Our question for this issue focuses on a very important matter. One of our readers has asked: "What form should family worship take?"
The person who submitted this question assumes that family worship ought to be conducted, but for many that is something that needs to be proved. Either they do not know that there ought to be such a thing as family worship, or they neglect its practice.
In talking about family worship, we and the questioner are thinking of worship in the home. We do believe, however, that public worship on the Lord's Day ought also to be family worship, that is, the family worshipping together as well as with the other members of the church. We do not believe that the practice of having separate "children's church" or Sunday school is Biblical (Deut. 31:12; Joel 2:16).
That family worship in the home is the obligation of families is clear from Scripture. It is spoken of in Joshua 24:15; "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." The word "serve" is a word that very often refers to worship (23:7,16; 24:2, 14, 16, 20). Would that all Christian families would say what Joshua says.
Family worship is implied in Psalm 118:15 as well: "The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacle of the righteous." How seldom it is heard there today.
Psalm 128:3 also speaks of it: "Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine by the sides (insides) of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table." Surely the family is not gathered at the table merely to fill their bellies. As verse 4 shows, the family gathers there in the "fear of the Lord" and to receive His blessing.
Indeed, we believe that Deuteronomy 6:7 is speaking especially of family worship when it commands us concerning God's words: "Thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house."
The questioner, understanding all this, only asks how family worship should be conducted. There are no fixed rules for this in Scripture, but there are nevertheless some things that can be pointed out (we will make more specific suggestions in the next issue).
As with all private worship of God, family worship ought to include prayer, reading and study of Scripture, and also the singing of God's praises (Eph. 5:19). To this can be added if deemed profitable, the reading aloud of selections from good books (at our afternoon family worship on the Lord's Day we read a brief selection from John Willison's Treatise on the Sanctification of the Sabbath), the memorization of Scripture passages, discussion of the sermons preached on the Lord's Day, and other such matters.
We would think it wise that fixed times be set for family worship and believe, therefore, that mealtimes are most convenient for this purpose. This is suggested in Psalm 128. So, too, sufficient time should be taken so that family worship does not become a mere formality to be hurried through.
Where young children are present (as they ought to be) the readings and other parts of worship ought to be kept fairly short so that the children do not become restless and disinterested, but that they learn to enjoy these times of worship and of family fellowship.
We hope the promised blessing of Psalm 128:4 will encourage Christian families to conduct family worship regularly. "Behold," says the Psalm, "that thus shall the man be blessed that fears the Lord."
As far as the actual practice of family worship, there are a number of other suggestions that can be made: (1) That the young men of the family be asked to lead in prayer by way of teaching them to pray publicly and for others; (2) That in the reading of Scripture, the family be questioned about the reading and taught from it (we have found it profitable to allow them to interrupt the reading to ask questions about the meaning of the passage - this encourages their attention and interest); (3) that the reading of Scripture be done thoroughly, i.e., that all the Scriptures be read (this can be done in different ways, simply reading consecutively.
- Volume: 6
- Issue: 21
Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)
Ordained: November 1979
Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/
Address317 North Park St.
State or ProvinceWA