“So…. what did you guys think of the passage?”
There was a bit of an awkward silence. Sitting across the my wife stared at me like I just read from the Qur’an. My daughter squirmed in her high chair.
(Did I even understand what I just read? What was the point of that?)
I started to sweat under the collar. The bible in my hands felt heavier than usual.
That’s how it was one of the first times I tried to lead a time of “family worship“, full of self-doubt and feeling like the blind leading the blind, all the while thinking: “How on earth do I lead the worship of Jesus at home with my family?”
My story growing up
I grew up in a family that wasn’t oriented towards loving God in Jesus Christ. My dad showed little genuine interest in spiritual realities, while my mum was a committed and diligent Buddhist. As children we weren’t shaped with much except for a nominal moralism and an expectation of family piety. Instead of family worship, I was free to worship my hobbies and interests (music, computer games), and the idols of fame, ambition, and financial wealth.
I remember being really confused the first time I was in a room where someone gave thanks to the Lord for something. What for? What on earth did He do? (Praise God I later learned exactly what He did through the life, death and resurrection of His Son!)
Then as a new Christian, one of the ways God made His Word less alien and more alive in me was through watching other families pray together at the dinner table, talk of spiritual things, and in general follow in the Deuteronomy 6 “teaching your children as you walk by the way, as you sit in your house, as you lie down, as you rise…” principle.
Gradually over time, spending time and being with other Christian families has directly modelled for me what it looks like to genuinely love the Lord and seek to do His will, and what it looks like to repent and trust Jesus in daily life.
From conversations with some of these older and wiser people, I know that God uses parents faithfully and diligently teaching, reading, praying, and singing with their children as a means of grace. As a result, by God’s grace many of these children grow up to love and follow Jesus.
“Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.”
– Jonathan Edwards
But why? how?
Family worship doesn’t save; only Jesus can do that. But I’m convinced by the Scriptures that this practice of coming together as a family to worship God in the home is sorely needed in our homes today. In the same way we come together for a time of corporate worship in the church, we should also come together in the home for a time of family worship that involves prayer, reading Scripture, and singing songs — praying that over time, God would use it to awaken the gospel in the next generation.
There’s plenty of people out there who have written well on the “why” of family worship. Here’s just two of them:
- Jason Helopoulos gives a good run-down of this practice here and here, and has a book called “A Neglected Grace“.
- Don Whitney’s book on it is super short and very practical (reviewed here, and a video here).
But because there’s no specific to-do list in the Bible about family worship (just like there’s no service plan for a Sunday gathering we can refer to as worship leaders), I’ve struggled this year to work out what it looks like for us when I’m leading my own growing family. What to read? What to say? How often? What time of the day? Only when together or throughout the day?
About these interviews
To encourage myself and others about this, I decided to ask a few families that Cheryl and I respect and look up to. By hearing their stories, I hope it’ll help us to see tangible examples of real families worshipping together: what they do, what they don’t, how they struggle, how they persevere with intentionally leading their families to know and love Jesus Christ.
I hope to share the encouraging anecdotes and advice that each of these families were so kind to share with me over the next few weeks.
“Now I know not anything that will contribute more to the furtherance of this good work than the bringing of family religion more into practice and reputation. Here the reformation must begin.”
– Matthew Henry, “A Church in the House, A Sermon Concerning Family Religion