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When you think about family worship, what comes to mind? Make a couple of mental notes before proceeding. If you ask most believers, they will say something about praying, reading, studying, and singing together. And they are correct—in a sense! They will also talk about the challenges of having regular family worship because of the hectic pace of their lives. And they are right on that point, too.
Interestingly enough, the Bible does not make a case for family worship, as understood in the way that I have described it. If you interpret family worship as a mini-package that you incorporate into part of your day, you may succumb to trimming it down to even smaller bite-size pieces, perhaps doing it during your commute to work or while applying your makeup.
Anytime you redefine something from how the Word of God talks about it, a diminishing process ensues. Packaged family worship is one of those sub-biblical ideas that, if it is part of the family dynamic at all, is a side-item at best. Swim teams and soccer practices can be more vital than family worship, no matter how you define it.
Acknowledging that someone or something else is greater – worth more – and by consequence, to be obeyed, feared, and adored. Worship is the sign that in giving myself completely to someone or something, I want to be mastered by it. – Harold Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, p 143
Worship is the believer’s response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, body – to what God is and says and does. – Warren Wiersbe, Real Worship, p 26
Worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible. – David Peterson, Engaging with God, p 20
Family worship has to be something more than thirty-minute meetings around the fireplace. Too many Christians have been living under self-imposed guilt for too long because they can’t make their prepackaged understanding of family worship fit within their day-to-day lifestyles. A clearer understanding of household worship would release them from this unnecessarily compartmentalized contrivance.
God wired us to worship, so any thoughts about worshiping begins in the macro—all of life, rather than the micro—part of your life. If you don’t start with worship as a total life experience, you may aim for daily family devotions or specific prayer times, which your pace of life will reduce or push from your schedule eventually.
You may tack-on thirty-minute family devotions, which you can coax your children into doing while they are young. But because these micro-events are not part of the family’s 24/7 experience, they will dry-up as life speeds up. If you want your family worship experience to transform your household while lasting a lifetime, these five elements are worth your practical consideration.
1 – Modeling – There are few things any person in your family could do to express their worship of God better than imitating Him. What more excellent something can a son or daughter say than, “Dad, I want to be just like you because you are like Jesus.” Paul appeals to us in Ephesians 5:1, 1 Corinthians 11:1, and Philippians 4:9 to imitate and follow Christ.
One of the most profound marks that I can leave on my family is my authentic example of the Christ-life through my attitude and behaviors. Though I could teach them many things from the Bible each night, which I must, if I am not daily living it out before them, there is a good chance they will renounce my “hypocritical religion” when they are older.
Key Idea: The first element to family worship must be your authentic, practical, and passionate walk with God, before your family.
2 – Confession – Part of what it means to model the Christ-life before your family is the familial confession of your sins before your family. As you know, you are not Christ. You sin. And I do too. What you must do to imitate (model) Christ effectively is to daily remove the sin that hinders you from that authentic imitation.
Imagine teaching your children how to be a Christian when you’re not modeling the Christian life due to your lack of acknowledging the times when you’re not in line with the gospel. My children will know that I am genuinely trying to model the life of Christ through my regular confession of sin.
Key Idea: If you are not confessing your sins to your family, they will discern that the message of Christ is optional. And they may choose to reject it, rather than receive it.
3 – Forgiveness – Tied to the humble confession of sin is consistently going to your family members and seeking their forgiveness. It is not possible to live with anyone and not sin against them. And when you do sin, there must be a resolution. If you do not do this, there will be a spiritual backlash from your family.
Key Idea: It is a beautiful thing when you humbly model the power of the gospel before your family. It spreads the fame of God when you take the cross seriously by accessing its strength and applying it to your sins.
4 – Repentance – Confession is excellent. Forgiveness is fantastic. But repentance is where you authentically change. Only when you confess your sin, seek forgiveness, and repent that you can accurately model the life of Christ before your family. If you do not practice these elements, the previous three concepts you do will barely matter.
The full spectrum of the gospel is put on display when you repent. A complete transformation is the point of the gospel. Christ came to change sinners, which will happen if through repentance. To worship well is to repent well, and you will make God’s name great each time you own your sin.
Key Idea: Repentance is turning away from your sin. If you don’t turn away, you will not change, and family worship will die a slow death.
5 – Teaching – This point is typically where most Christians begin when they think about family worship; they want to teach the Bible. I would not recommend you start thinking about family worship as teaching, singing, and praying. There are a time and place for those things, and you must make sure you have them in their proper spots. But if you are not incorporating everything in this list, the last one will prove problematic for those under your care.
Key Idea: Modeling the gospel must precede the teaching of the gospel, or your teaching will sound hollow. Parental hypocrisy dismantles Christianity in the lives of their children.
Too often, when individuals think about family worship, they talk about “micro time allotments with God” within their 24 hour day. What they rarely talk about is the comprehensive necessity of worship that incorporates the first four essential elements that I have mentioned and the need to make lifestyle changes over the “grab God and go” mentality.