FAMILY WORSHIP: Part 2 – Where do we begin?
As with all of the Christian life, family worship should flow out of our new identity in Christ and not out of any obligation to perform in order to gain the approval of the Father or others. We are perfectly accepted and approved in Christ. We are sons and daughters of the Father. We are forgiven for all of our sins and failures in leading our family. We are filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Therefore, worship is a response to who God is and what he has already done for us.
Let’s start by clarifying - What is Family Worship?
Family Worship is the intentional and regular use of the Gospel, Scripture, Song & Prayer to create a family culture of Reverence, Adoration, and Joy in the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
Where do we begin?
1. On our Knees as the Father’s Children
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,” - Ephesians 3:14
If you are familiar with Ephesians you already know that Paul spends the first 2 chapters giving what is arguably one of the most beautiful presentations of the gospel ever written. Then he begins his prayer for the Ephesians in 3:1…
“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—” Ephesians 3:1
However, as Paul is prone to do he then goes off on a long aside as he is reminded of his calling from God to be a steward of God’s grace and minister of the gospel to the Gentiles (3:2 & 3:7). This ultimately drives Paul to his knees in 3:14.
We too, first and foremost, have to understand that we have a high calling from God. Parenting is difficult and overwhelming. We, like Paul, are called to be stewards of God’s grace and ministers of the gospel to our spouses and children without any power in ourselves to bring about any real transformation in the hearts of our family members. We are completely dependent on God’s transforming grace and power in our lives and the lives of our children. We do not trust in a system, a formula, tips, or techniques to save our kids – we trust in a Person – Jesus Christ. If we think we will save our kids through Family Worship then we will seek to control our kids and be led by guilt rather than grace. And we will fail to model the Father’s patience, kindness, and love to our kids.
“Godly parenting requires far more than tips and techniques. It begins with knowing God. It’s not merely a matter of external effort and method, but involves reflecting our heavenly Father to our earthly children through our love, care, and discipline.” - Margaret Köstenberger
Principle 1 - Parenting is a Reflection of the Father’s Loving Authority & Grace
We are Ambassadors of the Father’s Authority in the Lives of our Children – we are NOT the authority. Our kids will form their view of God the Father primarily from how well we reflect the Father’s authority and grace as we parent. What a privilege and responsibility we have as parents! God wants to use us as stewards of God’s grace and ministers of the gospel to our children.
“Every time I exercise authority in the lives of my children in all those mundane little circumstances, it must be a beautiful picture of the authority of God. I want my children to see authority as beautiful and giving and serving and loving and compassionate and patient and gracious, because that is the authority of God.” – Paul Tripp
Family Worship begins by embracing this great privilege and responsibility! That should drive us to our knees in dependence upon our Father.
2. Knowing God’s Intentional Purposes to Save
“from whom the whole family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” - Ephesians 3:15–17
Every family on earth is a microcosm of the whole family of God, the church. Even the word for family in Greek in 3:15 has the same root as the word for Father. This tells us that our Identity as a family is ultimately derived from the Father. The Father grants us that identity by the Holy Spirit who unites to Christ through faith. God the Father initiates and is intentional in our salvation and sanctification.
Principle 2 - Parenting is a Reflection of the Father’s Intentional Purposes to Save
If you are like me you tend to be reactive in your parenting. The problem with reactive parenting is that it tends to be emotionally reactive as we are tossed to and fro by every wave of rebellion in our kids - we get angry and frustrated, we take our kids sin personally, and we are shocked that our kids actually sin and need parenting. So, we tend to view parenting moments as interruptions and burdens rather than as opportunities to bring help and grace to needy people. We wouldn’t yell at a blind person for being blind. Yet, this is often how we treat our spiritually blind children.
When we parent reactively our kids will establish the culture of our family. However, God is not reactive – God is proactive. He knows we are needy, he isn’t surprised by our sin, and so he is patient with us and constantly pursues us with his love and grace. Therefore, we reflect God to our children by being proactive in our parenting. This means we look for every opportunity possible to draw our kids to the presence of God and the grace of Jesus Christ. This means we proactively plan times of family worship BUT…when our kids utterly destroy our plans then we also remember that God is not surprised – it is still an opportunity to lead our kids into the presence and grace of God through the gospel, through God’s word, and through prayer.
Remember - parenting is a process – not an event. This is difficult for people like me to appreciate because if I see a problem I like to fix it and if I can’t fix it then I usually give up. Parenting is not like that. You are never going to “fix” your kids. We can’t even fix ourselves. You may never see some giant breakthrough moment with your kids but God is able to do powerful things through faithful parenting over the course of weeks, and months, and years. Therefore, we reflect the Father’s intentional purposes to save. We help our kids comprehend Who God IS - We model God’s character and proclaim his goodness. We are intentional to help our kids know What God Has DONE for Us - We model God’s forgiveness to our kids and demonstrate our own need for forgiveness through confession. This is why the gospel is so freeing for parents – in your best moments you reflect God’s character to your kids and in your sinful moments you can still draw your kids to their perfect Father, perfect Savior, and perfect Helper by modeling your own neediness, repentance, and faith in him.
