Every Home a Little Church:
Deuteronomy 6:1-9; 2 Timothy 3:14-17
May 2, 1999
As the home goes, so goes the church. Everything we believe begins in the home where we learn to worship, to pray, to sing, and to read God’s Word. When Christian homes are strong, the church is strong. But when the homes are weak, the church cannot make up the difference.
Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to “impress” the commandments of God upon our children. The following verses tell us how to do it: By talking about God’s Word 24-7, in the morning, at mealtimes, and in the evening before going to bed. You do it by writing the Word on the doorposts of your house. Let your home be so full of the Word that your children can’t help but see and hear it wherever they go and whatever they do.
In II Timothy 3:14, Paul tells his young protÃ©gÃ© to remember not only what he had learned but who he learned it from. In this case that means his grandmother Lois and mother Eunice. Those two godly women had taught him the Word of God from infancy (v. 15). That same Word would make him wise for salvation and would completely equip him for anything he might face in life (vv. 15-17).
Truth From the Puritans
That brings me to my topic: “Every home a little church.” Most of what I will share in this message is 300 years old. The concept of the home as a little church was made famous by the Puritans. They believed the father should be the pastor in his home the same way an ordained minister pastors the church. One writer called the home “the seminary of the church.” The Puritans went so far as to publish elaborate directories of family worship. They were so serious about this that if a father neglected the spiritual training of his family, he could be brought before the elders for church discipline and if he refused to take his proper leadership role, he could be disbarred from the Lord’s Table. Such a thought seems extreme to us, which perhaps says more about our laxness than it does about the strictness of the Puritans.
It is also worth noting that whenever true revival has broken out, it has always led to family reformation. You can have family worship without revival but you can’t have genuine heaven-sent revival without a lasting change in the spiritual atmosphere of the home.
In thinking about this message I have been greatly helped by a sermon preached by Jim Eliff at a Reformation and Revival conference last year. A great deal of what I have to say comes from him and I am happy to give him credit and to acknowledge his influence on my thinking in this area.
Why is family worship important and how should we go about establishing it in our homes? To answer that question I would like to offer two principles and three suggestions on where to begin.
Principle #1: The Word of God is absolutely essential for the conversion of your family
It is the Word of God that makes us “wise for salvation.” I Peter 1:23 says we are born again by the incorruptible seed of the Word of God. James 1:18 says God gave us birth through the “word of truth.” Romans 10:17 adds that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.
If this be true, then we can arrange it in a simple syllogism:
The Word of God is necessary for salvation.
I want my family to be saved.
I must get the Word of God into my family.
That’s clear, isn’t it? Godly parents who want their children in heaven with them must do whatever it takes to implant the Word of God in the hearts of their children.
This explains why the Puritans valued long sermons, family worship, catechisms, personal meditation, and Scripture memory. They understood that if the Word of God is tattooed on the hearts of children, they are much more likely to come to Christ. They thoughtfully planted the seed of the Word, knowing that in due season, they could trust the Holy Spirit to bring about a harvest of salvation.
Richard Baxter, a noted English Puritan pastor, said that if parents did their jobs correctly, children would be converted at home and the Sunday sermon could be used for the conversion of those outside the church. That has certainly been the experience in our home. All three of our boys came to faith in Christ outside a Sunday worship service. Family worship in its broadest sense is the ordinary means of family conversion
Principle #2: Only the Word of God can protect your family from the influence of a pagan culture.
Moses understood this well. He knew that once Joshua led the children of Israel into the Promised Land, they would enter a country wholly given over to Canaanite idolatry. How would they resist the seductive call of Baal and all his consorts? Only by adhering to the one true God, by loving him supremely, by obeying all his commandments, and by impressing those commandments on their children. Every home must become a place where God’s Word is talked about and visibly displayed. Only then would they be protected.
And how would young Timothy survive as he ministered in cities like Corinth, with its temple filled with willing prostitutes? Not to worry. God had given Timothy a toolbox called the Word of God. Everything Timothy needed was in there. If he remembered what he had been taught, he would find himself fully equipped even in the midst of prevailing paganism.
The same is true today. God’s Word can protect our families and make our children strong. If we ignore God’s provision, what fools we are. We have everything we need in the Word of God. Our task as parents is to impart it to our children. We must fasten our families to the Word of God. If we don’t, they can easily be swept away in the rushing torrent of ungodly influence.
Too many Christian families have abdicated at this very point. We have opened the door to every kind of ungodly influence by allowing in our home unrestricted Internet access, unguided video rental, music that undermines our values, and television shows that attack the very things we say we believe. As a pastor I have a grave concern that too many families are neglecting this area entirely. When we welcome the world into our homes, we shouldn’t be surprised when our children find the world more enticing than the way of the Lord.
But where and how should we begin in instructing our children? I have three suggestions to make. They aren’t new or novel in any sense. But they are the time-tested methods that Christian parents have used for hundreds of years.
Here are three suggestions, each beginning with the letter S: Song, Scripture, Supplication.
Teach your children to sing the great songs of the Christian faith. That includes time-honored hymns, gospel songs, and the many contemporary choruses. Sing to your children. Sing with them. Say the words and have them repeat after you. Use videos, cassette tapes, and songbooks meant for children. Buy a hymnal and use it to teach your children.
