This past week I read an interesting story about a spiritual awakening that swept through the mining villages of South Wales around the early 1900’s. According to historical records, entire villages turned to Christ. It was said that taverns closed their doors and churches filled their pews. The gospel had penetrated the hard hearts of miners and things drastically changed in their communities. However, if you were to travel to those same areas today, you would find that the taverns are doing a great business and the church pews are relatively empty.
What happened over the last 114 years? The problem is simple. The old hard miners became Christians at a late age. They didn’t understand the importance of passing on the truths of the gospel to their children and grandchildren. Perhaps they merely took for granted that they would follow in their footsteps. Tragically, they didn’t. Today in those areas the fragrance of the gospel has almost been lost.
We are currently between first and second Timothy in our Sunday worship time as a church. I am presently preaching through a series titled, “God’s Design for the Family.” I’m sure that God intended others to benefit from this series, but to speak quite honestly, I firmly believe it was intended for me. In God’s grace and kindness toward me, He has allowed me to study and review the great errors of Israel as a lesson for my own family life and ministry.
Psalm 78 records the tragic mistake of Israel. Although they had experienced the great power of God’s deliverance from Egypt, His provisions in the wilderness, and His victory in the battle field, the people failed miserably in carrying out what Deuteronomy 6 commanded. They were to speak to their children about God’s salvation in the morning, as they traveled on the road, and before they went to sleep at night. They were to have the Word of God in their homes and upon their gates. Somehow, over the years, the children who followed were not taught about the greatness and glory of God. Israel had veiled the gospel. Israel had turned the good news into “dark sayings from of old.”
When statistics tell us that 70-88% of all students walk away from the faith of their parents by the end of their freshman year of college – we can’t afford to play games with our style of parenting! We have only one life. We must make it count for Christ. Our children are being hit squarely between the eyes with a barrage of false doctrine, a buffet line of twisted ideas about the origins of life, open theism, modernism, paganism, and atheism. The God of the Bible has been relegated to the size of a fictional comic book character who can be tossed aside in pursuit of real truth and freedom. In this culture, we must take seriously the task of parenting and maximize our time with our children.
Statistics can be twisted and skewed at times, but sometimes simple statistics can speak great volumes of truth. For instance, the total number of hours that children spend in the seat of a public school classroom from K to 12th grade is 15,000. How can parents buy the idea that a couple of hours per week on the church campus will be good enough to shape the worldview of a child and cause him to look at life through the lens of the gospel? It simply will not work.
On the flip side of that coin is the reality that if parents will take 5 nights per week from age 3 to 18 and lead the family in Scripture, prayer, and song – that will total 3,900 opportunities to raise up the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Attach that to the teaching time that takes place on the church campus (approximately 2,500), and that will total 6,400 official teaching opportunities directed toward your child. If you seek to practice Deuteronomy 6 as a good rule in your home, you can easily add many other unofficial conversations about God and His saving grace over the years. As a busy father, the key is maximizing opportunities and being consistent. Carving out time is difficult at times, but we all have the same number of hours in each day. It’s about making wise decisions.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “The Christian family was the bulwark of godliness in the days of the Puritans but in these evil times hundreds of families of so-called Christians have no family worship, no restraint upon growing sons, and no wholesome instruction or discipline. See how the families of many professors are as dressy, as godless as the children of the non-religious! How can we hope to see the Kingdom of our Lord advance when His own disciples do not teach His gospel to their own sons and daughters?”
What Is Family Worship?
Family worship is not worship of the family! In fact, it’s the exact opposite. It’s teaching the family to tear down idols and worship the one true and living God revealed to us in creation (generally) and Holy Scripture (specially). Family worship is, as Joel Beeke defines, “Generally speaking, this includes instruction in the Word of God, prayer before the throne of God, and singing to the glory of God.” The point of family worship is fathers and mothers taking the responsibility laid upon them to teach their children about the good news of Jesus Christ. While it is the job of the pastoral staff to teach children the gospel, it’s the primary duty of parents.
Family worship, as Joel Beeke rightly states, involves Scripture, prayer, and song. Anyone who can read can prepare a short devotion from God’s Word. A good study Bible or trusted commentaries (pick good resources) can provide you aid in this task. In fact, you should consider consulting your pastor for good resources to use in your family worship (a starter list can be found below). If you or your spouse cannot sing well, consider the many online resources that provide good song choices that you can pick from to lead your family in song. Be creative!
