Pastoral Perspectives

One Family at a Time

Recently I attended a soft launch of the National Children’s Conference 2015 and in our small group brain storming sessions, the results from each group indicated “Family and children”. Than in our EDC retreat, the issue of Family was raised. What happens today is that for too many years, churches and parents have encouraged paid professionals to take the primary role in the discipleship of children. Though research continues to reveal that – other significant adults are also important – parents remain the most influential people in children’s spiritual, social, and behavioral development.

How did we get to where we are today? The battle for the soul of a nation begins at home. That’s why we urgently need a Family Reformation, one family at a time. Why has our moral meltdown? It is because we have rejected the rules and lost our respect for the Ruler. (Proverbs 1:7) Today we don’t realize the how troubling it is that so many marriages are breaking up! A Chinese proverb says: “In the broken nest there are no whole eggs.” If you go any where in the streets and ask any women, “What is your primary goal in life?” very few will respond by saying, “To be a wife and a mother.”

In fast pace Society, we do not need any researcher to tell us on an average Singapore parents spend less than 15 minutes a week in serious discussion with their children and not to say about spiritual matters. The answer is not “out there”; it is “in here” – with us. If you and I will submit ourselves, our marriages and our children to the Holy Scriptures and the Lord Jesus Christ, then we can take the first step toward beginning a Family reformation. (Romans 1:16)

What an irony, in my 14 years at True Way, I’ve shared with the leadership that I’ve tried at least 3 times if not more, trying to launch Marriage weekends/Couples retreats but only had one successful weekends planned. Yet here am I conducting Couple retreats in the mission field so well attended by young and old couples. Do our couples not need encouragements and timeout together or are we just too busy with our own business that we’ve no time for God’s business? We have been blinded to realize that Marriage weekends/Couples retreats are meant to challenge those of us whose marriage are good to make them better and for those who are struggling in our marriages to make them good. We are trying to reform society without reforming ourselves. I am convinced that reformation must begin – can only begin with individuals. With me. With you.

The sad reality is that the real altar in Christian families today, which gets hours of attention, is the Internet and media. A Family reformation begins when people reshape and reform their marriages and families according to the standard – the truths revealed in the Bible. Are we faithfully reading the Bible in our own homes? When parents don’t pass on a godly legacy to their children, the entire church/nation suffers. Families are suffering today because many Christian parents are not training their sons and daughters to become godly husbands and fathers, wives and mothers and so a generation of Christian young people are sexually confused and more committed to careers than family.

What does God expect of me? God must first work in us before He can work through us. There are no solutions to our family problems until our individual relationships with Jesus Christ are set right and our lives are under the control of the Holy Spirit. (Deuteronomy 6:4 – 9) In the U12 Teachers’ retreat recently, I shared about a book: “Is Sunday School destroying our Kids” Chapter 2 caught my attention: “Why Do Our Children Leave the Church?” The author listed some Bible characters whose lives were also caught in a mess. His observation is that our children lose fire because of our assumptions: we assume the gospel. He quoted from Mack Stiles book “Marks of the Messenger” that shows how the gospel is lost:

  1. The gospel is Accepted
  2. The gospel is Assumed
  3. The gospel is confused
  4. The gospel is Lost

Stiles continues, “For any generation to lose the gospel is tragic but the generation that assumes the gospel…is most responsible for the lost of the gospel. That generation is us. We are most responsible. Who has bewitched us? Many of us have forgotten that the gospel is always about God’s action.

Our society so clearly saying: “What will make us tell the truth when a lie will get us out of trouble?” There are only 2 options: either we harden ourselves or allow the gospel to soften us. So what is the real gospel? Tim Keller says that the gospel is like a two-sided coin: we are more wicked than we have ever dared admit and we are more loved than we ever dared imagine.” In our “Google” generations, many of us no longer think for ourselves or even put to memory the basis for Christian living. We Google and can find many self-helps or dos and don’ts for wise Christian living. We do not need any set of good behaviours handbook but we need the gospel of grace. The tips and techniques of Christian mentors aren’t bad but they obscure the intent of God’s law. Samuel Williamson wrote: “The Law is not first and foremost rules for right living, though many of us approach it that way. The Law first and foremost is a verbal painting of the beauty of God. It is the only reality of God that will change our hearts. More than rules, we need God. And with God, and with a God-changed heart, we begin to live aright; the Law is written on our hearts.” (Samuel Williamson, Is Sunday School Destroying Our Kids? p.38)

How can you and I pass on our convictions to our children if we have not determined what we believe? How could a son be raised to be a man if his father and mother are not convinced of what God expects a man to be and do? Or can a daughter be raised to be a woman if her parents don’t know what the Bible teaches is the core of godly femininity? In a culture that glorifies career success and minimizes the importance of motherhood, what would give a woman (and her husband) the courage to choose children, especially during the early years of their lives, over career?

            Why would any grandparent take the time in retirement to mentor a young mother or dad unless she (or he) had convictions about a divine responsibility to mould the younger generation and call them to maturity? (Dennis Rainey, One Home at a Time, p.187)

Rev Tan Cheng Huat

September 28, 2014