Results tagged “family” from Reformation21 Blog

The Father and his Flock


Husbands and fathers are called to be pastors in their homes. "What the preacher is in the pulpit," Lewis Bayly declared, "the same the Christian householder is in his house." The idea of fathers as the pastors of their homes arises from the testimony of Scripture. The word "pastor" comes from the Latin word for "shepherd"--and every father is called to serve as a shepherd in his home.

The application of shepherding imagery in the Bible does not end with the call for pastors to reflect the ministry of the good shepherd Jesus in the local church. Scripture also draws parallels between the responsibility of Christian fathers to pastor their families and the responsibility of called men to shepherd the local church. Paul had this to say about anyone who might become a pastor/elder: "He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God's church?)" (1 Tim. 3:4-5).

Pastoral leaders must be good shepherds of their little flocks at home before they are qualified to serve as shepherds of God's flock, the church. Every man in a local church should be able to look to his pastor's ministry as a model of faithful shepherding to be imitated on a smaller scale in his own home. If the congregation's pastor is shepherding the church but not his own family, his influence is muted and his model is one of tragic hypocrisy.

A family is not a church; every Christian believer, as an individual, functions under the authority of the congregation. Yet the principles of directing and caring for the church and the household are the same. Paul called local churches "the household of God" (1 Tim. 3:15) and he uses family imagery to exhort congregations (1 Tim. 5:1-2; 1 Cor. 4:15-16; 1 Thess. 2:11). The interplay in the Scripture between the household of God and familial households, as well as the interplay between pastors and fathers, should arrest the reader's attention.

"The church is the family of God," Randy Stinson asserts, "and family relationships represent a divinely-ordained paradigm for God's church--which is why it is so important for our relationships in the family and in the church to reflect God's ideal."1 It is common today for families to have the mentality that the church exists to serve the family. In reality, such a view needs to be turned on its head. Our households exist to portray to the world the church, the household of God. The congregation, then, is to be conformed to the Word of God and be determined to know nothing but Christ and him crucified--and families are called to do the same.

Pastors reflect Jesus in the church by feeding, directing, disciplining, and defending the flock of God, and fathers must do likewise with the little family flock God has entrusted to them. What must not be overlooked in all of this, however, is that the most important reality in the life of the family is not the family, but Jesus Christ. It is God's eternal plan to sum up all things in Jesus (Eph. 1:10) and it is a father's primary job to lead in doing so in his little flock at home. Any father who fails to focus on the Gospel and settles for behavioral change and isolation from the world is cultivating an idolatrous focus on their own family. Family issues are, however, deeper than behavior; they are issues of the heart for which the only answer is the Gospel. A home full of well-behaved, well-mannered children whose obedience is not understood through the lens of the Gospel is not holy but hellish.

A father is the head of his home, the spiritual leader, who has the responsibility to feed his family the Word of God on a daily basis. He also must know that, even though he is the shepherd of his little flock, "the chief Shepherd" has graciously placed him under the authority of the church and its shepherds, "the flock of God" (1 Pet 5:2, 4). Therefore, each father should lead his family to the church as a vital partner as he guides his family. He should be able to say, with the apostle Paul, that he ministers night and day with tears, declaring the whole counsel of God and refusing to count his life more dear than his ministry to his family (Acts 20:17-38). How are you doing pastor dad?

1. Randy Stinson, "Family Ministry and the Future of the Church," in Perspectives on Family Ministry, ed. Timothy Paul Jones (Nashville: B&H, 2009), 3.

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church: The Promise of Sports for Christian Discipleship and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, and Preaching Today.

We looked at the most popular posts from across Alliance websites in 2017. Did you miss one of these last year? Do you want to read one your favorites again? Just click the article title! 

10Calvin's Life: The Servetus Affair by Jeffrey Stivason

Opponents of John Calvin are quick to blame him for the trial and execution of Michael Servetus. But is that fair? Jeffrey Stivason offers a brief history of the event and Calvin's involvement. 

9. Marital Love Must Be Sexual by Joel Beeke

This is the last in a series of posts about the Puritan view of marriage. The Puritans emphasized the romantic side of marriage, and considered monogamous sexual union in marriage as holy, necessary, and good. 

