Leon C. Wirth ~ The Family Project: How God’s Design Reveals the Best for You

IMG_1870_Leon_on_blue_textureLeon C. Wirth has been active in family ministry for more than fifteen years. He currently serves as executive director of parenting and youth at Focus on the Family. He has contributed to projects like the TrueU teen worldview DVD series, The Boundless Show podcast, the Big Dig youth apologetics conferences, and the Dad Matters podcast.

After growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, he attended Southwest Baptist University, earning his BA. He received his Masters degree in Communications from Wheaton College.

Leon and his wife, Michelle, live with their eight daughters in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

You’ve been involved in several aspects of Christian publishing. What sparked your personal writing journey?

For me it was the intersection of opportunity, need, and personal mission that started me on this journey. After years of participating in marketing, product development and various other professional aspects of both Christian publishing and nonprofit ministries, I found myself at Focus on the Family. There I had the privilege, quite unplanned on my part, of eventually crafting and guiding the creation of the curriculum series that became The Family Project in DVD and book form, as a follow-up to Focus on the Family’s The Truth Project. And thus an unexpected writing opportunity brought together my personal passion to inspire Christians to draw closer to God and to their families with the need that Focus had to create a resource that focuses more on the “why” than the “how” of family.

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So you have experienced a “Divine Detour” or two in your lifetime.

I have had many such detours. Professionally I have gone through several changes in my career course that were unexpected, and at times unwelcome. Yet I can say honestly that God has used each one of those course corrections to prepare me for a different step, and to bring me where I am today. Those detours are not always fun, but for me they have been highly instructive and effective to put me where and when God wanted me to be.

Personally, my life as a young boy veered into several detours. When I was very little, my parents divorced and remarried. My first stepdad abandoned our family when I was about twelve years old. After about seven years of wrestling with that traumatic event, God liberated me from the pain of bitterness and hatred that had spread in my heart like a cancer, to find forgiveness and freedom. That detour established my personal passions about family and God that have, in part, culminated in this book project.

978-1-58997-788-4Let’s talk about The Family Project: How God’s Design Reveals the Best for You (Focus on the Family, August 2014). Please tell us about it.

Focus on the Family had been pondering creating a follow-up to The Truth Project for quite some time. Some, including myself, volunteered to craft a strategy for consideration by the executive team and board. In exploring the possibilities, our team decided that Focus on the Family, and the church at large, needed a practical and inspiring resource to explore a theology and a biblical worldview of family. So many long-accepted truths about God and humanity and family throughout the history of orthodox Christianity have been lost in our current conversations about family and culture. We wanted to create a new exhibit, if you will, of the gems and treasures of our faith that inform us about why family is important as a revelation of God. And we wanted to help Christians explain what we are for regarding family rather than focusing only on what we are against in the world in which we live.

Please tell us about the video and how it relates to the book.

In The Truth Project video curriculum, Dr. Del Tackett spends a bit of one of the lessons talking about the interesting (and we daresay “designed”) parallels between the Trinity and the family unit. That, along with many other resources and pieces of research that Focus staff have been creating or sifting through for many years, inspired us to recognize an opportunity to say something important and distinctive about that truth. So we spent months brainstorming and sifting through ideas of what has been said throughout Christian history, and what needs to be said today, and created a structure for a video curriculum.

We also recognized that the curriculum needed a compelling introduction to draw people into the conversation that would take them on a journey that would be familiar but would lead to an unfamiliar conclusion. That was the genesis of the related documentary Irreplaceable which launched in theaters in May.

So co-author Glenn Stanton and I took the lead internally developing treatments for the documentary, outlines for the curriculum, and lists of experts and storytellers to pursue on camera for the finished products.

Eventually it was suggested that a book, inspired by the film and DVD curriculum, would be helpful for either those that wanted to dive deeper than the video sessions had time to do, or for those who would rather read the book than participate in a small group. From that, the book The Family Project was commissioned for Glenn and me to write.

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What did you learn (about life, faith, and/or even yourself) in the process of writing this book?

I learned far more than I can quickly summarize, but I would boil it down to these three points of which I’m convinced and that have changed my life and my family:

1)   God is using the form of family in humanity to reveal the Trinity;

2)   God is using the form of family in humanity to accomplish our redemption and … better than merely our going “back to the garden” as we sang about in the 70s … to bring us into an intimate and eternal relationship with Him.

3)   As Christians, we spend too much effort striving to be (or appear to others as) the unattainable “perfect family” and miss the opportunities to be “redeemed families” that put the Gospel in living form;

Family is what we can use, beyond the revelation that we are individually made in the image of God, to understand ourselves, our God, and our destiny under the redemption God provides us.

Family isn’t just a story in humanity or divinity … Family is the story.

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A few fun questions…

What is your favorite comfort food and why?

My favorite comfort foods come from some of my happiest childhood memories: pancakes, pizza and Pepsi. These foods remind me of memories and of people that mean a lot to me … oh, and they are delicious!

This website features musicians as well as writers. Do you have musical, as well as literary, talent?

I am a self-taught guitarist, mostly rhythm. I grew up with a love for The Beatles and the sound of the 12-string guitar, so I own two of them. I’ve been known to write out a few songs through the years, my favorite being the song Only Because which I sang to my wife when we were in college to propose to her, then sang again to her at our wedding twenty-one years ago.

I’m a dog lover. Please tell us about your pets, if any, or your favorite pet as a child.

My favorite pet as a child was a dog that was an Alaskan Malamute-Siberian Husky mix. We named him “Kazan of Narnia Woods.” When I was probably about seven or eight years old, we moved from an apartment in the south part of St. Louis to a hilly, wooded area outside the St Louis County area, which gave our lives and our time with Kazan a new air of adventure. He was not the brightest dog but he was fiercely loyal, protective, and a lot of fun.

Thank you, Leon! It’s a pleasure to have you as a guest at DivineDetour.

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For more information about Leon and the book, visit The Family Project website.

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2017-10-03T18:59:07+00:00 August 8th, 2014|Literary|2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Elaine Stock August 9, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    Leon, speaking from my own experiences, parental abandonment always remains with you through the years. I’m sorry that this happened to you. I’m grateful that He has blessed you to reach out to others to show the importance and power of family.

    Thanks, Kathy, for hosting Leon.

    Blessings to you both.

    • Kathy Harris August 20, 2014 at 5:01 am

      Elaine, you’re so right, “family” is a powerful thing. And, despite our human inadequacies, with God’s grace and mercy, we all grow from where we were planted. Blessings to you, my friend.

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