The Biblical Pattern For Life
‘Why doesn’t the church do more for my children?’ Sadly, this is a question that is asked all too often. Families leave a church saying, ‘There was too little for my children there.’ The thinking seems to be deeply embedded that it is the church’s task to teach children the things of God through his Word. However, the Bible is clear that the true seat of leading and teaching children is within the family. So, the real question to you, dad or mum, is, ‘What are you doing for the children God has richly blessed you with?’ Do not palm off onto the church that which is your duty.
The biblical pattern
I wonder which church Adam and Eve took their sons and daughters to? Who would Adam blame for Cain’s appalling sinfulness in murdering Abel? Perhaps it was the inadequate youth programme. Of course not! Adam taught his children all he knew about God and the promise of the seed to come.
Who taught Cain and Abel to bring sacrifices before the Lord (Gen. 4:3-4)? It is clear that Abel listened to Adam’s teaching on sacrifice, but Cain did not (Gen. 4:4-7). How about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Which local churches did they attend? Who taught Jacob’s 12 sons? In Egypt, which church did Joseph take his boys to? How did Joseph stay faithful to the Lord throughout those most difficult years? In all these situations, the children learned from their fathers.
The family has always been God’s chosen means to bring children to a knowledge of himself. What children do with that knowledge remains their responsibility before God. Jacob listened to his dad, whilst Esau did not, but both had the same opportunities. Whose fault was it that Esau was a godless oaf? None but his own.
During the exodus the focus is on families teaching their children the meaning of the lamb and the blood (Ex. 12:1-3, 26-28). Moses taught the fathers and the fathers taught their children – that’s the pattern. The same principle comes in the desert of Sinai (Deut. 6:1-9).
How should children be taught?
There is no set place or time for this teaching. Moses says in Deuteronomy 6:7 that it should be done ‘when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down and when you rise.’ There should be something very natural and free-flowing about this vital teaching; Families chatting together, sharing about the wonders of God and his works. This principle of teaching in a natural manner is emphasised in Psalm 78:1-7 where the fathers tell their children of ‘the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might and the wonders he has done’ (v 4).
If you are a father in your household, you are the family pastor. God gives you the role to teach your children the wonders of our God and King and the glories of his grace. David blessed his people, then returned home to ‘bless his family’ (2 Sam. 6:20); Job prayed for his children every day and offered sacrifices for them (Job 1:5); Cornelius assembled his whole household to hear the preaching of Peter (Acts 10:24, 30-33, 44).
Perhaps you are a mother whose husband does not yet believe, or a single mum? You too have a glorious task. It appears that young Timothy’s mum and gran were believers, but his dad was not. Eunice saw to it that Timothy knew the Scriptures and wonderfully, it was those Scriptures that made him ‘wise to salvation’ (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:14-16).
Here then is the biblical pattern: parents (fathers and mothers) teach their children. This teaching is, of course, supplemented by loving local churches, but it is in the home where God chooses to lay the emphasis. Read the article that Jonathan Hodgins has honestly written about his struggles as a father in this area and has given a most helpful pattern as to how he seeks to teach his family. Let the Lord challenge you to start your own family worship time.
For more on this subject, Media Gratiae has published a helpful teaching series entitled A Guide To Family Worship by Ryan Bush. It is an eight-part video series with an accompanying downloadable workbook giving very practical help and advice in this vital area.