The following two-part article was contributed by Brad Shedd, Associate Pastor of Household Worship at Harvest Assembly in Chesapeake, Virginia and originally appeared at www.harvestva.org/hws.
“Would you like your household to be functional and supportive? Would you like your children to ‘turn out’?” With very few exceptions, parents respond with a hearty “Yes!” to those questions. And yet, so few parents have even the slightest clue of “how to get there.”
Even more, as Christians, our goal is not just that our children would “turn out,” but that they would become mighty men and women of God, turning their world upside down for Him. Yet with such a lofty ideal, most Christian parents have no idea what they can do to see this goal become a living reality.
The good news is this—there’s hope, and there’s help! There are simple, repeatable things you can do each day that, partnered with God’s active intervention, will eternally transform your household. What’s more—these principles apply no matter what your household looks like—children, no children, single parenting, multiple generations, extended family, etc. Throughout God’s Word, He promised to impact our entire oikos—our household (see Acts 16:31). With that in mind, take a look at these first two of four simple practices:
1) Household Meal Table
The first practice is simply to eat dinner together! As easy as that sounds, the household meal table has become almost extinct in our contemporary culture. One of the reasons that Thanksgiving is so special is because it’s one of the few times that millions of Americans actually sit down at the table at the same time with the rest of their household and share a leisurely meal together.
Secular research has backed up the amazing benefits of eating together. In the book The Surprising Power of Family Meals by Miriam Weinstein, she writes,
“ . . . eating ordinary, average everyday supper with your family is strongly linked to lower incidence of bad outcomes such as teenage drug and alcohol use, and to good qualities like emotional stability. It correlates with kindergartners being better prepared to learn to read. (It even trumps getting read to.) Regular family supper helps keep asthmatic kids out of hospitals. It discourages both obesity and eating disorders. It supports your staying more connected to your extended family, your ethnic heritage, your community of faith. It will help children and families to be more resilient, reacting positively to those curves and arrows that life throws our way. It will certainly keep you better nourished. The things we are likely to discuss at the supper table anchor our children more firmly in the world. Of course eating together teaches manners both trivial and momentous, putting you in touch with the deeper springs of human relations.”
“When families prepare meals together, kids learn real-life skills. They assume responsibility, become better team members. (Where did we get the idea that the only teams are in sports?) Sharing meals helps cement family relationship, no matter how you define family. The word companion, which dates back to ancient Rome, means ‘one who breaks bread with you.’”
Those are pretty incredible results from such a simple practice! Even more, Scripture places high value on eating together. Notice how many times people share a meal with each other. Abraham prepared a meal for the three visitors, Gideon rushed to fix dinner for his angelic guest, and Moses gave explicit instructions on celebrating the Passover—the most significant spiritual experience of the Old Testament, which is centered around the household meal table.
One of the highlights of Christ’s ministry was the Last Supper He shared with His disciples, coupled with the command that this was to become a regular practice for His followers. Jesus revealed Himself in the moment of breaking bread in Emmaus, and He was the one who prepared the breakfast for the disciples who had stayed up all night trying to go back to fishing.
The Early Church was characterized by four basic practices, one of which was “breaking bread,” which we later learn was “from house to house” (Acts 2:42,46). And the Corinthian church was known for sharing meals together. At the end of time, one of the primary events we will share with the Lord will be the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.
As convincing as all of this is, why then do we not eat together more often? The answer is simple and complex—the “stuff” of life, and our refusal to prioritize such a simple practice. Dinner is one of the first things to go in the light of other “priorities.” I challenge you, however, to re-evaluate everything you are doing, and to radically prioritize the dinner time in your household. You may need to say no to some “good things” in order to share together in the “best thing.” Moreover, start small (aim for two meals a week together) and build from there!
Further, purpose to make the household meal table special. Eliminate the TV and radio from the meal table environment, and replace it with soft, relaxing, uplifting music. Almost without exception, our household eats by candlelight (in fact, the children will remind us if we have forgotten to light them!). And . . . do your best as often as possible to remove the time constraint from the meal time—it doesn’t help to eat together if you have to force down your food and rush out the door minutes later!
2) Household Worship
The second practice follows naturally after the first one—after feeding your bodies with nourishing food and your souls with engaging interaction, then take some time to feed your spirits with “food from Heaven.” However, if eating together as a household is rare in our culture, sharing devotions together is nearly extinct. James K. Bridges writes, “The aroma of the Holy Scriptures is not pervading the atmosphere of many homes because the Bible is not being given a place in daily life. The upshot is that many are developing lifestyles devoid of a biblically informed conscience.”
And yet, for those who determine that the Bible needs to be “given a place in daily life,” the term “household worship” can sound so intimidating—how is it possible to reproduce what we experience on Sunday?
The answer, of course, is, “Household Worship is not supposed to look like Sunday Worship.” God has shown us in Scripture that there is a place for worship in the home, and there is a place for worship as a gathered Body of Christ (see Acts 2:46; 5:42; 20:20) . . . and . . . the two complement each other, not duplicate each other!
Though Household Worship will look different for each home, there really are only two basic elements:
- Hearing From God (through reading and reflecting on God’s Word)
- Responding To God (through worship and prayer)
First, the head of the household should simply break open God’s Word and share it with the others. It often works well to have each “reading” member of the household read a verse or two. More importantly, it is crucial to ask two simple questions about the Scripture passage—1) What does this mean? (i.e. What is God saying here?), and 2) What does this mean for us? (i.e. How should we “live this out” in our home? Or, what does this “look like” in our home?)
Secondly, the head of the household should lead in a response of worship and prayer back to God (though the head of the household leads, it’s great to have each member pray as well). It’s wonderful to sing together, and it’s truly okay if a few notes are out of tune, but the focus should be on your response to God’s revelation, committing to obey what God has instructed and asking for His help and strength to “walk it out.”
It’s really that simple. And . . . it doesn’t have to last 90 minutes! Start small (just a couple of verses), start short (just 5-10 minutes), and watch how God will expand this time together, to the point that this becomes one of the most anticipated times for your household each day!
Continued in the next post.