THORNTON, Colo. – Parents are generally clear when it comes to their responsibilities toward their children. They teach the differences between right and wrong. They provide for physical needs such as food, clothing and shelter. They strive to meet emotional needs by demonstrating love and offering encouragement. Most parents personally sacrifice in order to provide more for their kids. Parents tend to be their children’s greatest advocates, fans and supporters.
Godly parents do each of these things, plus they also have the added dimension of being deeply concerned about their children’s spiritual well-being. They are convinced that their children need to develop, not only a “working” knowledge of God, but also a personal relationship as well.
Nurturing this relationship takes several forms. It can include taking the kids to church and church-related programs, teaching them to pray, reading the Bible to them, and having talks about spiritual matters. These things are worthy means by which to aid in our children’s spiritual development. However, there is something else I believe is of vital importance: a family time of worship in the home.
In decades and centuries past, family worship was not so often neglected but instead was one of the most important aspects of home life. I am particularly struck by the emphasis the Puritans of the 17th and 18th centuries gave to this subject. In his 1679 work The Duties of Parents, Jacobus Koelman writes, “Bring your children to God and teach them how they must serve him throughout their whole life … nurture them in the knowledge of divine things and for faith and godliness.”
In The Case for Family Worship (1694), George Hamond gives a presentation of the Bible’s case for family worship. He argues persuasively that if families are not spending time in worship at home, children will be more likely to find corporate worship irrelevant. He maintains that if we take the time to “catechize” our families and worship with them beyond Sundays, they will understand how worship is to be found in all of life.
Oliver Heywood wrote in his extensive work The Family Altar of what he considers the ways God dealt with families throughout scripture and history. Fellow Puritan John Howe wrote of Heywood’s work, “The design is to persuade and engage those that are heads and governors of families, to take up Joshua’s resolution; that whatever others do, yet ‘they and all their house will serve the Lord; in daily, faithful, fervent prayer, with thanksgiving.’” Joshua’s challenge to the Israelites is found in Joshua 24:15 where he commends them to determine whose side they and their whole household are on. Each head of household must determine who or what will receive the greatest honor in the home.
In an increasingly secular society, it has never been more important than it is today to dedicate time to family worship. Elements may include singing, prayer, testimony, and the reading and explanation of scripture. The world is attacking men, women, boys and girls vehemently with Satan’s agenda and his aggressive strategy to reduce the world to hedonism. It is incumbent upon parents to work far harder than even the generations of the past in order to teach children fervency for the truths of God. There is an intense battle under way. Any student of scripture notices the unmistakable language of warfare used in both Testaments. The world is indeed a hostile environment. The home, then, must be the site of basic training for our kids.
A little dabbling in church, a quick prayer before a meal, and having a family Bible neatly placed on the coffee table are insufficient. The language of scripture is the language of urgency. Romans 13:11-12 commends: “And do this knowing the time, that now is high time to awake out of sleep … the night is far spent, the day is at hand ….” The old hymn reminds us of our status as “Christian soldiers marching as to war.”
Today, with the Bible existing in multiple translations, languages and types and with devotional books in abundance, there has never been a time when so much material existed for the purpose of instructing ourselves and our children in the things of God. In many households, schedules will have to be rearranged in order to hold family worship time. But one must consider, comparatively speaking, how important some of the other things are that we are doing in our home.
Ken Ham tells how in America people love pickles, yet in his native Australia they think Americans are crazy for eating sour pickles. In Australia people love what is called vegemite which most Americans, after trying, think is terrible! The reasons Americans love pickles and Australians love vegemite is because each are taught from an early age that these are indeed good and desirable things to eat. Rarely would any person develop a taste for either sour pickles or vegemite later in life. But if introduced to either one in childhood, they have the appetite for it the rest of their lives and view it as perfectly normal to eat. So it is also true with the Word of God. It is essential we facilitate our children developing an appetite for God from an early age, particularly in the home.
The state of the church today is very much a snapshot of the state of our own individual lives and homes – too busy for God. Yet, parents have no greater responsibility than to teach their children. This was a charge given by God even pre-dating the church. It is an inherent parental duty.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Allen Raynor is interim pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Bailey, Colo. He previously served at churches in Oklahoma, Missouri and Colorado.)