I am so grateful that the Lord put me in a home where my dad regularly led us in family worship growing up. I know that this is not the norm for most people today. The family is being more and more torn apart. Not only in terms of redefining what the family is, but also in terms of the growing demands for our time, and the endless onslaught of entertainment that seem to crowd out the things that matter most. Therefore, I want to argue briefly for what family worship is, why it is important, and some practical “how to’s” when it comes to implementing it.
What is Family Worship?
Family worship is when we gather together in our homes collectively, corporately, to worship God the Father, through the mediation of God the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. If that sounds lofty, it is. In fact, family worship is the most vital and critical thing you could do with your family. Yes, we need to provide for our family’s needs financially and physically, but we also need to provide for them spiritually. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Why Family Worship?
First of all, we ought to engage in family worship because God Himself has commanded it. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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.” In these words, we find the instructions to not only teach our children about the Lord in non-formal ways: “…when you walk by the way.” But also in formal ways: “You shall teach them diligently…when you sit in your house.”
Secondly, family worship is entering into the very joy of the Family in heaven. In Ephesians 3:14-15, the Apostle Paul says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” Joel Beeke has remarked here that “…the love among the persons of the Trinity was so great from eternity that the Father determined to create a world of people who, though finite, would have personalities that reflected the Son. Being conformed to the Son, people could then share in the blessed holiness and joy of the Trinity’s family life.” (pg. 3, Family Worship).
Thirdly, family worship is one of the most effective ways of teaching our children that that duty is always delight with the Lord. The Puritan Samuel Bolton once said, “The godly man…goes about duty for the sake of obtaining communion with God, and knows it to be his reward and happiness to have that communion, while the lack of it is the greatest punishment he can endure.” (pg. 141, The True Bounds of Christian Freedom) In other words, our very souls were created to delight in the Lord, and therefore in commanding our worship of Him, God commands our happiness. There simply is nothing better in this universe than to enter into communion together with the Triune God.
How to “do” Family Worship?
One of the biggest enemies that I have personally experienced in leading my family in worship is fear of failure. I have often resisted family worship because I feel like I have nothing to offer. What if I don’t know what to say or don’t know how to respond to a question? Here’s the liberating truth: I don’t have anything to offer! Family worship is not about my performance. It’s about tasting and seeing what God has done for us in Christ! My limitations are means of celebration. Everyplace where I cannot (which is everywhere!), Christ can and has. We don’t worship together because we are able, we worship together because HE is able!
So then how do we proceed? There is no set prescribed time or method that the Scripture gives. So, pick a time that works best for your family. We have family worship after dinner. The first thing to do is pray! Begin by asking God the Holy Spirit to come and commune with you and your family. There are precious promises that He has given us to claim. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” Pray that verse back to God to build your own faith up, and believe that He will draw near to you as you draw near to Him together.
After prayer, there are many different things you can do. You can read spiritual books together (such as the Building on the Rock Series by Joel Beeke); or you can pick up a catechism together (such as The New City Catechism); or you can read short passages of the Bible together and then discuss them. Don’t underestimate what the Word of God, that living and active Word (Heb. 4:12), can have in its pure “undigested” form! As Spurgeon said, “The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself.” One of the tools I have used with our Bible reading is the Family Worship Bible Guide by Joel Beeke. It’s so helpful because it contains thoughts on worship for every chapter in the Bible. This has helped our family see how every text leads us back to the gospel. (Also stay tuned for a resource list at the end of this blog series.)
Then, close in prayer together. Pray for needs of the church, or your lost family members or friends, or your community, or the persecuted church spread abroad.
Finally, and I know this sounds risky, but sing together! You don’t have to be a great singer. Many of us are not. But try pulling up a hymn from YouTube or if you have a hymn book, pick one that you all know and sing together acapella. This has often brought a lot of laughter to our family since I am generally the one leading and I have “messed up” more times than I can count.
One final word.
Prepare for wandering eyes, distracted hearts, and arguments to ensue. In my experience, family worship is messy. Why? First, because you have spiritual forces (Ephesians 6:12) that will do all that they can to cut you off from communion with God. And second, because you have sinful hearts (Jeremiah 17:9) that would rather do anything than worship God together. But if you persevere in this, this greatest of all tasks that a family can “do” together, you will find joy that you didn’t expect. And you will sow in your children’s hearts the most important seeds that far surpass anything else that you could buy or earn or secure for their futures.