8. No Little Women: Know What We've Got Before She's Gone by Grant Van Leuven

Grant wrote this beautiful piece in February, reflecting on femininity and the value of womanhood after the passing of his wife only five months earlier.

7. Game of Dethroning Sexual Sin by Nick Batzig

Should Christians watch a show like Game of Thrones, which is widely-acclaimed yet filled with explicit and debauched sexuality? Nick Batzig offers some insight into this divisive issue. 

6. Words Matter: Recovering Godly Speech in a Culture of Profanity by Jon Payne

"So what does the Bible teach about our words?" Jon Payne asks this question in an age of obscenity. His answer: "God created our mouths to be fountains of blessing, not gutters of cursing."

5. Mike Pence, "Truth's Table" and Fencing the Law by Richard Phillips

2017 was a year of conversations (and battles) over sexuality and gender. In this article, Richard Phillips navigates some difficult issues, pointing out both problems in the culture and pitfalls we face in the Church. 

4. A Few Questions About the New CBMW Statement by Aimee Byrd

The Nashville Statement, published in late August, offers what many consider to be an orthodox and biblical understanding of human sexuality. Yet Aimee Byrd has a few reservations, particularly related to the CBMW's stance on gender roles and the Trinity. 

3. The Slippery Slope and the Jesus Box by Richard Phillips

Some think it possible to flirt with liberal doctrines and still maintain orthodox faith in Christ. As the example of Fred Harrell shows, the slope towards heresy may be more slippery than they think. 

2. Sundays are for Babies by Megan Hill

Small children may disrupt your Sunday morning, but this day of rest is for them too! As Megan Hill remarks, "Sundays may mean disrupted naps and delayed meals, but our children are trading earthly provision for something far better for their undying souls." 

1. Pray for Your Church Leaders by Christina Fox

Church Leaders and their families carry heavy loads, beset on all sides with stress and temptation. Christiana Fox calls us to remember them in our prayers, knowing that "the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working" (James 5:16). 

That's all for now. We look forward to 2018, and to another year of proclaiming biblical truth!


The Patriarchy Movement: Five Areas of Grave Concern

The church is an environment of extremes. The trouble with extremes is that they always contain a seed of truth, making them look and sound plausible to the careless bystander. By virtue of this fact, the church is also often full of susceptible bystanders ready to lap-up the latest and greatest fad. One example of this is seen in the Christian Patriarchy movement. Popular now, for some thirty years, Christian Patriarchy, and its twin the "Quiver-full" movement, contain truths about headship, gender roles, and attitudes towards authority in the home. God has ordained such matters, but the question arises, what has God ordained concerning them?

This posts does not seek to trash the patriarchy movement or those found in it. Neither does it disagree with the biblical truths concerning headship, gender roles and attitudes towards authority. Rather it seeks to identify a number of issues that do great harm to those within the movement specifically and Christ's Church as a whole. To be fair, not all in the Patriarchy movement hold to an identical set of beliefs and so I will, in this post, necessarily paint with a broad brush.

