An Expansive Vision for Family Worship

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him.

Psalm 22:27

Many years ago while on a sabbatical from my pastoral role at Irvine Presbyterian Church, my family and I visited several prominent megachurches in Southern California. My children were preschool aged, but we took them with us to worship. We knew they would have no problem sitting quietly for an hour if we brought coloring books for them.

At one of the first churches we visited, a friendly usher tried desperately but in vain to get us to take our children to Sunday School. On the doors of another church, a sign implored us not to bring our children into the worship center because they would bother the adults. I must admit I was rather put off by the fact that children were not permitted, let alone welcomed, into the main worship service of this otherwise friendly church. Yet this practice was fairly common among churches that served my generation, the Baby Boomers.

Today, there seems to be a growing conviction among many, especially among the next generations, that children need to worship with their parents. Many newer churches include children in the entire worship service, while other congregations release children for Sunday School part way through the service. Though the approaches may differ, churches today are more committed to family worship.

And so is Psalm 22. Verse 27 reads: "The whole earth will acknowledge the LORD and return to him. All the families of the nations will bow down before him." Notice that it is not just "all nations" that will worship God, but "all the families of the nations." The Hebrew word mishpacha, translated here as "families," refers not only to individual households, but also to larger collections of relatives (clans). The use of this word in Psalm 22 paints a picture of people from all nations gathering in their families to worship the one true God.

In a day when so much in our culture threatens to weaken families, we ought to be encouraged by Psalm 22:27 to find ways to support family worship. Perhaps nothing will help children to grow in their faith more than seeing their own parents genuinely worshiping God. Of course this can happen, not just in church services, but in other settings as well, including the home. Family worship includes such activities as praying before meals, serving together on a mission trip, and so much more. Parents who want their children to know and serve the Lord should strive to live out their faith each day in every dimension of life.

As the Christian community seeks to support families, we must also remember that we are the family of God together. Those who do not live with relatives can find a home among their brothers and sisters in Christ. In this way all of us can bow before the Lord and offer our lives in service to him.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What experiences have you had of family worship? How does your church encourage families in worship? Or not? How might you implement the vision of Psalm 22 for family worship?

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank you for giving us the gift of families. Today I thank you for my own family, for my parents and siblings, for my grandparents, uncles, and aunts, for my wife and children.

I also thank you for the body of Christ, my extended family of faith. How grateful I am for the times when I found a home in your family, especially when I was separated from my natural family. Thank you, Lord, for my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today I pray for your church, that we will grow in our ministry with families. Help us to welcome families in our life of worship, to find ways to support parents and help families be healthy. May our families become contexts in which we are encouraged in our faith and worship. May parents learn, not only how to teach their children how to be disciples of Jesus, but also how to live out their own discipleship before their children.

Finally, gracious Father, I would ask that your church become more and more a family of love and grace, a place where all are welcomed, no matter their station in life. Amen.

P.S. from Mark
Recently, Foundations for Laity Renewal, the parent organization of Laity Lodge and The High Calling, has begun a new ministry for families. Laity Lodge Family Camp offers top quality retreats for families, including multigenerational families (grandparents, parents, children, etc.). If you're looking for a way to enhance your family life, I'd encourage you to check out the LLFC website. This year, by the way, we'll commence building a whole new facility for Family Camp. I am pleased to be part of an organization that has valued families for decades.