In one of our regular pastoral meeting, we were discussing on our sermons for the Advent season and it brought to our attention how the Jews kept their faith in spite of their long period of diaspora. I believe what set them apart from the rest of the people is that their faith was practiced in their everyday lives through family worship.
“Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.” –Jonathan Edwards
What was that part of the DNA of a Christian family in previous centuries that seemed to have all vanished in this past era? Family worship! This glorious expression of our Christian faith used to mark Christian homes, but over the past one hundred years, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten about it. It is time for us to explore and promote family worship in the church again.
Family worship is simply coming together as a family and worshiping God in the home. In the same way we come together for a time of corporate worship in the church, we also come together in the home for a time of family worship that involves reading Scripture, prayer and singing songs.
The key is to start small and finish big. The truth is your home is like a little church. Christian parents can lead their family in home worship. It’s really not that hard. Teaching your kids about your faith and sharing in a time of worship isn’t just for trained theologians or pastors with kids. It’s for all of us, including single parents, working parents, and parents who are new to the faith. You may be thinking your family is too busy, but in reality, are you? How do we spend our time? Maybe watching TV, playing video games, or kids having tuition? Sadly, many families devote more time to these things than they do teaching their children about God. In the Bible, God’s plan for Abraham involved spiritual leadership in his household (Gen 18:19). Jacob recovered leadership in his household by emphasizing God’s word and worship in the family (Gen 31:4-16; 35:1-15). The law required that the father answer questions posed by his children on the meaning of the Passover, the firstborn and the covenant (Ex 12:1-28; 13:1-16). The responsibility of men to teach their families God’s words generally also was affirmed (Deut. 6:6-7; 11:18-19).
This spiritual role for fathers was understood in the time of David. Asaph wrote of ‘sayings of old, which we have heard and known, and our fathers have told us’ and promised (Ps 78:1-6). Someone said: “As goes the home, so goes the church, so goes the nation.” Family worship is a most decisive factor in how the home goes. Family worship is not the only factor, of course. Family worship is not a substitute for other parental duties. The New Testament church included children with their parents as members of the body (Eph. 6:1–4), and the experience of individual believers such as Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5, 3:15), affirm the importance of faith and worship within families.
As we think about worshiping God, it is true that we are to “worship Him in all of life.” This is made clear in passages such as Romans 12:1, in which we are told “to present our bodies as a living sacrifice,” and 1 Corinthians 10:31, where the Apostle Paul tells us, “whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” As Christians, our lives are to be a continual act of worship. However, in recognizing this, we must be careful that we do not negate or diminish the importance of specific times of worship. A Christian home is more than two or three Christians living in the same house. A few Christians living under the same roof does not make a place a Christian home any more than two or three bankers living in a house makes it a bank. A Christian home will seek to be centered upon Christ, and if it is centered upon Christ, then it will be filled with worship.
Interestingly many have the idea that family worship is complicated, or that it requires time-consuming preparation. Simply understood, preparation is no more than your personal worship of God. And the entire experience can be summed up to three simple aspects: read, pray, sing.
The centerpiece of family worship is the Bible. Read and explain a passage of appropriate length for your family. Those with younger children should choose appropriate portions of Scripture. You can ask a few questions to determine understanding, or just ask the children to repeat what they remember.
Let the words of the passage you read suggest matter for prayer. All should have the opportunity to pray, and perhaps rotate to pray depending on the age of your children.
Use a hymnal or sing along with a recording, or let a family musician lead the singing. Sing for as long as the family enjoys it.
Your family worship doesn’t have to be long to be effective. Be patient with the interest and attention span of the younger ones. Remember that you’re not only fulfilling a responsibility to God by leading family worship, you’re also introducing your children to Him. In these moments together, your children can see your love for God and for His Word, and some of the most teachable moments of their childhood will occur. So start family worship in your home today. It doesn’t matter when. For some, early morning is best. For others, it’s mealtime, and yet for others, it’s bedtime. Just start. Whether you’ve been married fifty years or newly engaged, just start. Keep it simple, and keep it up.
Pastors need to stress the importance of it. And laypeople need to be talking about it. But even more importantly, we need to begin to practice it, so that this silent void that has crept into our Christian homes will disappear. My hope is that our Christian homes will once again be filled with fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, sisters, and brothers that are worshiping to the glory of God.
“Brethren, I wish it were more common, I wish it were universal, with all to have family prayer. We sometimes hear of children of Christian parents who do not grow up in the fear of God, and we are asked how it is that they turn out so badly. In many, very many cases, I fear there is such a neglect of family worship that it’s not probable that the children are at all impressed by any piety supposed to be possessed by their parents.” Charles Spurgeon
Pastor Cheng Huat
December 1, 2013