Starting this Sunday, Grace will be spending the next 12 weeks on Gospel-Centered Family by Tim Chester and Ed Moll. I was really looking forward to teaching it, but after meeting with my fellow pastors, I am transitioning to focus more on leadership development and growing our church family in the areas of gospel, community, and mission. A couple of weeks ago, I took some time to jot down some ways that the functional centrality of the gospel in the family impacts the church.
1. Discipline in the home facilitates gospel mission.
When parents are intentional and consistent in shepherding the hearts of their children and applying appropriate formative and corrective discipline to their lives, they are freed up to communicate the gospel to others and even have their children join them in the process. However, undisciplined children often sideline parents seeking to live on mission because of their unruly behavior (maintenance). When the gospel is not functioning in the home, it becomes very difficult to put it only display in the community. In anything you do, discipline brings freedom, and in the case with children, parents who are skillful in raising their children will likely be more engaged and effective on mission together.
2. Godliness in the home facilitates leadership development.
In a growing church, there is always the need for new leaders. When you consider the list of qualifications of leaders, whether elders (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) or deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13), almost all of them have to do with the character and godliness of the new leader. Godliness begins with the head of the household and extends to wives and children as well. “Managing his household” then means that growth in the gospel is of first importance for husbands, wives, and children. The more men in your church who pastor their families well and set the pace in pursuing personal holiness/growing in grace, the more potential leaders a church will be able to equip and empower to lead in the future. Godliness is at a premium, and no matter how gifted a member may be, without godliness, leadership is off the table. If you care about leadership development, then it is a prerequisite that you care even more about the godliness of the men (and their families), because integrity calls for men to lead where they have been living.
3. Humility in the home facilitates transparent community.
When the gospel is normative in the home, repentance and faith will be regular. Those whom we live the closest to will be hurt and offended the most, and if repentance and forgiveness is not experienced on an ongoing basis, the home will become a breeding ground for bitterness, pride, and isolation. A church family is essentially a family of families (with exceptions of course), and if the individual families do not know brokenness, confession, humility, repentance, and forgiveness, then we would be fooling ourselves if we expect to have transparent community where authentic faith is regularly being expressed. We are sinners living close to, and spending a lot of time with, other sinners, and each day we have the choice to either cover ourselves up with pretending and performing or expose ourselves in humble repentance and renewed faith in Jesus. The latter cultivates transparent community; the former cultivates hard-wired Pharisees.
4. Simplicity in the home facilitates personal sacrifice.
We live in a complicated world. Our lives are cluttered with so much stuff that we cannot keep up with what we lose and have to build extra barns (mini-storages) to house what we have kept. Our culture is one of consumerism that tells us that life consists in the abundance of one’s possessions. Personal consumption is driven on self-interest so that our standard of living fosters covetousness under the cloak of a new need. Both in word and deed, Jesus reveals that the Christian life should be simple and sacrificial. The former facilitates the latter because the less you determine you need, the more you will have to give away to others. When the gospel is functioning in the home, children and parents learn that our life is Christ, and because we have Him, we have everything we need (life is gain). The sufficiency of Christ should loose our grip on things and liberate our hearts to sacrifice for the sake of others, that they too might find true joy and satisfaction in God.
5. Training in the home facilitates disciple-making.
When relationships are stewarded with gospel intentionality, then the home becomes a training ground for lives being conformed to the image of Christ. Because every arena in life is a classroom, parents have the opportunity to school their children to view the world through the lens of God’s Word (a biblical worldview). Those who are committed and competent in training their wife and children in the home will likely be the best equipped disciple-makers in the church. They have cultivated a climate of gospel growth and culture of change where it is impossible to live passively or comfortably as a Christian, and they are eager to see their spiritual influence result in imitation and reproduction. This is why, I would argue, that Paul likens disciple-making so much to that of spiritual fathers and caring mothers. The substance of the analogy was real and an easily accessible reference point to the early church.
6. Hospitality in the home facilitates ministry to others.
We are naturally bent in on ourselves. We want other people’s lives to revolve around our own. It is “my kingdom come, my will be done in my little world as it is in my imagination.” When the gospel is functioning in the home, we learn that we should “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed us” (Rom. 15:7). Instead of shutting down, tuning out, or packing it in, we are opening up, tuning in, and seeking out opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to others in meaningful and practical ways. Hospitality in the home says our neighbors’ souls are more important than our comfortable schedule. It teaches your children that their only entitlement in this life is the opportunity to spend it for the sake of others.
When you think about the church, wouldn’t we want to see more people engaged in gospel mission, more leaders being developed and empowered, more transparent and authentic community, more personal sacrifice for the advance of the kingdom, more disciples being made, and more people ministering to others? That’s a tall order, right? What kind of program, technique, or best practice can facilitate this? My answer is gospel-centered families. If you do not take the gospel seriously in marriages, parenting, and overall home life, then all kinds of substitutes will attempt to promise what they cannot deliver. May God give us grace to embrace the gospel daily in our lives, in our families, and in our churches!