pictures and building structures out of lumber and metal. I wanted to touch everything and own two of them.

    As I got a little older and came to know the Lord as my personal savior, I developed new passions. I wanted to change the world and to make everybody do right, which included wanting to convert sinners to Christ. By the time I was eighteen years old, I wanted to straighten out my parents, my church, and all my siblings. I still wanted a girl of my own to smell and touch, but by then I had decided that I also wanted one who could talk to me and listen to my ideas about changing the world. I was now down to two pieces of pie and only half of a chicken. Today, I want two pieces of chicken, and I pass up the pie.

    I got that girl when I was twenty-five. I still touch and smell her, and she listens to my ideas and I to hers. We talk long hours about the needs of others and what we can do to help. We have not changed the world, but we have dedicated ourselves to the task. Life has been richer than I could have ever imagined.

    Now, you may think that this is just an old man reminiscing. Maybe so, but listen carefully to his musings, for I am going someplace very important to you with this line of thought. Today I took Laura Rose, not yet three, down to the sawmill to help me debark some trees in preparation for sawing. She picked up the tool and grunted dutifully while she dug at the bark. When a slab of bark broke loose and fell away from the log, she was delighted with her power. She was helping Big Papa. She was important. She is not a passenger on a pleasure liner. She is part of the crew. When she comes into the house, Deb doesn’t send her into the playroom. She is not even interested in the big box of toys that we keep for the kids. She wants to put clothes in the laundry, wash the dishes, mop the floor, fix dinner for Big Papa, or any constructive chore that Deb is doing at the time.

    I have a young man thirteen years old who comes over and works with me outdoors. Like most thirteen-year-olds, he doesn’t actually crave work. He quickly tires of any job that is hard and boring, but if he is working beside me, he will do the same difficult job all day long and think he is having fun. He is a skinny, awkward boy, going through puberty and imagining all the wonderful things that await him. Just the other day he said, “I want to get me a wife.” He said it without any inhibition, just as he would tell me he wanted to get a new bicycle. There was a hungry look in his eyes and an eagerness in his changing voice.

    He loves my Kubota tractor, especially when operating the front-end loader. While he is doing manual work, he keeps his eye on the tractor. If I let him drive it about once every hour to go get a tool or to move a log, I can keep him doing the boring chores with enthusiasm. He loves to operate a chain saw, weed eater, or any power tool. He has been eyeing my red truck—no, not yet! He is too uncoordinated.

    You can’t just use kids as a source of labor. They will not be happy being nothing more than domestic servants onboard your ship. You must, from time to time, with some supervision, let them do the navigation and pilot the ship. I keep the kids in my charge on the cutting edge of experience, never allowing things to stay boring for long. If we are moving sawdust, and I make him do the shoveling but don’t allow him to drive the tractor, he will soon become dissatisfied. But, if he gets to dump the bucket of sawdust after loading it, he is content to rake the sawdust out from under the sawmill and put it in the front-end loader, just so he can drive the tractor a mere 150 feet to dump it. You can’t just drive kids; you have to let them steer. Even Laura Rose thinks she is driving the tractor while sitting on my lap with her hands on the wheel.

    There are many other things kids can do besides driving a tractor. Give a boy the tools and knowledge to disassemble electronics, and, hopefully, someday reassemble them, and he will love the ship he is on. Give a teenager a job that pays money, and then let him spend it as he pleases, and he will not be leaning over the bow envying others. If you keep your kids on the cutting edge of experience, they will feel sorry for those who do not have their captain and are not on their ship. They will never jump ship. It’s the greatest!

    Kids must be able to stand up on that bow and imagine the world to come. This thirteen-year-old boy is building a list of hopes, a vision for the future. He wants to be somebody, do things, go places, live life with a bang. He is developing role models, and I seek to be prominent among them. He has a fine father whom he admires, who does things with him. He is on a different ship, but our ships are running a parallel course, his father and I sailing to the same destination. For a little while our paths cross, and I, among others, reinforce the values his father is teaching him. He is developing confidence that there is hope in his circle; that his dreams can find fulfillment on the ship his father is piloting. This young man will not jump ship if he is confident that the ship he is on is going to deliver him to the shore of his dreams.

