About Paul Schlehlein

Follower of Jesus, husband, father of 6, and missionary church-planter to the Tsongas in rural South Africa.

(8) Family Worship Improves the Nation

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The eighth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it Improves the nation.

You can’t straighten oaks

Individuals compose a nation. Godly individuals make good countrymen. Because family worship helps form godly individuals, it also improves the nation. A tree cannot be straightened 20 years out. So raise your saplings early at home with God’s word.

It infuses character in her citizens

Will a country not benefit when its citizens are learning daily character in the home like promptness, obedience, focus, and empathy. Won’t the streets be safer at night if the young men are at home being shaped by their fathers in prayer and Bible study? If children never learn to obey their fathers, they will struggle to submit to police, bosses and other authorities.

Remove the electricity and the country goes black. Remove the character of her righteous citizens and the state goes dark spiritually. Often a wicked nation remains afloat because of the righteous prayers of a few.

God was willing to spare Sodom for the sake of just ten righteous people (Gn. 18:32). Laban was blessed because of Jacob (30:27). Godly Joseph brought blessings to the pagan dwellings of Potiphar (39:5) and the prison master (39:23). Israel was spared God’s wrath at Taberah because of Moses’ prayers (Num. 11:2). Your community may look different if it had just a few righteous homes gathering in worship.

It offers prayer on her behalf

Second, family worship improves the nation through its prayers of blessing. Scripture commands Christians to pray for “kings and all who are in authority” (1Tm. 2:2).

What good can one godly family do in a wicked community? Abraham taught his children the word in a day when he may have been the only true believe on earth (Gn. 18:17-19). After the Flood and the Tower of Babel, there weren’t many righteous left. But God heard his prayers and godliness spread.

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(7) Family Worship Strengthens the Church

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The seventh benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it strengthens the church.

Five ways family worship strengthens the church

First, she’ll receive countless prayers to God on her behalf. J.W. Alexander wrote: “It is not a small thing for any congregation to have daily cries for God’s blessing on it ascending from a hundred firesides.” Matthew Henry encouraged his flock to turn their homes into little churches. This was not to replace the church but rather to fortify it.

Second, interested congregants will fill her pews. Daily family worship has whet their appetite for the main course of public worship. They say: “I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments” (Ps. 119:131). Daily home worship is the appetizer for the main course of Sunday corporate worship.

Third, the preaching will improve. If the congregation prays daily in their homes for the preaching event at public worship, will there not be a great work of the Spirit upon the proclamation of God’s Word from the pulpit? When families ask God for understanding to hear the sermon (Ps. 119:18) and help to put the sermon into practice (Jms. 1:22, 25; Mt. 7:24-27), will He not be happy to answer?

Fourth, giving will increase. “Out of sight out of mind” the saying goes. But all week Dad and Mom have placed the needs of the church before the family. Consider the donations that came flooding in for John Paton’s missions ship. These offerings often followed this pattern: (1) Family worship, then (2) prayer, then (3) giving. One note enclosed with money said: “From a working man who prays for God’s blessing on you and work like yours every day in Family Worship.”

Fifth, public worship will be more hallowed. Youth today grow up in a banal, superficial, trite and flashy world. They must see that family worship is a sacred event where their parents approach it with awe and dignity. Here, God is adored. Scripture is revered. Prayer is sacrosanct. The children mustn’t think: “Surely the fear of God is not in this place” (Gn. 20:11) but instead see their home as Bethel—the house of God. If this holy vibe permeates the home each evening, reverencing the Sunday worship service will be normal and expected.

A practical application

Don’t teach at Sunday worship. Someone asked a legendary basketball coach why he didn’t run around and shout at his players during the game. “I do my coaching in practice,” he said. Teach your children diligently during the week in family worship how to sit, pray, read, sing, and write. Don’t do all your coaching when the whistle blows Sunday morning.

(6) Family Worship Edifies Visitors

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The sixth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it edifies visitors.

Family Worship has vanished

Don Whitney once asked a class of 115 seminary students: “How many of you grew up in homes where family worship was practiced?” Seven raised their hands. Again: “How many have visited in homes where you have seen family worship taking place?” No one raised a hand.

Motivate your guests toward imitation

Family worship is rare even in Christian homes. So when guests come over, don’t put your lamp under a basket. Show them the beauty of this sacred gathering. Most have never been a part of such a thing. Many will leave earnest and motivated to establish such a practice in their own home.