  1. Christian patriarchy tends to supplant ecclesiastical authority. This is manifested when the local church's rightful role and authority is taught (either in word and deed or in function and practice) to be inferior of that of the patriarch of the family. Christian fathers may not usurp the rightful authority and function of the church. For instance, Christ has not entrusted to non-ordained men the public ministry of the word, the administration of the sacraments, church discipline etc. I have known of families, with patriarchal leanings, who determined that they had the right to trump ecclesiastical authority by refusing to allow the church to discipline their rebellious teenager. What the Patriarchy movement often fails to emphasize is that even the patriarch in the home is a man under authority in the church. It stands to reason that so is his family. Moreover, men in general are not the head of women in general. Biblical headship pertains only to the marriage relationship and the parent-child relationship. There are few things more dangerous than a failure to recognize and willingness to submit to the authority of the church. A failure to recognize the authority of the officers of a biblically faithful local church is a failure to recognize the authority of Christ, the Head of the Church.
  2. Christian Patriarchy tends to supplant ecclesiastical community. The Patriarchy movement has far too frequently produced a family that is separate from the local church, rather than a family that is a microcosm of the local church. This is, of course, a natural product of a misunderstanding the authority of the church. When this happens, family is elevated to a place of greater importance than the church. Yet, in Scripture the church is held in the highest esteem. After all, our Lord did not shed his blood for the family, but for the Church (Acts 20:28). Such a misunderstanding frequently produces socially stunted children, as well as carbon copies of "the patriarch" himself--that is, someone in a continuous power struggle with the church. In turn, this becomes the death-knell of evangelism in the church.
  3. Christian Patriarchy tends to pervert the father's God-given role in the home as prophet, priest and king. Anyone familiar with Scripture must agree that the spiritual head of the home certainly holds, in some way, these functions. They are not, however, ecclesiastical offices. Rather, they are parental functions. Acting as prophet, in the home, the father is to teach his family the Word of God. Acting as priest, he is to intercede in prayer on their behalf. Acting a king, he applies the law of God to his family and provides such direction as is rightful. The problem with the patriarchy movement is that it interprets these functional roles as offices. Moreover, it often emphasizes the office of King over the other roles. In reaction, many have turned from these biblical functions and denied that heads of households should function these ways. In short, Patriarchy has damaged, rather than enhanced, true biblical headship.
  4. Christian Patriarchy tends to pervert the mother's God-given roles in the home. Can anyone who has read Scripture--or examined the workings of an average Christian home--deny the reality that the mother is also frequently acting as a prophet, priest and king of the home? The Proverbs frequently call the son to listen to the counsel of his father and his mother. Additionally, the law of God commands children to "Honor your father and you mother." It is the mother who teaches, intercedes for and rules and guides in the home for substantial portions of the day. Is the mother tied to the sink or oven or bed? No! She is a teacher, a counselor, a prayer-warrior, a master in the home, for and on behalf of her children. Does Christian Patriarchy pervert this model? It seems to do so in many cases.
  5. Christian Patriarchy tends to be a man-made, law-based system. There is a great danger for sinful men in a singularity of authority! Nowhere else do we accept it! In American government we have (in theory) a separation of powers, a system of checks and balances. In the legal world we have a series of appeals courts. In the ecclesiastical sphere, God has ordained a plurality of elders for the purpose of keeping authority out of the hands of one man. Patriarchy, ultimately, centers all authority in one man. In order for authority to function, there is need for rules and laws. My fear is that the singularity of authority found in patriarchy, not only creates a system of self-preserving laws (which tend to be man-made), but it also squeezes out the Gospel from daily life. Being most concerned about behavior modification proponents of the Patriarchy movement have often forgotten the real need for heart-modification, not by law, but by the grace of God in the Gospel.

It is simply a poor hermeneutic to find a detailed explanation of how we should live by examining the lives of Abraham and Job. Clearly there is much to learn from the Patriarchs; but they too were sinners (dare we say it, with, "multiple wives!") living in the shadows of the preparatory and anticipatory Old Testament era. Ecclesiology was not fully developed in the Patriarchal era. When seeking to develop a fully biblical ecclesiology, we have to ask what Peter, Paul and our Lord Jesus have to say about these things. After all, redemptive-history finds its fullness in the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles. As we read the New Testament, we find an absence of teaching on anything that remotely resembles most of the principles of the Patriarchy movement. If we want to be biblically faithful, we need to examine all the biblical data, regardless of whether it fits our presuppositions or not. We must be willing to have our presuppositions corrected by the Scriptures if we are to be the fathers and mothers God intends for us to be.

Matt Holst is the pastor of Shiloh Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, NC. He is a graduate of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Matt is a frequent contributor to the Christward Collective.

The Pastor's Family and Friendships in the Church

One of the pieces of advice that I received from a seasoned pastor when I was first beginning ministry was, "Don't befriend the people in your church. They will most certainly hurt you." I assumed his words were the result of countless battles over 30 years in ministry, enduring numerous blows inflicted by those with whom he was closest. Now, as I come to the end of my first decade as a pastor, I understand the reason why my friend gave me that particular advice. I have known deep hurt in ministry and have often thought back on that conversation: Should I find my friends elsewhere?