3. In God’s Presence – God is with Us as both the Means and the End of our Salvation
“his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” - Ephesians 3:16–19
Isn’t it amazing how vital God’s presence is to the Christian life?!? God uses his presence to transform us, strengthen us, love us, and to give us a deeper understanding and love for Jesus. Then the prize God’s transforming presence is more of God’s presence -- being filled with all the fullness of God! This goes without saying but if we are not communing with God in his presence… If we do not make a regular practice of meeting with God through the gospel, God’s word, song, and prayer then we will not lead our families into his presence. If we do not first revere, adore, and enjoy God then we will not be able to lead our families to do the same in family worship.
Principle 3 - Parenting is a Reflection of God’s Presence
We live in an age of distractions and sadly instead of reducing our distractions so that we can have quality time with our kids we often simply perpetuate our culture by distracting our kids from their desire to have quality time with us. Let’s be honest – the biggest distraction in our culture is screens! Whether it’s our smart phones, computers, TV, video games, Netflix…they all seek our attention. However, we are not God – we are not omnipresent. Our attention is limited and so if these things are stealing our attention that means they are stealing it from God and from those around us.
I am not saying this self-righteously! I know that I am not strong enough to resist the temptation of smart phone distraction so I set limits and controls on it so that it does not constantly pull on me seeking my attention. Take advantage of these tools that are at our disposal so that we use technology to the glory of God rather than having it take time away from those whom God has called us to right in front of us.
God is not distracted – he is always present with us. If we do not devote undistracted time to our kids then we will not reflect God’s presence to them. God will likely seem distant to them. Now, I know we are all busy. But…Jesus was busier than you! Jesus was traveling throughout the country teaching and preaching with thousands of people crowding around him everywhere he went. Yet, think how often he took time in the midst of the chaos to be present with his Father OR to pour undistracted time into individuals who seemed to be “unworthy” of Jesus’ time. If Jesus made undistracted time for people, even the lowly and outcast, then he certainly calls us to make undistracted time for our families.
Let’s Get Started!
How can we start to implement some of these principles? I like to think in terms of Rhythms and Habits rather than goals since it is more about developing a culture of family worship in your family. There is no biblical mandate on how family worship should look so we must take biblical principles and create regular rhythms in our family to be in God’s presence.
Rhythms of Family Worship
1. Daily – Family Worship
There is a lot of freedom! So get creative – make it intentional and regular so that it simply becomes a rhythm of life in the culture of your family. You can devote a designated time or simply take advantage of times when your family is already altogether. Our kids are crazy so meal time and bed time is the best time for us. Remember – it doesn’t have to be anything fancy.
2. Weekly – Family Worship
Take a weekly Sabbath where you are freed from work and other distractions in order to rest, worship, and enjoy your family. The church gathering should be one of the highest priorities for your family. Unique things happen when we gather with the larger family of God that do not happen apart from the gathering of God’s people. If we take advantage of daily family worship and weekly times of worship with our church family then we are gifting our kids over 7,000 opportunities while they are under our care to come into God’s presence in a real and powerful way. There is no other discipleship relationship that you will ever have that will give you that kind of opportunity!
3. Yearly – Family Worship – Vacations & Traditions
The vast majority of my favorite family memories growing up are from family vacations and holidays so we’ve always tried to make those a high priority in our family. Vacations provide new opportunities to bring your kids into God’s presence through his beautiful creation and new opportunities to model the Father’s presence, love, and joy to your kids. Vacations are a gift to your family of extended intentional and undistracted time. Holiday traditions are another form of yearly rhythm that help create a family culture centered on being in the presence of God. It is not a mistake that God in the Old Testament instituted yearly feasts and festivals for God’s people as a time to remember who God is and all that he had done in salvation. Take advantage of our cultural rhythms around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter where we can be reminded of all that our Lord has done for us in Christ.
Where do we end? Worship!
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” - Ephesians 3:20–21
This brings us back to our knees – in prayer and in worship knowing that God is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think in us and in our families through family worship. I am often reminded in moments like this of a quote by Martin Luther, “Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance but laying hold of his willingness.” God is willing! He has demonstrated that by sending his Son to redeem us and conquer sin, death, and evil for us. Are we ready to take hold of God’s willingness to give us grace and joy and do far more than we even ask in family worship?
- Joshua Moffit