I would like for you to hear a letter from Cynthia Sumner Mell to her son, Patrick Hues Mell, before his conversion and tremendous ministry among Southern Baptists in the 19thcentury:
My Dear Boy:
It is high time that you and I should communicate frequently and intimately and confidentially. If this is not to be expected by the time you have arrived at fifteen when is it to be looked for? On one account I have more anxiety, even dread on your behalf than for any of my children. Earnestly as I wish a son of mine to be a minister yet I tremble at the idea of educating and devoting a son to the sacred profession without previously satisfactory evidence that his own soul was right with God…My heart burns to see youin every sense of the word a true Christian…You should exercise a jealousy over yourself lest the trifles of this world should deaden your feelings about the grand questions: what are the chances of my salvation—what have I done—what must I do to be saved?…remember they that are Christ’s have crucified their affections and lusts – crucify yours.
Now thatis what a Christian parent sounds like andthatis what a family that has planted the cross deep in its midst sounds like! The next statement in our church covenant has to do with the family’s commitment to worshiping God.
As a body of born again believers,
We covenant to become an authentic family by
loving one another as Christ loves us,
praying for one another,
speaking truth to one another in love,
being patient with one another,
protecting one another,
considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We covenant to embrace the whole gospel
studying God’s Word faithfully,
learning the gospel together in family worship
What does this mean, “learning the gospel together in family worship”? What it most certainly does not mean is an awkward ten minute devotional in which everybody is peeking at their iPhones and hoping this awkward ritual will soon end! No, I am most certainly not talking about that! In fact, I am not even talking about “family devotionals” per se, though they are a part of what I want to talk about. No, I am talking about something bigger and all encompassing: building a culture of worship in your family, a culture in which the name of Jesus does not hang in the air as an unwelcome and unpleasant guest. I am talking about a family that freely discusses the Lord, freely and naturally prays together, and studies the scriptures together.
We are commanded to bring our families before the throne of God in family worship.
The sweetness of family worship should render a command to do such unnecessary, yet we do find numerous such commands in scripture. One of the most well-known is found in Deuteronomy 6.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
What could be clearer than that the people of God should come consistently and joyfully as families before the throne of grace? In fact, family worship should so saturate the home that it can rightly be said to be part of our sitting, our walking, our lying down, and our rising. The commandments of God should be imparted to our children, should be imprinted on our own hearts, and should characterize our very households.
I am blessed to be able to say that this was the kind of house in which I grew up. I learned the Bible from my mother and father. I have vivid memories of my dad talking to my brothers, my mom, and me at the dinner table about the gospel, about theology, and about how the events of the world should be viewed in light of God’s Word. I have memories of my dad and me sitting in a tree discussing the things of God. That was our place to have those conversations, in a certain tree. I remember frequently walking to church with my father and speaking of the things of God along the way. I remember watching my mother share the gospel with a fortune teller on the streets of New Orleans. I remember my mother and father presenting the gospel to me and calling on me to be saved. I have memory after memory after memory of my parents striving to make our home a Christian home.
In Acts 18 we find one of many examples of “household conversions” in the New Testament.
8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.
Do you see the progression? Crispus believed. His household believed. May it be so with us and with our households!
One of the most beautiful things I think I have ever heard is L.R. Scarborough’s testimony of his mother crawling out of her bed and across the floor to pray for him in his cradle.
The human beginning of the influence leading to my salvation was in the prayer of my mother in my behalf when I was an infant. She climbed out of bed, having gone down toward the grave that I might live, and crawled on her knees across the floor to my little cradle when I was three weeks of age, and prayed that God would save me in His good time and call me to preach.
How important is family worship? It is that important: a mother crawling off of her deathbed and across the floor to pray for her child. Mothers! Fathers! Hear the commandment of God and obey: lead your families to Jesus! Lead them to the foot of the cross!
Family worship should be such a given among Christians that the trans-generational passing down of the faith should be a reasonable assumption.
Such practices should be so commonplace among Christians that it should reach the level of a safe assumption in the church. We should be able to assume that parents will teach their children the faith and that they will teach theirchildren. We see this principle beautifully demonstrated in 2 Timothy 1:
5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.
Notice two things: (1) the trans-generational passing down of the faith and (2) Paul’s sure assumption that it was then passed down to Timothy. If Grandma Lois passed it down to her daughter Eunice, then Paul assumes that Lois and Eunice passed it down to Timothy. Why? Because the gospel clearly mattered to this family and because it was obviously key to who they were and wanted to be. In 2 Timothy 3, Paul gives us further insight into exactly howthe faith was passed down in this family.