How does a pastor do what he's called to do without developing friendships and making himself and his family vulnerable to the hurt that accompanies relationships? Jesus showed us the greatest love when he laid down his life for his friends (John 15:13). How can a pastor follow the Master's way if he's unwilling to do the same? No one likes getting hurt, and it's especially difficult with a family in tow. So where is the balance? How can a pastor protect his own heart and his family from the emotional blows that sometimes accompany friendships in the church, while simultaneously being willing to be hurt for the sake of Christ and his bride?

Friends or Acquaintances? 

The consistent drumbeat of Scripture is that Christ's powerful, inwardly constraining love compels the believer to deny self for the honor of God and the good of others (2 Corinthians 5:14a). Some of my sweetest pastoral moments have come when I've put friendships in the church above deadlines, expectations, and to-do lists. Sitting beside the bed of someone I can genuinely call a friend in the last moments of his life is far more meaningful than just being his pastoral acquaintance. I have found that my chief pastoral duties of prayer and the ministry of the Word are far more effective when I am known and seeking to know others despite the inevitable difficulties that may arise. I don't generally yearn for my acquaintances like I do for my friends with "all the affections of Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:8).

Pastoral ministry can be lonely, but I am convinced that more lonely than the pastor is often his wife. While most pastors have fraternal relationships with other men in ministry, most pastors' wives don't have a lot of women to share their burdens with in a meaningful way. And if pastors' kids are going to value the local church throughout their lives, it seems appropriate that at the very least they should be able to call others in their church-going midst "friend." Some people in the church that my wife and I have considered our closest friends have hurt us in significant ways. We want to prepare our children for the same results should they have to bear them, and yet we want their friendships to be genuine, not filled with doubt and uncertainty.

Being a pastor is a unique calling, and while others may hurt any and every member of our family, I must remember that I have hurt my friends as well (Eccl. 7:21). It's inevitable in relationships, but Jesus didn't avoid the hurt of friendships--neither should I! As well intentioned as my friend was to encourage me to keep my friendships out of the church, I can't agree with his advice. Some of my best friends are members of the church in which I serve, and I know that we may hit some bumps along the journey together; but, bumps in the road with a friend are far better than smooth sailing alone.

Trust Your Neighbor as Yourself?

That being said, pastoral friendships require great wisdom. Several years ago it dawned on me that I know more collectively about the personal lives of everyone in my local church than anyone else. Such knowledge could potentially be harmful if improperly handled or wrongfully disclosed in an unguarded moment with a friend. God has uniquely gifted and given grace to pastors to hear and handle information about His people. We may think very highly of our friends within the local church, but we must remember that not everyone is called to bear the same burdens. It is wise to remember "Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble" (Proverbs 21:23).

On the personal level, sharing our lives with God's people as friends doesn't mean all of our friends need to hear about everything in our hearts and minds. Pastors are men, and as the old adage goes, even the best of men are men at best. We have our own sin struggles and temptations that need to be dealt with, and we need accountability. But the pastor's accountability should be with his fellow elders and other pastor friends, not the people in his congregation. Any congregation should know their pastor is accountable to others, and that those he is accountable to are trustworthy and concerned about his holiness, and the good of the church he serves. But a pastor loving his brothers and sisters as friends doesn't always mean that he should trust them with every detail of his life. I have no reason to doubt that my friends are trustworthy and are not ill-intentioned, but I also know that a church can be hurt deeply by miscommunicated, misunderstood, or wrongly used information about their pastor.

Be a wise friend for your good, for your family's good, and for the good of the church. But by all means, be a real friend and not just an acquaintance. Your life with fellow Kingdom citizens will be far greater and a lot less lonely. Pastors and their family members need good friends, and many of those friends could be sitting in front of them each and every Lord's Day.

Nick Kennicott is the pastor of Ephesus Church, a Reformed Baptist Church, in Rincon, GA. He blogs at the Decablog. You can follow Nick on Twitter @kennicon.