This is not just good advice, it’s a biblical command. Did you know that God commands you to learn Christian music and to teach it to your children? Ephesians 5:19 tells us to sing to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This is doubly important in an age where the younger generation is turning away from hymnals in favor of words on a screen. There is nothing wrong with the technology (we use it at Calvary), but it is a shame that many of our young people grow up without knowing such hymns as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “A Mighty Fortress,” “And Can It Be?,” and “For All the Saints.” I’m all in favor of up-tempo music but while we’re clapping and dancing, let’s not forget the hymns handed down to us by previous generations. Let’s sing Twila Paris and William Cowper, John Newton and Wayne Watson, Amy Grant and John Wesley.
Here’s a concrete suggestion: Pay your children to learn hymns and choruses. I’m not kidding. That’s how Charles Spurgeon learned so many hymns. If you read his sermons, you will find they are filled with quotations from hymns that are famous and from many that are not so well known. When he was a young lad, he went to visit his grandfather and grandmother. His grandfather greatly admired the hymns of Isaac Watts (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”). His grandmother offered him a penny for every hymn he could recite perfectly. He memorized so many that she lowered the price to a halfpenny and then to a farthing. Then his grandfather offered him a shilling for each dozen rats he caught and killed. According to Mr. Spurgeon, “I soon learned that rat-catching paid better then hymns. But the hymns have remained with me while those old rats have passed away.”
Whatever it takes, make sure your children learn Christian music because our songs contain the essence of our faith.
Many parents use Bible storybooks to read to their children. This is good and should not be discouraged. However, I believe there is great value in reading the Bible directly to your children. Read the Psalms and the wisdom of Proverbs. Make sure your children know about the adventures of Samson in Judges, the exploits of David in I Samuel, the parables of Jesus in Matthew, and the growth of the church in Acts.
Take a chapter a day, or several chapters a week. When you children are young, you can do all the reading. As they get older, let them read the Bible as you listen and help them with the hard words. Whatever it takes, make sure your children hear the Word of God at home.
Supplication is a big word for prayer. We need to pray with our children and for our children. They need to hear us pray and then they should pray with us. Our children will learn to pray primarily by listening to us as we speak with the Lord. They will gain a passion for prayer from us more than from any other source.
There are so many ways a family can pray together. You could keep a prayer journal and record your prayers and God’s answers. I know one family that keeps all their Christmas cards in a big basket. During the year they pull out a few at a time and pray for those families. Many of us use the missionary pictures on our refrigerators to teach our children to pray for God’s work around the world. You can purchase prayer journals designed for children, teenagers, and adults.
Make sure your children hear you praying for them. This will give them great confidence that they are loved and that they can bring their own needs before the Lord.
Children at the Final Judgment
In his sermon on this topic, Jim Eliff ended with a quotation from Richard Mather, a Puritan minister from the 1590s. His son was Increase Mather and his grandson the famous Boston minister, Cotton Mather, who wrote 400 books and pamphlets about the Christian faith. In one of his sermons Richard Mather imagines the voices of damned children at the final judgment speaking to their Christian parents who neglected to lead them to Christ. While his words are imaginary, the idea is not totally fanciful. Jesus himself said that one generation will rise up and condemn another one (Matthew 12:41). Perhaps there will be a great deal of public discussion at the final judgment.
Here is what Richard Mather imagines that unsaved children will say to their Christian parents as they part company for the final time—one group to hell and the other to heaven:
All this that we here suffer is through you. You should have taught us the things of God and did not. You should have restrained us from sin and you did not. You were the means of our original corruption and guiltiness and you never showed any competent care that we might be delivered from it. Woe to us that we had such carnal and careless parents. Woe unto you that had no more compassion and pity to prevent the everlasting misery of your own children.
The very thought is shocking. Can there be anything worse than to watch our children be condemned to hell? I do not know if such a conversation could in fact take place, but I do know that heaven and hell are real places and that our children are going to spend eternity in one place or the other.
Tilting the Scales in the Right Direction
After I preached this sermon, some friends and I discussed the fact that parents in the end can’t be totally responsible for the choices their children make. All parents know that our children have minds of their own. Sometimes ungodly homes produce Spirit-filled missionaries while apparently godly parents may end up with prodigal sons and daughters. I don’t believe we can guarantee what our children will do. But we have a sacred obligation to impress the Word of God into their hearts. What they do with it is up to them. Our responsibility is to tilt the scales in the right direction so that it is easy for our children to believe in Jesus. If we will do our part, we can trust the Holy Spirit to use the Word in the lives of our children. But if we are careless and unconcerned, we shouldn’t be surprised if our children have no interest in the things of God.
I urge every parent and grandparent to take my words to heart. What would God have you do? Perhaps you need to make some changes in this area. Maybe you need to be proactive and set aside a time to teach your children the Word of God. Whatever you need to do, don’t let this moment pass without committing to make your home a little church filled with joy and light where Jesus Christ is praised and his Word taught to your children.
If you know you should have started years ago, don’t let that thought keep you from doing what you can now. Yesterday is gone forever, tomorrow may never come, today is all you have. Do what God leads you to do and you will be blessed. The only sin would be to do nothing because you cannot do everything.
Fathers have a sacred responsibility in this area. Your wife can be washed away and so can your children. Build your family on the Word of God and when the storms come and the waters rise, your family will be safe because it is built on the rock that cannot be moved.