You would be embarrassed to have a special guest at your home without giving him your best food and lodging. Yet why are you not ashamed to send him away with an empty soul? The Psalmist said: “I will also speak of your testimonies before kings and shall not be put to shame” (Ps. 119:46). The Lord could use this gathered time of worship as a turning point toward the guest’s conversion, his calling into missions, or his confession of sin.

Church history confirms that some of the best saints refused to allow such an opportunity to pass. When the Act of Uniformity (1662) in England forbade the public preaching of God’s Word, relatives would often gather in each other’s homes. Because the law knew family worship was a non-negotiable (1Tm. 3:4-5), they often made arrests during evening devotions. A big catch all at once, they thought.

I wonder when the authorities today would be most confident to find the whole family assembled.

Review: A Company of Heroes

Tim Keesee, Crossway, 2019, 288 pages, 4 of 5 stars

Summary: poetic journal entries of known and unknown missionaries and their stories

Below is my endorsement of Tim Keesee’s excellent recent work:

“Peopling that great heavenly choir is among the missionary’s greatest motivations. Tim Keesee compels us to sit at the feet of this great cloud of witnesses by presenting a kaleidoscope of missionary lives. From mosques to Mormons―from first world to third―he urges us to lock shields with the great soldiers and choristers of the past and present. In A Company of Heroes, Keesee writes brilliantly as a reporter and lover of gospel advance.”

Keesee is the founder of Frontline Missions International, an organization which works to spread the gospel to the least reached places in the world. He also produces the missionary documentary series Dispatches from the Front. While traveling around the world, he doesn’t fly at tree top level. He lives and breathes with the people–retelling their stories of trial and triumph.

Keesee is not only a gifted writer but seems to put great value on friendship and building relationships. He esteems what the St. Andrews Seven called “earnest conversation.” Much of what he chronicles are intimate and lively conversations.

Company covers twenty different countries and explores missionaries both time-worn (Georgi Vins, William Carey ) and modern (JD Crowley), well-known (Amy Carmichael) and obscure (Mei Li). I was edified by each chapter, especially chapter 15 “The Broken Sword.” It covers missionaries in Indonesia and explores the nature of risk and the aspect of taking handicapped children to the mission field.

(5) Family Worship Teaches Empathy in Trial

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” Nonetheless, in this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The fifth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it teaches empathy in trial.

Godly homes aren’t naive

A wise pastor has said that to make a child love his home is to secure him against a thousand temptations.

Good parents should use family worship as a tool to make the home attractive to their children. But this doesn’t mean covering them in bubble wrap or shielding them from the pain and suffering in the world. On the contrary, godly homes talk about suffering a lot and use family worship to create concern for those who are experiences trials.

Four ways family worship teaches empathy

First, it quickly points the family to prayer. The first reaction to those in trial should be intercession. “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray” (Jms. 5:13). The Lord says: “Call upon me in the day of trouble” (Ps. 50:15). Those in the home who are suffering learn to ask for prayer. Paul did it (2Th. 3:1) but this isn’t easy for most people. In family worship, petitioning for prayer should be effortless. “In my distress I called upon the Lord” (Ps. 18:6).

Second, each member learns to carry one another’s burden (Gal. 6:2). Many leave the faith when trials first come (Mk. 4:17) rather than getting help to shoulder the load. Contrast this with the father who comes home with empty pockets to feed the family. He gathers the family, opens the Book and cries to his Father who is there to help (Hb. 4:16). Unlike the Pharisees who will not touch the burdens of others with one of their fingers (Lk. 11:46), this family gathers round and “encourages the fainthearted” (1Th. 5:14).

Third, the family sees trials as a normal part of the Christian life (Ac. 14:22). Job modeled this for his wife: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Jb. 1:21).

Finally, the family gets practice in encouraging those who are suffering. Suppose mother has just been diagnosed with cancer. How will father comfort her? As the tears fall, he sits with her and strokes her hand. “Kids, physical touch comforts” (Mk. 8:14-15). He reminds them that suffering has a purpose (Jn. 11:4; Rm. 8:28) and is incomparable to the joy in heaven (Rm. 8:18). He says it is impossible for God to do wrong (Jb. 34:10) though he often uses suffering to accomplish good (Gn. 50:20-21). The Lord sees and hears us in our suffering (Ex. 3:7) and will strengthen us in it (2Cor. 12:7-9). “The arrows are sharp,” father says, “but they’re shot from a loving Father.”

They watch their father ask for deliverance from cancer (Ps. 25:16-18) but he doesn’t demand it. In fact, mother is actually “sharing” with other Christians who have suffered likewise (Col. 1:24).

Can the family learn this at church? Yes. But intimate family worship has a unique way of preparing the family for trials.