Bringing Our Children to Jesus

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One of the most important things we will do at Second Presbyterian Church is disciple our children to a living, personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. We live in a society that assumes that when children grow up they will jettison the family's beliefs and values. But the Bible sees things differently. The book of Proverbs says that the childhood years have a formative influence that lasts throughout life: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6). 

There are a number of mistakes that I have observed Christian parents making over my years in ministry. One mistake is to think that our duty as Christian parents consists solely of disciplining our children. To be sure, the Bible clearly states that Christian should be disciplined (see Heb. 12:6; Prov. 13:24). But discipline - the process of bringing the will into submission - is not enough. Another mistake is have seen consists of the belief that need only provide a good Christian environment for our children. We bring them to Sunday School and church, we home school them or educate them in Christian schools, we ensure that their friends are from believing families, we send them to Christian camps, etc. I am certainly not against any of these things. But providing a Christian environment and structure is simply not enough for the Christian nurture of our children. Our generation is seeing a shockingly high percentage of young people raised in a Christian environment who do not continue in the faith outside of the home. Surely, the primary reason is the poor quality of Christian faith in so many churches and homes. But I am persuaded that another reason is that many parents do not recognize their role in discipling their children in the faith. 

What do I mean by discipling our children? Ted Tripp put it this way in his excellent book, Shepherding a Child's Heart: Discipling is "the process of your children embracing the things of God as their own living faith... to see your children develop identities as persons under God" (p. 198). Discipling arises out of the bonded relationship parents are to have with their children. We see this throughout the book of Proverbs, which was written in the form of counsel from a father to a son. Proverbs 23 is especially filled with this kind of language. Solomon writes, "My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad" (Prov. 23:15). He adds, "Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old" (Prov. 23:22). My favorite - and this verse presents the heart behind the wisdom of Proverbs - reads: "My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways" (Prov. 23:26). How important that statement is: children will follow our ways only if they have given us their hearts. 

So how do parents foster a close relational bond that results in their children following in our ways? I would offer parents four commitments designed to build a strong discipling relationship with their children. I base it on four easy-to-remember words: Read - Pray - Work - Play. 

First, parents (especially fathers) must read God's Word to and with their children. Countless Christians raised in strong believing homes will remember the influence of their father's fervent and faithful ministry of reading (plus explaining and discussing) the Scriptures. Paul states that "faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ" (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, our children's faith will feed off the hearing of God's Word from the mouths of their fathers and mothers. This takes many forms. Little children should be read Bible stories and memorize simple verses. The every-day speech of parents in the home should liberally include the truth of God's Word. In my view there is no substitute for regular family worship, in which the whole family gathers to study God's Word and pray. And of course, our children need to see our own devotion to God's Word lived out in the home, experiencing first-hand from us the righteousness, peace, and joy that comes from the gospel. 

Second, parents must pray for and with their children. How it warms a child's heart to know that his or her parents are fervently praying on his behalf. Parents should have regular times of prayer with the children and should frequently pray individually with their children. A child's heart should be warmed by the voice of her mother and father beseeching God's blessing and help for her. Thus parents should make sure that their children know they are praying for the specific challenges and trials that they are facing. This requires us to be involved in the affairs of their hearts, which discipling always requires. 

Third, parents should work with their children. This means that parents should be involved in the children's work - mainly schoolwork - both to help and guide them. But it also means that we should invite our children into our work. Shared work builds relationships. Work in the kitchen, work in the yard, work painting walls or repairing furniture. Children love to work alongside their parents, and the process of growth and shared experience forges a strong bond. Families should also engage in works of Christian service together. 

Fourth, parents should play with their children. This involves our participation in their play and our invitation for them to join in our play. When a father gets down on his knees to work on a model or Legos with his boys or to do crayons with his little girls, the relationship bond is strengthened. When mothers share books that she loved growing up or sits down for a game with the kids, her knits their hearts with hers. Parents should share their passions with their boys and girls and invite them into the fun of hobbies and pastimes. All of this play has a very serious purpose: the bonding of hearts in loving relationship through joyful, shared experiences. 

