How Do I Teach My Family?
by Jon Payne
Every Christian home is meant to be a school of Christ—a place of spiritual nurture, loving discipline, sound doctrine, and biblical piety. This is not a reference to Victorian-era portraits of the Christian family; it is the clear teaching of Scripture and the Reformed tradition. Even so, our hectic schedules, ubiquitous gadgets, and misplaced priorities often make our homes similar to those of our unbelieving neighbors. God becomes an afterthought. Here are three things to remember as we seek to build God-centered homes where sound doctrine is the foundation and our Lord Jesus Christ is the cornerstone.
First, we must be committed to the ministry of the local church. Every Christian family needs God’s appointed means of grace and the shepherding care of godly elders (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17; 1 Tim. 3:1–7). The ministry of the visible church is a nonnegotiable for believers and their children. The first Christian families were “devoted to the apostles’ teaching [doctrine] and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and the prayers” (Acts 2:42). They were under the loving spiritual oversight of elders—men who were called to “shepherd the flock of God” and “give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it” (Titus 1:9, emphasis added; see 1 Peter 5:2; Titus 2:1). The church was central to their Christian identity. It is inside, not outside, the divinely ordained structure of a biblical church that Christian families are grounded in the gospel. A faithful church is where families mature in their knowledge, understanding, and practice of sound doctrine. Therefore, Christian households are encouraged to submit joyfully to the ministry of a local church body and to learn from pastors who labor “to present everyone mature in Christ” (Col. 1:28–29; see Eph. 4:11–16).
Second, we must be dedicated to regular times of family worship. Family worship is a time in which the entire household gathers for singing, prayer, the reading of scripture, and catechesis. A Christian home is a worshiping home. Matthew Henry says that “they that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.” In family worship we open the Bible, reflect upon Scripture’s unfolding story of redemption, and consider essential Christian doctrine. Reformed catechisms such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism, with their helpful question-and-answer formats, greatly assist us in our quest to learn and digest sound doctrine.
In his Thoughts on Family Worship, nineteenth-century Princeton theologian J.W. Alexander maintains that “family worship, from its very nature, keeps the mind attentive to truth, and familiar with its smallest ramifications.” Through specific times of worship in the home, “the Christian family is brought daily to the fountain of all truth.”
Shouldn’t this be the goal of every Christian home? Isn’t it every Christian husband’s role to exercise spiritual leadership toward his wife (Eph. 5:22– 27)? Isn’t it every Christian parent’s privilege and responsibility to teach God’s Word “diligently to [their] children” and to “bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Deut. 6:7; Eph. 6:4)? Dear believer, “the daily regular and solemn reading of God’s holy word, by a parent before his children, is one of the most powerful agencies of the Christian life” (Alexander). Commitment to family worship provides regular occasions for the entire household to be rooted in sound doctrine—to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Third, we must be devoted to informal times of biblical instruction. Sound doctrine should be taught and learned not only from pulpits and lecterns but also in the midst of ordinary daily activities—at the dinner table, in the car, on the ball field, or in the park. Moses exhorts God’s people to “talk of [God’s Word] when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:7). It is during common everyday activities that Christian families are encouraged to talk about God and His Word and to consider how doctrine applies to various circumstances that arise. Therefore, let us seize those opportunities to explain and apply the wisdom of God’s Word in our families.
Dear believer, just as a plant flourishes in the fertile soil of the earth, so a Christian family flourishes in the sound doctrine of the Scriptures. Indeed, sound doctrine leads to sound living in Christ. Through the work of the Spirit, sound doctrine illumines the mind, transforms the heart, subdues the will, warms the affections, and nourishes the soul. It is truth for life. Whether in church, at home, or in the margins of life, nothing is more important to our families than the teaching and application of sound doctrine. Is this a priority in your home?