As was my Sunday morning custom, I stood just inside the church building door as the faithful were gathering for worship. I was saying my “hellos” as usual when a new family stepped through the door. My pastoral heart thumped a little faster as I took mental note of a sharply dressed dad with Bible in hand, a neatly, modestly dressed mom followed, with four well-trained and respectful children ranging in age from about fifteen down to two. Boy, oh boy, I thought, a dad who looks like potential leadership material, a mom who can contribute to the teaching force, or maybe participate in the choir, or work in the nursery. Fine young people to fill out the roster in the youth group, junior class, and nursery.
In my ignorance, I had just dissected a family in my mind. I had split them up and harnessed them for the purpose of furthering the programs in my little domain. I had been trained by my culture and by my church leadership mentors to respond in such a way.
I have come to recognize that the cultural approach to church life does not identify nor honor families as a unit, but rather, views those who walk through its doors as a group of individuals. Because we minister to individuals, and not to families, we continually move family members away from each other (as does our culture). Because we need workers to staff the programs that minister to individuals, we exploit the strength of the family unit by continually pulling the family leaders away from those whom they are charged to nurture.
In the Scriptures, the family is upheld as the foundational building block of all of culture. In the very beginning God proclaimed that it was not good, the man being alone. Wives became part of their husband’s family. Children found their identity in their fathers. Inheritance of land was divided according to family. Religious holidays were celebrated in homes.
The responsibility to nurture children was not delegated to the church; it was given to fathers. In the Bible, wives and mothers were not pulled away from their family to administrate the programs of the church, but rather were charged with the blessing of walking under their own husbands and keeping their own homes.
The destructive influences of our culture, and the church’s cultural approach to the family, are clearly evident. Divorce in the church exceeds divorce in mainstream society. Teen pregnancy, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse, spiritual fall out, all provide ample evidence of a dysfunctional and unbiblical view of the family.
My dear church leading brother, please consider your view of the folks that walk into your fellowship. Psalm 68:6says, “God setteth the solitary in families”. He does not take families and turn them into separated individuals. Instead of administering programs that divide families, consider discipling parents and nurturing families.
I have asked myself many times, “What does faithfulness in ministry actually look like?” I believe that the scriptures paint a clear picture. A man who is “equipping the saints to do the work of the ministry” will be training men to “love their wives as Christ loved the church”. Men will be learning how to lead with the spirit of servanthood. Ladies will be taught to walk under the leadership of their husbands, flourishing under his protective care. Moms will be flourishing in the care of their children, investing themselves in the next generation, teaching them how to minister from the home (1 Timothy 5). Children will be encouraged and trained to learn and to grow under the leadership of their parents, instead of taking on the identity of their peers or youth leader.
The world is starving for examples of fathers and mothers that walk together with vitality. They are eager to see children who have been taught to honor father and mother. They need to know that there can be peace inside the walls of home. They need to know that the gospel has enough power to make difference in their family.
Please show them.