    If you have a seventeen-year-old whom you treat as a passenger, not allowing him to take significant responsibility, not listening to or instituting his ideas, he will not be content on your ship. He already thinks he is smarter than you are. The only way to prove that he is not, is to go along with some of his ideas until they fail; and when they do fail, act surprised and encourage him to try again. Never say, “I told you so.” If he is to grow, he must experiment, resulting in both failure and success. Until a man has failed, there is no steel in his bones. Just be thankful that you can be there to facilitate and supervise his endeavors.

    As my boys got into their later teens, I found that upon occasion they did have fresh ideas that were better than my “old fashioned” way of doing things. The first time a father backs up on his own position and admits that his son is right, is a time of incomparable bonding and trust. The boy will become happier and more content than you have seen him since he got his first shotgun. And you will find him more willing to respect your wisdom when it is manifest.

    My boys and I often discussed issues and concepts: politics, philosophy, science, war, the Bible, human nature, rocks, plants, construction. Anything you can think of, we talked about it. I respected their opinions, even when I disagreed with them. As they got into their middle and later teens, I could see a growing desire to beat me at anything. I remember challenging my daddy to arm wrestling until I could finally beat him. I didn’t really want to put him down; I just wanted his respect, for him to appreciate that I was a man. I never “let” my boys beat me at anything. When Gabriel was about nineteen or twenty years old, six foot five, I beat him wrestling. Made him eat sand. It was a great feeling—a measure of my manhood. I am afraid that now I could no longer take him wrestling. I acknowledge his strength. Both the boys now run circles around me in math. When we are figuring house plans, there is no question but that I yield to their figures. It doesn’t keep me from trying to catch them in an error. That always helps make my day.

    I am making a point about the nature of children, especially boys. My boys are just like I was when I was young. Your boys are just like mine. This drive to be respected, to be recognized as a force to be reckoned with, is born in boys, but it takes control when they go through puberty. If your ship provides an outlet for your sons to express themselves as apprentice captains, if they see hope that they will not always be just labor on the lower decks, they will stay on your ship with hope of greater things to come.

    I see many fathers and mothers resisting their sons’ drive to be in control. They are resisting a tsunami. A boy’s drive to conquer, lead, and control is inevitable. If you are successful in crushing it in a fourteen or fifteen-year-old, and if you can keep him docile and sweet, you have destroyed his manhood. It is a truly sad thing to observe.

    Here is where my stories are going. Children who are treated as passengers and not crew members will not be content on or in their ship. Laura Rose is never a child who is “in the way.” The thirteen-year-old boy I’ve talked about is not just a spectator, told to do his schoolwork, to be quiet, and to stay out of the way until he grows up. He is a man. He is a crew member. When he is with me, I am not just using him; I am training him to be the pilot of a ship, just as Deb is training Laura Rose to be a wife and mother.

    Kids who see a path to the fulfillment of their dreams will stay the course through difficult times. They will trust those who have trusted them with positions of responsibility, those who were patient, who taught, encouraged, listened to their dreams and assured them of success. Believing in your children is not a sentiment, nor is it just so many words; it is trusting them with responsibility. When a kid feels good about himself because he has triumphed, and you are the one who made it possible, who stood by him, encouraged him, put the rod and reel into his little unbelieving hands, showed him how to make something, how to use the tools, put the key in his hand, taught him how to fly and then stood on the ground and beamed with joy while he soloed, he will always want to be on the ship you are on. He will want to be on the ship that your friends are on. He will want to be part of the armada that is sailing to a city which has foundations whose builder and maker is God.


    Boys/Men were created by God to exercise dominion and to subdue.

    “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26-28). See also Psalm 8:1-6 and Hebrews 2:7-8.

    According to the passages above, it is in the very nature of the male to rule in power and glory. It is God’s nature to subdue and exercise dominion, and he put that same nature into man. A man or a boy who does not seek to conquer, rule, and subdue is outside the will of God. Many mothers have never figured this one out. It is especially troublesome where a family has birthed and raised three sweet girls before they ever have a son. Mother naturally expects him to be like the girls in personality and temperament. If she tries to force him into the subdued, sensitive role, she will meet with failure, either because he rebels and tries to conquer her, which is his nature, or because she is actually successful in turning him into a sissy, in which case she is the bigger failure.