What if the children don’t like family worship? Let’s face it, they probably will not at first (especially if you are starting in their teen years). Over time, especially as God works in their heart – they will come to appreciate it. We cannot afford to mold our parenting styles and adopt our convictions based on what’s considered cool by the peers of our teenagers. Far too many tragedies have been written down in history by parents who adopted that approach.
If you are faithful in your time of family worship, you will teach your children to value the corporate gathering of the believers. Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.” If you are having a good time of worship with your family, it will intensify the worship that takes place when the collective families assemble Sunday. Additionally, if you are praying with your family – it will not only teach you and your family to value the prayer service of your church, but it will radically alter the type of praying that occurs in those gatherings. This is essential for the health of the church.
Dr. Joel Beeke preached in our first G3 Conference (Questions & Answers Session – Start at 19:00 min.) back in January of 2013. I asked him to tell of his story of family worship and the benefits he experienced as a boy. He went on to tell of a really special and unique moment in his family’s life. It was the fiftieth wedding anniversary of his parents. All five siblings got together and planned to thank their parents individually for one thing – without consulting the other siblings on what they had planned to say. Without talking to one another – all five thanked their mother for her prayer life. Then, they turned to their father, and all five thanked him for leading them in family worship. Dr. Beeke’s brother recounted the many times that their father would lead them through The Pilgrim’s Progress on Sunday evenings and with tears streaming down his face – he would point them to Christ. Needless to say – it left an indelible mark upon their family. I venture to say, when you arrive in heaven, you could inquire of Joel Beeke’s father and interview him. Ask him if he had any regrets upon his deathbed for leading his family in worship and I can promise you he will say – no!
Maximize opportunities in the life of your family. Make necessary sacrifices. This may mean that you have to say “no” to a sports league once in a while or that you may need to reconsider taking that promotion that could cost you more time away from your family. The key is keeping Christ at the center of your family rather than asking Him to come along for the ride.
May our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ lead a reformation of faithful Christians into our society from the living rooms of common men who take seriously the truths of Deuteronomy 6 and Psalm 78.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Pastor Josh Buice
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Bible – Consider reading through a book of the Bible and taking it slowly and explaining the small sections. Sometimes the divisions in your Bible will help you choose a starting and stopping place as you go through the book. Sometimes slower is better!
Study Bible Recommendations:
- ESV Study Bible
- John MacArthur’s Study Bible
- The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
- Big Truths for Little Kids – Susan Hunt (in the chapter on baptism, you will need to alter it or skip it. The chapter is written from a Presbyterian position on baptism which we don’t embrace. A little time preparing will allow you to alter the story line and your children will never know the difference).
- Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers
- Big Thoughts for Little Thinkers – Joey Allen
- Big Thoughts for Little People – Kenneth N. Taylor
- Christian Biographies For Young Readers Series
- A Guide to Prayer – Isaac Watts
- The Plan: How God got the World Ready for Jesus – Sinclair Ferguson
- Puritan Catechism – Spurgeon
- Baptist Catechism – John Piper
- The Family Worship Book – Terry L. Johnson
Audio / Video / Media:
If you want to better understand how to sing and how to explain a passage of Scripture, make sure you are using trusted sources for your study. Below you will see some audio / video resources for you to use.
- Psalms – www.cgmusic.org
- Hymnals – www.nethymnal.org
- Sovereign Grace Music
- Grace to You – John MacArthur
- Desiring God – John Piper
- Ligonier Ministries
- Behold Your God – DVD / Bible Study on the Attributes of God
- Truth For Life – Alistair Begg
- Blue Letter Bible
- Tim Challies’ Blog – Challies.com
Creeds and Doctrinal Statements:
- Apostles’ Creed
- Baptist Faith and Message
- Nicene Creed
- 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith
- Abstract of Principles (the oldest doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention)
*In the Apostles’ Creed – references to the “Holy Catholic Church” is a reference to the universal church – not the Roman Catholic Church. Some people replace “catholic” with “Christian” – but that is not necessary. The term catholic is a direct reference to the universal church of all believers from all across the world – among the nations.
Books (such as The Pilgrim’s Progress): Read through a book and then take time to discuss the gospel implications that you can all learn in that chosen section or chapter.
Bible: Read a chosen passage and then seek to explain what it means. A good study Bible will be a great help to you in this area. See list above for recommendations.
TIP: If you or spouse are unable to sing well, consider using music from your iPod or computer to assist your family in singing. I highly recommend going through the hymns and teaching your children to sing the rich theology. The Baptist Hymnal is available as an iPad download and is very profitable in this area.