(4) Family Worship Captures the Most Formative Years

The Puritans said the benefits of family worship are so great they are “impossible to describe.” In this series I’ll be attempting to highlight ten of its advantages.

The fourth benefit of homes gathering daily to read Scripture, sing and pray is that it captures a child’s most formative years.

Get them early

We are most impressionable in our youth. One Puritan wrote: “It is common sense to put the seal to the wax when it is soft.”

I thank the Lord for my godly upbringing. While in college I once did evangelistic work with a young man who was converted just a few years prior. He was in his mid-twenties and had great zeal for Christ. But as a new convert, he was not aware of some of the most basic Scriptures. Hymns I had learned as a child he didn’t know. Even some of the children we taught had surpassed him in some areas of theology. What an advantage I had.

I’m also thankful for the many Scriptures I was forced to memorized as a child—“forced” the operative word since I would rather have wasted my time on trivial matters. My parents and teachers did right in compelling me to commit hundreds of verses to memory. I grew up with the KJV and still can quote the majority of Scripture I know only in this version.

Four ways fathers fail their children

First, fathers create bitterness in their children when they ignore the child’s spiritual formation. We know Paul intentionally singles out fathers to teach their children (Eph. 6:4b) because he had previously mentioned both parents in vv. 1-2 and it was typically the responsibility of the father in the Greco-Roman and Jewish world to educate and discipline his children.

Instead, many fathers spend more time provoking their children to wrath (v. 4a) through severe discipline, consistent nagging, arbitrariness, absenteeism and abuse of authority. We see this with David and his son Absalom. David ignored him for two years (2Sm. 14:28) until his son boiled over in murderous revenge (15:10).

Second, fathers cause resentful children when they fail to model Christ-likeness. This kind of father says: “Do what I say, don’t do what I do.” This never works. John Paton’s father so impressed his son by his life that John in his elderly years could still recall how reverent family worship was in his home:

“How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul with tears for the conversion of the Heathen World to the service of Jesus, and for every personal and domestic need, we all felt as if in the presence of the living Savior, and learned to know and love Him as our Divine Friend.” (Auto, p. 21)

Third, fathers build spite when they demand too much from their children. The Father never gives his children more than they can handle (1Co. 10:13). Parents should remember that while children can learn quickly, they don’t grasp knowledge the same way as adults. Don’t insist your small ones prove their understanding by explaining everything back to you. They know more than they can describe. Down the road from our home are hundreds of elephants and giraffe in Kruger National Park. My smallest children have a strong impression of these animals, though they struggle to describe them—just as they do with Jesus’ parables, God’s omniscience and Paul’s missionary journeys. Be patient.

Fourth, fathers can develop malice in their kids when they demand too little. Just as Eli was unwilling to reprimand his sinful sons (1Sm. 2), so too are many fathers reluctant to rebuke wrongdoing in their children. They must resist this urge, for God models a loving father who is willing to discipline his beloved children (Hb. 12:7-11). J.W. Alexander writes:

“A single burst of genuine fatherly anxiety in the modest of ardent intercession, may speak to the child a volume of long-hidden and travailing grief and love. Such words, uttered on the knees, though from the plain untutored man, are sometimes as arrows in the heart of unconverted youth.”

A final word about wives and childless homes

I do not mean to imply here that the only people who benefit from family worship are children. A mother with a wily brood at home desperately needs home devotions. She is often exhausted physically and spiritually. She needs the priestly care of her husband. According to Ephesians 5:26, a husband is to love his wife by making her holy and clean. He does this by washing her with the “word.” This happens through faithful teaching and discipleship (Jn. 17:17).

Even if a woman has no children at home, family worship is still vital for her and her husband. Her spouse is still bound to love his wife through the daily teaching of the word and by answering any questions she may have about the Christian life (1Cor. 14:35).

Review: The Case for Classical Christian Education

Douglas Wilson, Crossway, 2003, 253 pages, 5 of 5 stars

Summary: Because all education is religious and incapable of being morally neutral, classical Christian education is the solution.

Wilson has been a head honcho in the classical and home school educational universe for decades. In his view, classical education (CE) is not a luxury but a necessity. Parents have a moral obligation to remove their children from government schools and provide them with a Christian education (Eph. 6:4)—the best option being classical Christian education.

CE is the teaching philosophy that wants to pass on the Western heritage. The goal of CE is rhetoric (a good man speaking well). But one can only reach rhetoric after the first two basic stages of learning: grammar and logic. Thus, the final product of clear thought is clear speech. Continue reading