    Many fathers are themselves insecure. They never got to the place to where they felt like they had conquered anything. A man’s most rewarding conquest is his woman. If she idolizes him, he will be able to go on and conquer and subdue kingdoms, but if she rebels, he will never be satisfied and may become bitter and reckless and selfish in his pursuit of dominion. Such a father will resist his sons’ awakening drives to exercise dominion. He feels threatened by his sons. When a son challenges him, he takes it personally. The father is desperate to conquer and subdue. For a little while, when his son was four to eight years old, father was the big dog, the conqueror; suddenly, the only little kingdom the father ever ruled was now seeking independence, and he fights it with all his emotion. That father will create a bitter, rebellious teenager. Most movies about teenagers assumes this attitude to be the norm.

    It is a confident father who can be proud of his sons’ growing independence. I raised my children as if I would be dead and no longer an influence in their lives before they were grown. I raised them with the knowledge that they could be removed from my home by the state government at any time. I taught them self-reliance and independence from the very start. I made sure they knew Bible doctrine, understood the falacies of evolution and the so-called social sciences to the best of their developing abilities.

    The greatest triumph of a teacher is when he is bested by his students. I was at a knife-throwing tournament recently where the expert, high scorer, bragged that he was recently beaten by one of his students. To some fathers, it is a pain to see their sons become capable of pulling away and sailing their own ships. But to the expert knife thrower, it was an added brag that he not only was the champion thrower, he was also the champion teacher.

    I say again, your children must have hope that they are on the best ship to prepare them to be captains themselves. They must be challenged at all times, made to feel worthy by the triumphs they experience.


    You must provide the tools and opportunity for your boys to subdue. I remember one day after hard work, my boys decided they wanted to dig a cave in the ridge beside the house. Two of their friends joined them. Four boys between the ages of ten and fourteen, dug out five yards of rocky soil in about two hours. It was a mammoth task. If I had made them do it for some valid reason, it would have taken them three or more grudging days, but when they were working toward their own vision, it was all play. Do you understand boys? Do you really understand men? That piece of hard ground had been lying there in defiance ever since Noah’s flood. It needed to be taught a lesson. It needed to be conquered, subdued, made to serve them. They beat it. They won. They benefited greatly.

    A boy takes a BB gun out and stalks helpless, little, pretty birds all day long. Finally, he kills one. He plucks out the prettiest and longest feathers and sticks them in his hat. “…dominion over the birds of the air…”

    I remember as a boy I loved to go down to the ditch that ran under the road close to the house, and there I would fish for crawfish. There was a pool of water there about eight feet across and about eighteen inches deep. It was full of the defiant little creatures with the hard shells and snappy pinchers. Over several years I perfected my technique for catching them. I would put them in a bucket and show them off to my highly appreciative and admiring friends. It was a big brag to catch a big, red crawfish that everyone was afraid to pick up. When they had all tried and lost their nerve, I would carefully pick up the monster and hold it up at eye level for all to see. To get further admiration, I would tease the creature with the other hand, tempting him to snap shut on my finger. “…dominion over the fish of the sea…”

    When I was a young teenager, I would catch poisonous snakes and skin them out to make hatbands. “…dominion over every thing that creepeth upon the earth…”

    The building of the Pyramids was the exercise of dominion. Even girls have a “quarter measure” of this dominion in them. They are nest builders. They don’t care to rope a bear, but they will take a little corner of the world and turn it into a home for their men and their children. My girls loved to build dwelling places. They would stack logs in the woods to make a house. They would decorate a treehouse that the boys built, or they would take a corner of the barn and turn it into a dining room where they would serve tea.

    The physical world offers challenges to the male population. It is primarily men who chase tornadoes, seeing how close they can get, and photographing themselves doing so as proof of their prowess. Men are attracted to violent, belching volcanoes, high mountains, and the dangerous depths of the sea.

    One of the Russian boys just got a new bicycle today. A few moments ago he came in with a badly banged up knee. He had jumped his bicycle off the porch. Anybody can ride on flat ground, but to sail through the air, to land without crashing (hopefully) and to get up and try something higher next time—what a thrill to defy the law of gravity, conquer, and subdue! I didn’t tell him not to try it again. He is learning. Let him put his face to the wind and discover his own powers and his limitations. All famous inventors were people who didn’t believe in established limitations. Their God-given drive to exercise dominion and to subdue was not limited by what others believed.

    If you are going to keep your children happy and satisfied being on your ship, you must provide for the full expression of their dominion drives. There is much more to it than this, but kids have jumped ship for less. Take your son to the pilot-house when he is only three months old and put his hands on the wheel; then imagine him piloting the ship while you sleep, and then train him to do so.

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