"My child, give me your heart," says the Bible. This assumes, of course, that the parent has already given his or her heart to the child. This will always take the form of time: serious time and play time, time in worship and time in service together. If we will give our hearts to our children, we will find their hearts eagerly offered back to us, so that we may then lead them into the reality of our faith in Christ. Indeed, the nurturing, discipling bond between a parent and a child is one of the promised results of Christ's coming: "He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers" (Mal. 4:4). 

*This first appeared on Ref21 in August 2008. You can find the original post here

We Are Family!

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How does family relate to the Church and its grander mission (even the Great Commission!)? What constitutes a family, how does it reflect the image of God and ... what about singles? 

Today the Mortification of Spin crew are joined by John McClean, vice president of Christ College in Australia, where he teaches Systematic Theology and Ethics. Dr. McClean discusses family in its biblical nature and purpose.  

Listen for good, helpful advice and great reminders delivered with the customary MoS spirit.

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Reformation-Resurrection Conference 2015

Several years ago I had the privilege of preaching in Denmark at the Reformation-Resurrection Conference. The invitation came out of the blue, hanging upon the absence of another brother whose health prevented him from serving. I went a little tentatively, not knowing what I would find, not least because Denmark is hardly known as an epicentre of biblical faith and life.

You can imagine my delight when I discovered a conference organised by a small but vigorous Reformed Baptist church, gathering together saints of like mind - many of them in far-from-ideal spiritual circumstances themselves - for a week of concentrated scriptural Bible teaching and warm fellowship among believers of the same spirit. People had gathered not only from Denmark but also from Norway, Sweden, Germany and even further afield to worship God together and enjoy a time of spiritual refreshment. Unfortunately, when they all arrived they discovered that the man they had hoped to hear was absent, and yours truly was the sorry substitute. Nevertheless, the Lord undertook for us, and it was his truth that went forth to the glory of his name.

All of which to say that the brothers in Denmark have been kind enough to invite me back again this summer when, God willing, my topic will be The Christian Family: God's Grace in the Heart and in the Home. The conference is due to be held in mid-July at a school in Mariager, between Aarhus and Aalborg in the north of Denmark. They have asked me to draw this to the attention of interested friends, who can find out more at the conference website (Danish/English). Perhaps I will see you there?

Faith of Our Fathers

I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. On Father's Day I will be in the same place doing the same thing that I have done for the past 35 years. No, not in my church preaching a Father's Day sermon. Actually, though I have been in ministry for 35 years, I have never preached a Father's Day sermon. In fact, I have never preached on Father's Day. But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

The little church is crowded, more so than usual. The brightly-painted white clapboard chapel is nestled on a mountainside overlooking the Pine Creek, one of the most beautiful valleys you could ever imagine. The sound of the church bell rings across the valley signaling the beginning of the service. The opening hymn is "Faith of Our Fathers" sung to the accompaniment of a foot-pumped organ that makes it sound more like an accordion than an organ. To my right I can hear the clear tenor voice of my Dad. Soon we will hear a simple, clear, heart-stirring challenge from the lay pastor about the need to take our biblical responsibilities of fatherhood seriously.

As I have sat in that pew over the years my heart has overflowed with gratitude to God for what I learned about Fatherhood from my Dad. The very fact that we were there reminded me of the importance of keeping my priorities in order. It was 10:00 on Sunday morning and we were on vacation. It was my parents' only Sunday away, but we were in church. It was never debated or in doubt. We were going to worship the Lord. Dad was the hardest-working man I have ever known but church attendance was never compromised all year long. The Lord was a priority.

We were also there because Dad saw the importance of making time for family.  Our annual trip to the mountains became an anchor in our lives. It was a time of fun and outdoor activities fueled by lots of fattening food.  But most importantly, there was extended time together in which longer conversations and laughter on the back porch echoed across that same valley. Relationships were deepened and mutual respect grew.

