Long before establishing the Church, before missions organizations began, even before Jesus issued the Great Commission – before God sent prophets or apostles to tell the world about Himself – He established the home as the primary place for Gospel-sharing and spiritual formation.
Long before the concept of “Church” became associated with a building set upon a specific geographic location, the home was the center for worship, connecting with God, and growing spiritually.
The eldest member of the family was the “priest” of the home, and it was his or her responsibility to bring up his/her household in the ways of the Lord. God did not set an expiration date on this ancient practice. The responsibility for spiritual cultivation to occur first and foremost in the home continues today – although its fulfillment is rarely embraced.
Dr. Matt Friedeman wrote,
Christian families need to learn that there is so much more to raising children than simply holding on and hoping the best for their gainful employment, health, and happiness. We are called to inculcate the values of God in their lives and shape them into people prepared to impact a desperate world with a holy perspective.1
We, as the heads of our households, bear the responsibility for bringing up those God has entrusted into our care in the Truth. Whether you are the father, mother, grand-parent, aunt/uncle, oldest sibling – whatever life circumstances have brought you to the place of being the eldest/senior member of your household, you are now stewarding (managing for Someone else) the spiritual formation of the rest of your household.
- I’m with you. I understand the pressures. The demands and stresses.
- You’re working to provide for your household.
- You may also be in school, furthering your own education at the same time.
- You’re also cooking and cleaning for them,
- helping with their homework,
- chauffeuring them to various clubs, practices, events.
- You may even help coach or teach one of their weekly activities.
On top of all this, you’re trying to maintain a sense of order and discipline in your home, teaching right from wrong, trying to give wise advice, trying to set a good example…
You’re also trying to plan events and trips for them – make memories for them – birthday parties and Christmas presents and other special occasions – and maintain photo albums and scrapbooks for them…
Add to all this the burden of bringing them up in in the knowledge of God and in the way of Jesus. When could you possibly fit this in along with everything else going on in your family’s busy life?!
Take heart! Our instructions are simple:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. –Deuteronomy 6:4-9
According to this Scripture, how are we to disciple our families? AS WE GO. “Impress [God’s truth] upon your children” — teach them, disciple them, invest in their spiritual formation, as you go:
- “Talk about them when you sit at home” — while eating meals together and watching TV together
- “and when you walk along the road” — while driving around in the car from place to place
- “when you lie down” — at bedtime each night
- “and when you get up” — and at breakfast each morning
- “tie them as symbols on your hands” — carry God’s Word with you – in your briefcase, purse, backpack, on your cell phone – wherever you go
- “and bind them on your foreheads” — memorize God’s Word together, so it is always in your minds
- “write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” — decorate your home with God’s truths; ordain and commit each room to His glory
Dr. Marvin Wilson wrote,
The center for religious life has always been the home. Unfortunately, many Christians believe it is God’s purpose that the Church function as the main formative influence in the spiritual development of the family.
But nothing in God’s plan [not even the Church] was ever intended to replace the home as bearing primary responsibility for imparting Christian values and insuring Godly nourishment and growth for each family member.2
1 Matt Friedeman, Discipleship in the Home: Teaching Children. Changing Lives. (Francis Asbury Society, 2010), 27.
2 Marvin R. Wilson, Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith (Eerdmans, 1989), 216.