January 5, 2020
Family Worship Challenge
Pastor Frank Bowden
Okay, I need to be honest with you. Today is an awkward day for me. It’s January 5th, and I’m really unclear on what the rules are for how many days after New Year’s Day you are allowed to say, “Happy New Year.” I’m a rule follower by nature. If I know the rules, I follow the rules. And this just seems to be a big grey area.
And then, we also have a Christmas thing up on the screen behind me and the Jesse tree up. Today, I believe, is the last day of the 12 Days of Christmas, so is it appropriate to say, “Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year?” Any help would be great.
But, I do hope you had an enjoyable New Year’s Day as we step into a new decade. One of my favorite things to do as a kid on either the last Sunday of the year or the first Sunday of the year, was to get the Parade magazine from the Sunday paper and read what it said were the top New Year’s resolutions. I’m not sure why I enjoyed reading that, but it was just something that I found interesting, and that was a ritual kept all through my childhood. It seemed like every year, they were all pretty much the same. As an early 90’s kid, I think I was most curious about what was going to be the new resolution to knock “stop smoking” out of #1.
So for nostalgia’s sake, I looked up what Peter Economy wrote on Inc.com as the top ten New Year’s resolutions for 2020. Now, the list has changed quite a bit from the ones I remember as a kid. Things like “go to the gym” and “be more healthy” were obviously on the list. “Be a better person” and “upgrade my technology” came in at #8 and #9. But the #2 listed resolution really caught my attention. It was “try something new”.
I’m someone who is motivated by a challenge. I’m not afraid to try something new, especially if it involves learning how to do something I’ve never done before. Now, regardless of how you feel about New Year’s resolutions, let’s just embrace this time of New Year’s for what it is. It’s a natural time of transition for people to look at life, evaluate things, make changes, and they are open to accepting a challenge to try something new.
As a pastoral staff, we have a goal or challenge for you, and I believe, if you commit to it, it will fundamentally and radically change your family, and as a natural byproduct, it will also strengthen our church. Here’s the challenge for Calvary Baptist Church this year:
The 2020 Challenge: For every family at Calvary to commit to family worship every day.
That’s it. Every family (and that includes everyone: singles, married with no kids, married with kids, single parents with kids, empty nesters, grandparents…). Now, I know I lost some of you as soon as you heard “family” and “worship” together. But hear me out. It’s not that scary. We’re not expecting you to do a sermon and sing three songs in your living room. So, let me put you at ease. Here is family worship in a nutshell:
Family Worship in a nutshell:
Get the family together.
Read the Bible and pray.
That’s all we’re really challenging you to do. Just get the family together, read the Bible, and pray. And the next day, get the family together, read the Bible, and pray. And the day after that, and the day after that… In fact, I’ll throw all of our pastors under the bus. We’ve been grooming you for this challenge since November. Many of you have already been doing it using the Jesse Tree, and seeing your social media posts about it, you have really enjoyed it. So, why stop? It has already been a rhythm for your family since November 29th. Let’s commit to continuing that family worship time.
You might ask, “Frank, why is this challenge so important to you?” Let me tell you what’s at stake…Generation Z. Those are students born between 1999 and 2015, and they are the largest generation in American history, totaling nearly 70 million. Here’s what we know from research: The percentage of people with a biblical worldview declines in each generation.
The Boomers were at 10%. Gen Z is at 4%. The percentage of Gen Z that identifies as atheist is double that of U.S. adults. The research put out by Barna says they are spiritually, a blank slate. They are drawn to spiritual things, but their starting point is different from previous generations. Their worldview is truly post-christian.
Ray Ortlund, former lead pastor at Immanuel Church in Nashville, reminds us, “We are always one generation away from total ignorance of the Gospel.” So Calvary, there is a lot at stake, and with this generation, which I love serving as a student pastor, there is tremendous, unthinkable, potential for revival and spiritual awakening if they are reached with the Gospel.
They are a motivated, cause-driven generation. 70 million people is a lot to reach, so let’s get laser focused on those right around us, in our home. Let’s commit to reaching them and instilling into them a biblical worldview that they will carry to their schools, on their teams, around their friends, and put to use on social media to influence the world around them.