I suppose the bottom line is that Dad modeled these priorities. He was a good example to his four sons. The priorities of faith and family cannot not be caught by mere talk, but must be modeled. What makes us think that our children will take seriously things that we don't? Dad didn't talk a lot but his actions clearly communicated the importance of faith and family. Words from the last stanza of "Faith of Our Fathers" are appropriate here:

                       And preach thee, too, as love knows how

                       By kindly words and virtuous life.

I must admit that as I have sat in that pew over the years I have often been convicted of my shortcomings either by the pastor's message or by my own reflections that flood into my mind. But I am also reminded of the forgiving grace of my heavenly Father and the persistent presence of His Spirit to help me to become the Dad and husband that I ought to be.

So that's where I will be again this Father's Day. My Dad has now been with the Lord for some years. I know I will have difficulty singing "Faith of Our Fathers" as the tears well up in my eyes. My efforts to keep the tears from spilling down my cheeks are futile. I wonder if others have noticed. My wife is ready with an understanding look and a tissue or two. She is ready because she knows what this means to me. She knows what I am thinking. But she knows that my tears are not tears of sadness but tears of gratitude to God. Now there are the voices of my children and grandchildren around me hopefully learning the same lessons that I learned for so many years from my Dad in that brightly-painted white clapboard chapel on the mountainside.

"Faith of Our Fathers" is by Dr. Timothy Witmer. Tim is the author of "The Shepherd Leader at Home" and "The Shepherd Leader: Achieving Effective Shepherding in Your Church". He recently taught for the Alliance in a message he titled Persevering in Your Church and Ministry. Dr. Witmer is Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he is Coordinator of the Practical Theology Department and Director of Mentored Ministry and Master of Divinity Programs. But those around the Alliance know Tim the longest as part of the Westminster Brass!

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God's family on earth

Having done a little travelling over the last few days, I should like to attest once more to the following:
How glorious is the thought that there is a family even upon earth of which the Son of God holds Himself a part; a family, the loving bond and reigning principle of which is subjection to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so embracing high and low, rude and refined, bond and free, of every kindred and every age that have tasted that the Lord is gracious; a family whose members can at once understand each other and take sweetest counsel together, though meeting for the first time from the ends of the earth - while with their nearest relatives, who are but the children of this world, they have no sympathy in such things; a family which death cannot break up, but only transfer to their Father's house! Did Christians but habitually realize and act upon this, as did their blessed Master, what would be the effect upon the Church and upon the world?
David Brown, The Four Gospels (Banner of Truth), 76.



While having lunch with one of my students, Ed, I asked him about his family.  His mother, he told me, was the only sister to six brothers.  This is interesting enough, but then he told me she's actually one of twenty-four.  Yes, 24.  Her father's first marriage yielded seventeen kids.  After his wife died he remarried and had seven more children, my student's mother being the youngest.  Thus, 24.  The whole tribe moved from Trinidad to the United States, to Philadelphia.

Ed told me his grandmother, who cared for most of those 24 and raised the last of them by herself after her husband died, is still living.  She wakes up every morning about four.  And she starts every day by reading her Bible and then praying for every one by name in the family.

Discipling Christian Children


From my pastor's letter this week:

One of the most important things we will do at Second Presbyterian Church is disciple our children to a living, personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We live in a society that assumes that when children grow up they will jettison the family's beliefs and values.  But the Bible sees things differently.  The book of Proverbs says that the childhood years have a formative influence that lasts throughout life: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6).

2008: A Year for Family Worship


Returning to our editor's theme for the start of this year, I would make another suggestion for "the most important issue facing the church in 2008?"  Having already suggested a renewed passion for world missions and the support of the growing church in the developing world, I would also like to consider the situation here at home.  I believe that one of the most pressing needs is for evangelical Christians to respond to our staggering failure to lead our children into a saving discipleship with Jesus Christ.  Both statistics and experience reveal that an appallingly low number of "Christian" youth are transitioning into adulthood with a living faith.  I would suggest that the main causes of this are 1) the way so many Christians live compartmentalized lives, with Christian discipleship relegated to Sunday mornings only, so that their children are turned off by the obvious lack of authenticity in their parents' faith; 2) the superficial approach to everything, but especially youth ministry, in evangelical churches today; 3) parents' failure to personally disciple their children in the faith.  Given this dire situation and its alarming sources, I suggest that a need of vital urgency among Christians is for believing parents to recommit to a hands-on approach to the Christian nurture of their children.  The most significant way to address this is by a renewed commitment to family worship in the home.