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whomyou learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Did you catch it? Paul writes, “and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings.” Grandma Lois and Ma Eunice passed down a love for scripture and, through scripture and testimony, Timothy came to know the faith. The baton was passed from family member to family member. This is exactly the metaphor Edith Schaeffer, wife of the late Francis Schaeffer, used:
What is a family? It is a perpetual relay of truth! Watch the children as you organize a relay race, a running contest in which two lines of children wait as one from each line runs a distance and returns to hand the flag to a team member. Back and forth they run and pass the flag. If one drops it, there is a forfeit of returning to the starting place. What excitement is generated, as those finished (or waiting for their turn) watch to see how soon the flag will come back, groan when it is dropped, cheer when someone falls and skins a knee and then pops up bravely to run on again. This is a relay race in which it matters whether one person gets there, because if the flag is not handed on, the next person can’t start on his or her part of the course.
Parents, are you passing down the faith? Brother, sister, are you encouraging one another in the faith? Children of unbelieving parents, have you attempted to pass the faith upto your parents? The handoff must be made and the race must continue!
The family that worships God together is the family that is now in a position to be used together by God.
When this happens, when a family learns to worship together, then God starts using the family as a unit to further the Kingdom. We can see this beautifully illustrated in Acts 18 in the example of Priscilla and Aquila. Priscilla and her husband Aquila were a husband and wife who were committed to following Jesus Christ. They once went to hear the great preacher Apollos, a truly great man of God but a man who, early on, had some things he needed to learn to have a more complete theology. Here is how Luke describes Priscilla and Aquila’s approach to helping Apollos:
24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Priscilla and Aquila together took Apollos “aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” They did this together. God used them together. And He did so because their home was a Christian home!
Have you considered the many amazing experiences of joint ministry and mission you are missing when you focus on your own spiritual development and not your family’s? Have you considered that your family, together, could be laboring in the fields of the Lord? Have you considered that your very notion of “family time” could be forever altered if you gave your family to the Lord?
Husbands, do not neglect the spiritual well-being of your family! Are you afraid? Are you wondering where and how to start? Hear me: just start!Start small. Do not fear. Sit your family down tonight after dinner. Take your Bible. Read Genesis 1:1, the first verse in the Bible. And then say this: “Guys, I have not led you as I should. And I do not claim to be a Bible scholar. But I believe we can all understand this verse. It tells us that there is a God. It tells us that He is a mighty God because He was able to create everything! And it tells us that we are accountable to this God as the Creator of all that is, including us! Now what do you see in this verse? What is God saying to you? Now, let us pray and thank God for making the world and making us. And let us commit to follow Him.”
There! See? There you go! Just start! That is a beautiful thing! That is an important word that that husband just shared!
Wife, if you are far ahead of your husband spiritually, do not patronize and mock his efforts. If he is trying, encourage him! Do not turn up your nose at what you might see as an overly-obvious point. If he has spoken truth, even if it is basic truth, then he has spoken a beautiful truth! Truly, there are no small truths! Encourage your husband! Thank him for trying!
Husbands, do not be so proud that you refuse to learn from your godly wife. After all, Priscilla helped to teach Apollos. Humble yourself and ask your wife to help you, to pray for you, to encourage you.
Parents, if you have been negligent in this area. If you have not led your children in the ways of God, consider this: apologize to them!Yes, bring your children around you and apologize. Tell them that you want to do better. Ask them to forgive you and to pray for you.
Church, gather at the family altar and worship God! Speak of Him frequently and well. Let the name of Jesus be spoken in the home. J.R. Miller put it likes this:
What are some of the secrets of happy home life?The answer might be given in one word—Christ. Christ at the marriage-altar; Christ on the bridal journey; Christ when the new home is set up; Christ when the baby is born; Christ when a child dies; Christ in the pinching times; Christ in the days of plenty; Christ in the nursery, in the kitchen, in the parlor; Christ in the toil and in the rest; Christ along all the years; Christ when the wedded pair walk toward the sunset gates; Christ in the sad hour when farewells are spoken, and one goes on before and the other stays, bearing the unshared grief. Christ is the secret of happy home life.
Let the church say Amen!
Let the family say Amen!
C. Ben Mitchell, “The Life and Labors of Patrick Hues Mell.” The Founders Journal, 76(Spring 2009), p.17-18.
Matt Queen, Everyday Evangelism. (Fort Worth, TX: Seminary Hill Press, 2015), p.27.
“What is a Family?”http://www.the-highway.com/articleMay03.html
J.R. Miller, “Secrets to a Happy Home Life.” http://www.gracegems.org/ SERMONS2 /Miller_home.htm