Thursday, 27 August 2009


Fathers' day is soon upon us. it will be a time when families gather. But family gatherings can be tense!
Colossians 3:18-21Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Family members tend to say things to each other that they would never dare say to an acquaintance (even if they think it). This can create problems. But so does not saying something that needs to be said a family member. Other problems that families might face include -

  • Parents who neglect their children (if you are parent, do you know the names of your child school teachers? Parents, do you hug your child?)

  • Children who disrespect the parents (if you are a child, do you answer your parents back? Do you ignore your parents' requests and boundaries?)

  • Husbands and wives (Husbands, do you tell your wife regularly that you love her and in addition say it with words? Wives, do you give yourself freely to your husband? Husbands, do you make time to talk and spend time with your wife? Wives, do you hold bitterness toward your husband?)

The family unit is the place where we can be ourselves. Someone has once said-
To like someone we must know their strengths,
but to love someone we must know their weaknesses

Perhaps no-one else knows us better than our own family. This kind of knowledge comes from living with each other. When you share a bathroom with someone you learn a lot about them! But the bathroom is not the usual place where family bonds are strengthened most. If done correctly, that's the place Dining Table is the place of deep bonding.

In his book, BRANDING FAITH, Dr. Phil Cooke makes an interesting if not ironic observation. He observes that churches are built today to look 'non-religious'. In fact, he seems to suggest that church buildings being built today lack imagination and are actually rather bland - especially compared to the type of church buildings that were built with an artistic interpretation in generations gone by. But then he asks, but where are we more likely to see a modern cathederal ceiling today? In a family home! Cooke makes the point that churches are being built today with little thought about their message, whereas, churches of the past were often built to be an integral part of the message of a church. They were built as sacred places. Cooke seems to be saying that people are created to enter into a sacred place. He wonders whether the change in church architecture has had any affect on family-home architecture. He says that homes are now being built with an altar (TV/computer), choir stall (sound system), cathederal ceiling, stained-glass windows, a nave (where the people congregate), and a pulpit. The family-home is now being deiberately designed as a sacred space.

While Cooke is only discussing architecture and its message in that portion of his book, it got me wondering about not just the home being a sacred place, but the family itself being a sacred gathering. It is the ultimate home-group!

The family gathering is the place where the father acts as the pastor (elder) and the mother acts as the deacon (minister) and the children serve and contribute with their gifts and abilities. It is the place where Christ is ministered to each other through each other. It is the place of confession - where we learn to seek and give forgiveness. It is the place where the Word is read and pondered. It is where bread is continually broken together. It is the place of prayer. It is one of the best expressions of pastoral care.

This idea should cause fathers especially to feel inadequate. As the pastor of their family, a father has a responsibility to guide, shepherd (feed, nurture, and protect), minister the Word of God to, pray for, love, and develop his wife and children. Every father should recognise their inadequacy and therefore their need for God's help to do his job. Children, pray for your Dad - he needs it!

As tricky as being in a family can be, they're still worth it. As followers of Christ we are all called into a local church to be a church family. We should, of all people, therefore, know how to function as a healthy family. Paul stresses the importance of being a member of a healthy and functioning family by setting it as the standard for any church leader to have already demonstrated their spiritual leadership within their own family.
First Timothy 3:1-5, ¶ If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs [home] well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? [THE MESSAGE]

While we as a church provide pastoral care through our Bible study and small groups (where we are cared for, prayed for, and ministered to) and in crisis intervention and counselling through our elders, we must strive to ensure that each family in our church is a sacred gathering where pastoral care is maximised.

Today I heard that there has been a dramatic rise in clinical depression rates among Australians. I think I heard on the same news-cast that around 1 in 5 Australian adults have sought help for depression from their GP. I just wondered whether there was a corelation between the breakdown of the family unit and the rise in depression rates?

As the head of a house, a father has the priestly duty to shepherd his wife and children in and by prayer. He gathers his family to the dinner table and leads them in a prayer of thanks for the meal and other things. He encourages his family to share their souls ("How was your day?" "What happened in your day today?" "What have you been thinking lately?" "If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are three small things you would want to be stranded with?" "What have you read in your Bible today?"). A father kneels with his children beside their bed as he prays with them and shares Scripture with them. A father runs his hands through the souls of his children and wife and offers a sympathetic listening ear and a caring word with them.

As we approach Fathers' Day, I wonder how different families would be today if dads took their spiritual responsibilities more seriously?

If you are blessed with a loving family- especially if you are blessed with a loving mother and father and brothers and sisters, then thank God! If you need to be reconciled to your family, do it! It's worth the effort. If you are a young mum or dad, lay a strong spiritual foundation in your new family. Perhaps all this can be best summed up by the words of Paul to the Colossians-
Colossians 3:18-21Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.
Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

Yes, families can be tricky. But they are worth the effort because they are the place where we can be ourselves; know that we are cared for; and where we know we are encouraged to grow in the grace of God. Yes, families can be tricky, but God has enabled dads in particular to be able to make it happen well.

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