Sometime back, I was preparing a mission sermon and came across this cartoon which I found amusing. The pandemic had caused Christians and Christian leaders to rethink church. In my nearly 40 years serving in ministries, I had never heard of churches closing down other than those under extreme persecution.
Recently, the pandemic caused me to ask: “What has gone wrong in our discipleship and in our Christian homes?” No amount of attending Intentional Disciple-making Conferences (IDMC) will transform us if discipleship is but a set of programmes that churches run. How about the home front, where parents sacrifice our next generation to the altar of academic excellence?
I say this with a sober heart. I was preparing a combined retreat between Katong Presbyterian Church and Hope Presbyterian Church and took the task of facilitating the children’s programme. The “convenient” reason for the programme was to allow parents to enjoy the retreat without being distracted by their kids. I was troubled because this showed that we have the mindset of outsourcing what we don’t want to do to someone else. For lack of a better phrase, we ‘leave it to the experts’. In the process of preparations, the above cartoon came to mind. While Satan is a master of lies and trickery, God always has a countermeasure.
Suddenly, I realised that our Christian homes are in crisis. The pandemic has exposed in us weak links with our next generation. When will our parents reclaim their spiritual authority in the home? I told the organising committee that we should get parents to run the retreat for their own children. We would provide Parents-Resource kits to guide them.
Isn’t it the case nowadays that we spend lots of time with our children, with parents under WFH orders and children on HBL? Isn’t this an opportunity that God has given to us – to reclaim our spiritual authority in our homes, to rekindle our passion for Him? For too long, we have left God outside our homes. We have long forgotten that “God is the head of this home, the unseen guest at every meal and the silent listener to every conversation”.
Dr Tedd Tripp writes in Shepherding a Child’s Heart: “God has called you to a more profound task than being a care-provider. You shepherd your child in God’s behalf. The task God has given you is not one that can be conveniently scheduled. It is a pervasive task. Training and shepherding are going on whenever you are with your children. Whether waking, walking, talking or resting, you must be involved in helping your child to understand life, himself, and his needs from a biblical perspective (Deut 6:6-7).”
He further writes in Instructing a Child’s Heart: “The life classroom is constant, compelling and comprehensive. The same is true of our homes as well. They are environments where our children are constantly learning. Not only that, but we are always teaching our children. Our every response, whether it is instruction or silence, teaches. Our behavior and our love teach.”
The pandemic has brought out and shown those who are real and those who may not have really believed in Jesus. Some have felt relief: “Church services have been suspended. Now I don’t worry about skipping church anymore. No more guilt.” Perhaps that is how some of us feel today. This would seem to be a perfect excuse for those who aren’t that excited about church even if the advisory allowed for on-site worship with singing under the mask (although circumstances are still very fluid today).
The pandemic reveals the true state of our soul. It is like a light that was suddenly switched on, making the hidden things in the darkness of our soul become clearly visible. Covid-19 reveals true worshippers. A clear line can be drawn between two kinds of online worshippers:
- Those who may think since no one is watching them in the privacy of their homes, they need not be at their Sunday best. They watch the live-streamed service in pajamas, holding a coffee mug and a newspaper, slouching on the sofa with feet up on the coffee table.
- Those who worship at home as if they are in the church sanctuary. They don’t just watch, but also participate. They stand to sing with those on the screen. They bow in prayer when it is time to do so. They send their offering using the QR code. They don’t talk. They don’t snack. They are not distracted by the noise and demands of their kids. They are focused on worship. They listen intently to the Word being preached online. They believe God is present in the sanctuary of their hearts and their home.
Covid-19 separates those who speak the Word and those who live the Word. We have just finished preaching from Ezra and are now embarking on Nehemiah. Have you ever wondered how the Israelites could have restored their religious traditions and beliefs so quickly upon their return, despite having been exiled for 70 years in a pagan country, under the influence of idol worshippers? The only answer I can think of is that they must have been living out their faith in their homes, teaching their younger generation about the glorious deeds and wonders of the Lord, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God (Psalm 78:1-8).
‘Change’ seems to be the constant today. Even our scientists are unable to catch up with the speed of the virus’ mutation, and vaccines may become ineffective overnight. This would also be true of the spiritual state of our homes should we not be quick enough to vaccinate our homes with the power of Christ. Charles Spurgeon’s words can inspire us: “To a man who lives unto God nothing is secular, everything is sacred! He puts on his workday garment and it is a vestment to him… He goes forth to his labor and exercises the office of the priesthood…”
Charles Spurgeon further adds that “He has made the common pots and pans of your kitchens to be as the bowls before the altar if you know what you are and live according to your high calling.”
The greatest disciples we can ever make start in our own homes with our children and our families. The Greek word oikos means family – family on mission. What does this mean for our community? Families that open their lives and seek out how to follow Christ. How can we become a family that can be replicated wherever we go in our community? Let us delay no more, but start “Living out our Faith in our Homes” right now! Your home is a sanctuary where the great commission is in action.
Rev Tan Cheng Huat (Non-resident Missionary to SQ)
June 13, 2021