“Okay Frank, how do we do this?” You’ve probably heard the phrase “as the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the world.” Let’s look in the Bible about the family and God’s big plan of making disciples in our homes. We’ll be in Deuteronomy 6 this morning. Moses is nearing the end of his life, and here is just a little background that’s important for us: He’s talking to the new generation of Israelites who are about to take their children into the Promised Land. He’s reminding them of some central truths that make them distinct from the other cultures and reminding them of their responsibility to the next generation. Let’s read verses 4-6.
4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
I. Family worship starts with you
All right Calvary, here is one of the counterintuitive realities about family worship and making disciples in your home: It does not and cannot start with your kid or kids in mind. Family worship starts with you.According to Deuteronomy 6, it starts with mom or dad, or mom and dad, or however your family is made up, loving the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, and might. This is why our pastors can say, regardless of your family makeup, you can do this 2020 challenge because before anyone else is involved in this process, family discipleship and family worship starts with you. Let’s unpack these verses a bit more.
The very first thing Moses gives them, before any commands to follow or actions to take, is their basic confession of faith. The Lord our God is One. This statement of God’s nature and character is what will drive Israel’s response in the coming verses.
This passage is called the Shema because “Shema” is the very first word used in verse four, which means “to hear”. When it says, “Hear, oh Israel,” it’s not just telling people to gather around close enough so everyone can listen. Hear in the Hebrew language means “to obey”. It’s both understanding and implementing what you’re being told. James echoes this in James 1:22.
Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves…
This is where “family worship starts with you” comes into play. I get it. “Go and make disciples” can sound a bit overwhelming. “Reach the Valley” is a big task. But what’s the command in verse five? What is our natural response to God alone being One and sovereign over all? The response is to love Him.
“Love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.” Love God with everything you’ve got. Completely and fully give yourself over to a love relationship with Jesus. We love and obey Him with everything. All of your heart (which in the Hebrew language was the place of the intellect) means the rational part of the person. Love God with “all of your soul” is your will and your desires. And then to love God with “all of your might, or strength” means the physical side of the person. We are to love God with every part of who we are, and all of every part of who we are.
How do I know if I’m doing that well? Here are two questions to ask yourself that I heard from Matt Chandler to help check the pulse on how you’re loving God with everything.
- The first question is, what stirs your affections for Jesus? What is it that when you’re around it, really stirs up your affection for Christ?
For me, it’s very, very early in the morning with a pour over coffee in my hand and the quietness of no kids running around. That early morning quiet stirs my affection for Jesus and really tunes my day. Now, Pastor Michael is a very different person. He loves the late nights. In fact, it probably isn’t too far of a stretch to say that by the time Michael is going to bed, I’m not too far off from waking up. Whatever stirs your affection for Jesus, fill your time and life with those things.
- The second thing to ask is: What robs you of that affection? What is going to distract you or trip you up along the way? I’d be willing to bet if you listed yours out, you would find that it’s not usually bad things that rob you, but it’s good things you’ve allowed to become “god” things that are now fighting for and robbing you of your affection for Jesus.
Those are two questions to keep in front of you (what stirs your affections, and what robs you of your affections?) and being serious about implementing those things.
II. Family worship models personal worship
Family worship starts with you, and as you give yourself over to a love relationship with Jesus and cultivate that, then you will see how family worship models personal worship in front of your spouse or your kids. Let’s read verses 7-9 about how to do that.
7 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. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Okay, now we take a turn and get to the part of parents when it comes to transferring God’s truth to the next generation. God’s design from a long, long time ago was and continues to be that Parents, you are the primary disciple-makers in your child’s life.
Moses doesn’t say, “Take your children to Calvary Kids and The Hub so Pastor Steve and Pastor Frank can teach them how to love God with all of their heart, soul and might. But Parents, you are to teach them, disciple them, and walk in relationship with Jesus. And I already know the push I’m going to get from parents today, because I work with them, and I am one. “Frank, when am I going to find time to do this?! We’re so busy, and by the time we get home from school and practice, we’re exhausted. How can we possibly add another thing to our life?