A couple of weeks ago, I addressed this in my pastor's letter to my congregation.  Perhaps our readers might benefit from it as well:

Family Worship

One of the most important commitments our families could make in 2008 is commitment to regular family worship in the home. Dr. Joel Beeke has written eloquently on this subject:

"Every church desires growth. Surprisingly few churches, however, seek to promote internal church growth by stressing the need to raise children in covenantal truth. Few seriously grapple with why many adolescents become nominal members with mere notional faith or abandon evangelical truth for unbiblical doctrine and modes of worship. I believe one major reason for this failure is the lack of stress upon family worship."

I agree with Dr. Beeke. Over the years, I have observed the mistake many parents make in their hands-off approach to the Christian nurture of their children. They assume that if they bring their children to Sunday School and church, and if they home school them or send them to a Christian school, and if their children participate in a Christian youth group, that will be sufficient to ensure their children's commitment and growth in Christ. But this is wrong, since it just is not enough to provide a Christian environment to our Christian. We must personally disciple their minds and hearts unto Jesus Christ. And if we do not practice regular family worship, I cannot imagine when parents would be able to disciple their children in the faith.

What is family worship? Family worship is the gathering of the father, mother, and children to worship God in the home. It involves two essential elements: the reading and teaching of God's Word and prayer. It is also good for the family to sing together. Our family begins with a short prayer, after which we sing a psalm together (we use the Trinity Psalter). Next is a time of family Bible study in which I teach, allowing questions and discussion (presently, we are working through Acts). I have often been thrilled by the insightful questions asked by my children, which shows they really think about biblical things (and really are learning in Cat Kids and Sunday School!). After the Bible lesson, we pray together, with every member of the family participating. At the very end, we stand together, hold hands, and sing with the Doxology.

I know that many families are intimidated about family worship because it just seems undoable. However, a quick look at our use of time will show that we do have the time if we make this a priority. To help you get started, let me address some specific concerns:

Frequency: Does family worship have to happen every night? No. It would be impossible for our family to gather for worship every night. Along with Sundays and Wednesdays, there are many other nights when I am out or some activity makes family worship impossible. I would suggest that consistency is more important than frequency. If our families held family worship one night per week, that would make a massive difference. Two nights a week would be a good goal.

Timing: Any time that consistently works. And it may shift during different seasons of our children's lives. We have gotten away from trying family worship at meal times, since there is just too much distraction. At present, we aim for evenings before bed time, which means 7:30 or 8:00 for family worship. This way, after we sing the Doxology all the children are off to bed.

Length: Don't worry too much about this and don't think you have to make it a huge production. However long it takes to study the Bible together, pray, and sing. My guess is that our family worship lasts about 40 minutes.

Discipline: The flesh wars against the spirit, and our children find family worship to be difficult. It is not all that rare for at least one of them to get a spanking during family worship (although we would much rather avoid this). This is why family worship is a team endeavor of Mommy and Daddy together. Generally, the father will lead the worship and the mother will be plenty busy in her help-meet role.

The bottom-line is that our families need to make a commitment to worship in the home. If we don't do this, when will we read the Bible and pray with our children? When will they see an open window to look upon our faith? When will we bond at the altar of prayer? What will happen to our children if we don't? Family worship may get de-railed from time to time, and we will need to jumpstart it again. But it is a commitment that will pay eternal dividends. I would urge all the families of our church to seriously consider making a commitment to family worship in 2008.

Dr. Beeke recounts that for his parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary, each of their five children wrote a note of thanks for one particular thing. Interestingly, every one of them thanked their mother for her prayers and every one of them thanked their father for leading family worship. In Beeke's booklet, Family Worship, he reminds us that great revivals have often begun through a recommitment to family worship. Our own nation desperately needs revival: perhaps it will begin in our living rooms, at our kitchen tables, and in the hearts of our own precious boys and girls.