By: Mark Baker
Jonathan Edwards is one of my heroes. He was the greatest mind America has ever produced. He also shepherded some of the most significant revival and awakening our nation has ever experienced. He preached America’s most famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” yet he cherished God’s promises about heaven just as much as he trembled when thinking about hell. He was elected as president of one of America’s most prestigious universities and seminaries and served as a missionary to the Native Americans.
This is a pretty amazing resume’. Significant as these achievements are, however, they fail in comparison to Edwards’ most important accomplishment: he was the spiritual leader of his family. Edwards famously said, “Every Christian family out to be as it were a little church.” At one time, Edwards lost his job as pastor in his home town. Though his pastorate could be terminated, he knew that he was commissioned to be head of his family for life. It follows that all of Edwards’ children who survived until adulthood either became gospel ministers or married a gospel minister. None ever denied the faith.
You may never steward a great revival or be elected seminary president. But you can lead your family the way God has called you to. A vital part of this leadership is found in the discipline of family worship. With this in mind, I will now cover the basics of family worship by answering some frequently asked questions.
Who should be present during family worship?
Everyone who lives in your house should be present. Your family may comprise of yourself and your spouse, or you may have a room-full. Either way, encourage everyone to participate in this important spiritual discipline. If you have guests or visitors, invite them to attend as well. I once stayed with a family I barely knew while attending a week-long seminary class. Every night they invited me to worship with their family. I found it to be a richly rewarding experience and grew to know the family much better as a result.
When should we do family worship?
Schedule your time based on what works best for your family. Some might prefer mornings; others might prefer dinner time or before bed. My family currently has a very hectic schedule. I usually leave the house before my wife and children are awake, and we are often forced to eat quick dinners at home or on the road. We have found that bedtime provides the best and most consistent time.
How often should we do family worship? How long should family worship last?
There are two viable options for these questions. (1) Your family could enjoy one extended time of family worship once a week. (2) Your family could spend a shorter amount of time every day. My family has tried both and we favor option 2. We have found strength in the consistency of an everyday routine. Additionally, if you chose option 1 and miss a day of family worship, you will have gone two weeks without gathering as a family to worship.
If you choose option 1, you will probably want to schedule your family worship for about an hour. If you chose option 2, think more along the lines of ten minutes a day. If you have children under the age of two, maybe even less time. The goal is to gather together as a family to glorify God without causing the time-frame to become an unnecessary burden. Obviously these options are merely guidelines, and families should avoid legalism concerning these options.
Who should lead family worship?
Scripture is clear that the husband is the head of the family (Ephesians 5:22-6:4). If at all possible the husband should serve the family by leading in this capacity. If there are extenuating circumstances where the husband is absent or not a believer, then the wife may lead.
What should we do during family worship?
In brief, there are three essential elements to family worship: reading, praying and singing. The next installment of this series will cover each of these elements.