Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 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. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9
It’s common among those of us in the family ministry movement to build the case for our discussion on Deuteronomy 6. That is a great place to start. It gives us a great foundation. Israel used it for it’s discipleship foundation. The Church should too.
Many people have come to take the imperatives in this passage and apply them to families. This passage is without a doubt applicable to family life because it is the family who is most present for children when they sit in the house, walk by the way, and lie down or rise up. Mothers and fathers should apply these verses in their families, teaching their kids diligently.
Deuteronomy 6 is applicable to the family, but we need to look more intently at this passage. It is not an address to parents. It is an address to Israel, God’s people, in as it gathers all of its members. Deuteronomy 6 should lead us to mobilize the whole church to the ministry of passing the faith to the next generation.
Our nuclear family ideal has led us to believe that this passage puts the people in the home, particularly moms and dads, at the center of discipleship. In so doing, many have made the parents (more specifically the fathers) the human authority in the spiritual development of young people. This has lead to difficulty in working with families with incapable parents. It also leads to undue pressure on some parents particularly single parents and parents with little spiritual training themselves. On the other hand, it may also lead some parents to a belief that they need not answer to anyone about how they raise their children.
Further, the nuclear family model of applying has divided the church into those with kids and those without. What we need is a model that unites all generations around the work of building up the young people in the training and discipleship of the Lord.
Throughout the New Testament we see that the church is the family. In the Old Testament we see a development of a concept of household. The family is more than just the 4 to 6 people most biologically related. When the church recaptures this and becomes the family of God again, our children will have a resiliency to their faith.
Chap Clark talks about a five to one ratio–five mentors for every one child. This is a start to the church as family. In my next post, I’ll write more about the crucial role that parents play in the day to day discipleship of children, but one important role is to help children connect to the whole church. Parents would be wise to encourage the people around their children to collaborate in the raising their children. My wife and I have found this invaluable. We’ve regularly involved 20-something folks in the lives of our children, and our girls regularly call one dear family friend Aunt because of the closeness of our relationship. We need the whole church involved in discipleship.
The family ministry movement tends to be off centered, favoring the family as the center of discipleship. The home family is a part of the core, but it is not alone. The family has to grow to include a bigger picture. It is time to reenergize the church as family as opposed to an organization that runs programs. The family ministry movement can do this by working to reform not just the family, but church leadership structures as well.
Be looking for our next two posts: Why the home is still a huge focus of family ministry and Building the family model of church (Why the business model won’t ever work)