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A majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week talking about their faith or opening God’s Word.
We all know parents are intended to be the primary spiritual leaders for their kids. In fact, a study by the Barna Group indicated that 85% of parents with kids under the age of 13 believe exactly that. And yet the same study also found that “a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week” (emphasis added) talking about their faith or opening God’s Word.
Both research and personal experience reach the same conclusion: parents feel ill-equipped for this role. This quote from Barna’s research should floor us:
“Parents typically have no plan for the spiritual development of their children; do not consider it a priority, have little or no training in how to nurture a child’s faith, have no related standards or goals that they are seeking to satisfy, and experience no accountability for their efforts.”
Yikes! There is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon between what we know to be our role as parents, and our ability to actually fulfill that role for our families.
We believe a family worship model can fill that chasm, but before we talk about what family worship looks like, we must first look at why family worship is so important.
Family Worship Precedes Corporate Worship
The family was always God’s design to transmit his Word, his commands, and his love to a new generation of disciples.
What institution did God create to pass faith on to the next generation? Is it the church? No! The family was always God’s design to transmit his Word, his commands, and his love to a new generation of disciples.
In his excellent book, Family Worship, Donald Whitney points out that the first worshipping community was the family. When God called Abraham, he called him to lead his family, saying, “I have chosen him so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord” (Gen. 18:19).
Even after the creation of the tabernacle and later the temple, it would be many years before synagogues appeared in every town. God’s people would only travel to the temple for special occasions. How, then, could worship continue in the absence of a local place of worship? In the family!
A Generational Model of Discipleship
Repeatedly in Scripture we see a generational aspect to discipleship, with both positive and negative examples. The oldest daily prayer in Judaism, the shema, begins with one of these central texts, from Deuteronomy 6:4-9:
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Take a look at verses 7-9 again and notice how many items on this list are accomplished within the context of the family.
We are meant to be disciples who make disciples who will make disciples.
Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation commends your works to another,” and Psalm 78:4 declares, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord.” Paul commends Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:5 for his “sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice.”
We are meant to be disciples who make disciples who will make disciples. While the family is not the only place this can occur, it is the first place where it should occur.
Worship is the Key to Discipleship
How do you motivate a child’s behavior? Surely it should be enough to simply describe the rules and then sit back and watch our little cherubs behave like the angels they are, right?
Of course not!
The truth is, nothing changes when we grow older. Our behavior is still guided by our affections, even if the consequences and rewards have changed.
We motivate our kids’ behavior by reaching their affections, both positive and negative. We threaten consequences (“No TV for a week!”) and we offer rewards (“There’s dessert if you eat your broccoli.”) The truth is, nothing changes when we grow older. Our behavior is still guided by our affections, even if the consequences and rewards have changed.
Scripture recognizes this truth. Proverbs 3:5 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your…” what? Your brain? No! Your heart. “Above all else guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (Prov. 4:23). And consider the two greatest commandments given by Jesus in Matthew 22:34-40. What word does each begin with? Love.
Worship correctly focuses our affection on Jesus and what he has done for us, and in His light the other pleasures that call for our love and devotion grow “strangely dim.”
If our behavior is guided by our affections, how then do we become disciples? We align our affections correctly, and this is the unique and crucial purpose of worship. In worship, we center our affection on the person of Jesus and pour it out at his feet like the sinful woman in Luke 7. Worship correctly focuses our affection on Jesus and what he has done for us, and in His light the other pleasures that call for our love and devotion grow “strangely dim.”
So What Now?
Family worship is a crucial part of parents’ calling to be a spiritual leader for their kids. It precedes corporate worship, and it’s the key to creating a new generation of disciples. We’ll talk in more detail about what family worship looks like, but there’s something you can do tonight as a family to take a first step:
Open God’s Word together.
Just opening the Bible together is a great place to begin. You don’t have to be a seminary-trained preacher, just an imperfect parent with a willing heart.
That’s right. Just opening the Bible together is a great place to begin. You don’t have to be a seminary-trained preacher, just an imperfect parent with a willing heart. Take a cue from Deuteronomy 6 (“talk about them when you sit at home”) and bring your Bible to the dinner table. As your family finishes the meal, open your Bible and read a verse. Talk to them about what it means, and how it has impacted your life. Here are a few ideas:
1 John 4:10: “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
Philippians 4:12-13: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
Romans 8:38-39: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Matthew 6:33: “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
You can also check out our Family Worship Guides to see the resources we’ve created to help you fulfill the role of spiritual leader for your family.
Tell us about your experience in the comments below. We can’t wait to hear what happens in your family when you begin to open God’s Word together!
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