Look back at the text, because I want you to notice something really important that Moses does. He isn’t adding anything to our lives; he’s simply repurposing moments as we live them. Let’s look back at the list together. He says, “You [parents] shall teach them diligently to your children…” When? “…and shall talk of them when you sit in your house…”
Did anybody sit at their house over the break? Okay, so it’s just about repurposing that time. It may mean a little less Disney Plus. “…and when you walk by the way…” We’re not a walk-everywhere community, but we do drive. Have any of you driven your kids around this week? Over Christmas break, you basically function as an Uber driver for your kids. It’s about repurposing that time.
“…and when you lie down…” Did anybody put their kids to bed at night? Praise the Lord for bedtime! Did anybody see them get up in the morning? Yes. All the Bible is saying is that you are to repurpose these everyday moments (time you are already spending) to have spiritual conversations with your children to help them see the story we’re caught up in. That storyline goes like this: God created us for a relationship with Him. Sin fractured that relationship. Jesus redeemed that through His life, death and resurrection. And He is coming again to restore all things back to “good”.
Repurpose everyday moments to have spiritual conversations with your kids to help them see the story we’re caught up in.
Leading family worship starts with you. It’s teaching from your lifestyle and models for your family the importance of walking in relationship with Jesus. I read something really cool this weekend about Astronaut Rick Husband. He was the commander of the Space Shuttle Columbia that broke apart during reentry on February 1, 2003. Rick was very open about his faith, especially as an adult. His wife, Evelyn, said “He had a bona fide time with the Lord every morning, sat in a particular chair with a giant cup of coffee, extremely early, would read scripture, and pray.” I love that; family worship starts with you.
And then she said this, which just blew me away: “Rick had a very strong belief in the Lord and led our family amazingly. He would pray with Lauren and Matthew so much so, that he even made devotional tapes for them when he was in space. Each day they would watch a little five-minute video he had prepared. He would read from their devotional books the Bible verse, a little story and say a prayer. Then he would just talk to them for a moment.” That is leading from the overflow of your own walk. That is the essence of family worship and living out Deuteronomy 6:7.
I think the main reason we fail at this is that we make it too hard. Family worship is the simplest thing in the world. You don’t have to be an astronaut or a rocket scientist to figure it out. Just get the family together, read the Bible, and pray. Anything beyond that is gravy.
Ten Tips for Family Worship
I want to end by giving you ten tips related to family worship. These were written by Tim Challies. Tim is a Christ follower, husband, dad, author, and pastor in Toronto. A lot of his blogs and writings deal with the ins and outs of family worship. Hopefully, this list will ease some anxiety you may be feeling about how to do this or what to do.
- More important than how you do family worship is that you do family worship.
- Keep family worship simple. Five engaging minutes are far better than 20 rambling ones.
- Family worship is not only about gaining knowledge but also about establishing patterns and rhythm and displaying priorities.
- The foundation of family worship is simple: read and pray. If you need help starting, looking in your worship guide. We’ve given you Springboard questions to prepare you for next Sunday’s sermon. Use those!
- Focus on engagement, not entertainment. In other words, don’t try too hard to make it always fun.
- The benefit of family worship is not only gaining knowledge, but also relating to God together as a family.
- Don’t be discouraged if your children look bored. Measure long, not short, and expect your kids to behave like kids. I have a two-year old, and the Lewis factor is a very real thing.
- Ask for tips on family worship from others in the church. No shame here. This is why I read Tim’s blogs.
- Expect that God will work through family worship, but do not demand that his work take a certain form.
- Men, take responsibility for family worship. Lead your family by leading them to the Word and leading them in prayer. This isn’t to say that women can’t or shouldn’t, but it’s simply to model and reflect the order that the Lord has established as Christ being head of the church and man being head of the family.
I am excited about this year! -for my family, for our church and ministries, and for you. Lead from the overflow. Commit this year to an all-out relationship with Jesus that inspires your family and those around you. I am telling you, Calvary Baptist Church will be stronger than ever as our families grow in relationship with Jesus.
- I want to walk in relationship with Jesus. Today I confess Jesus as my Savior and Lord.
- I commit to having family worship in my home.
- What difference does it make that our God is one? What other gods do people in our culture serve? Read Deuteronomy 6:5. What does it look like to love the Lord with all your heart, soul and might? How can you daily practice and obey this command?
- Read Deuteronomy 6:6. What’s the difference between these words being on your heart rather than just in your head?
- What is the most challenging thing for you in having a consistent family worship time?