All this hub bub about rehearsing the gospel story in your home, but I haven’t asked one question, “How can churches equip families to do this?” Yes, families must make much of God. Yes, we are all responsible for our families. Yet, when we read through Scripture, when we see God’s people acting faithfully, it almost always starts with the leadership of the church. God seems to normally use strong leadership to strengthen families and individuals.
This is true primarily because we are a body. We are connected—ligaments to bones to flesh. You cannot remove a part of the body without other systems breaking down. The journey we take with our families is squarely walked hand in hand with a church and the Church. We follow the Trailblazer as sojourners and exiles within a living, breathing community.
So the question remains, “How can churches equip families to rehearse the gospel faithfully in our homes?” What we do in our homes is a microcosm of what we should be rehearsing and reenacting in our churches weekly. Robbie Castleman says, “In Christ we come, in Christ we stay, in Christ we go.” But if Christ isn’t there to begin with, what are we going with?
1. Preach the Bible from Cover to Cover
You sit down. It’s a comfortable enough chair. You test it out and move around finding just the right position—comfortable enough where you won’t be squirming throughout the group meeting. You sip your coffee. You double check your leather satchel. Yes, you have the book. You’re very excited. You’ve read this book two or three times now. You’ve learned to love the author and the world she’s created. You decided to join a book club that will meet weekly to discuss this grand piece of literature. More people start to file in. Finally, a gentleman speaks up, “Hi. I’m Dave and I’ll be leading our discussion. You’ll only need chapter five in this book. Go ahead and rip the rest out.”
You say, “Excuse me? Did you say rip the rest of the chapters out?”
“Yes . . . Mathew is it? Rip them out. We’ll only be looking at chapter five.”
“Isn’t this a twelve week group?”
“Why yes it is.“
“And we only discuss chapter five?”
“Is that a problem?”
You probably get the point, but can you image that? Unless it was a chapter in War and Peace you’d probably run out of things to say within two weeks. Plus how well can you discuss any book by only reading one chapter? Pastors, when you only preach out of your favorite book, or on your pet topic, or only in the New Testament, you’re rehearsing something with your congregation. It’s that all of Scripture doesn’t matter. It’s that Jesus can’t be found (at least not as well) in all those other parts we never read. It’s that the gospel is only found in this sliver, instead of Genesis to Revelation. Preach the Bible from cover to cover.
2. Rehearse a Robust Gospel Liturgy Weekly
All churches have liturgy. Even churches who say they don’t do. We all settle into a routine and like to know what to expect. If you change your service week in and week out, I doubt many people would stick around. I wouldn’t. The question then isn’t if you’re rehearsing something, but what you are rehearsing.
For many churches, it’s an old time religion, early nineteen hundreds revivalists liturgy: hell-fire and brimstone and an altar call. Or maybe it’s more cutting edge: fog machines, lights, a thirty minute concert, and a uplifting pop psychology sermonette.
For others it could be a more intentional liturgy, a historic one, but it may be lifeless. Or it might be filled with biblical sounding elements, but miss the person and work of Jesus.
If we are rehearsing these week in and week out, what happens when we go out after the service? What are we supposed to do through the week? Seek the emotional high of responding to the altar call? Or the “worship experience” of the Sunday morning concert? Or glutton ourselves on more do better, try harder from pop psychology. Or maybe we should disciple our families with the same lifeless routine we rehearsed on Sunday? These all fail.
Churches, the only thing worth rehearsing on Sunday is the gospel. We gather together because we are called by God. We rejoice, praise, and worship Him because He calls us. We confess our sins corporately and personally. We are assured of forgiveness by God preparing our hearts to respond to His Word. We receive nourishment and tangible fellowship with the risen Christ through the Spirit by eating the bread and the wine. We receive the blessings to go out the church scattered in our neighborhood, homes, and places of business. We rehearse this weekly because where else would we go? What else would we do? Who else is there besides Jesus Christ?
You see when that’s rehearsed. When the gospel is woven within the fabric of who we are as a church, as a family, and as an individual, it transforms our daily living. You cannot rehearse daily what you do not know. What you haven’t seen. What you haven’t heard. What you haven’t touched. What you haven’t tasted. Gospeless on Sunday is gospel deficient throughout the week.
3. Don’t Marginalize the Children
Whatever you do, don’t marginalize the children. Don’t treat Sunday like a time where we send the kids off so the parents can do something distraction free. Don’t treat kids like they don’t need the gospel. Don’t treat them like lesser image bearers. Many churches do this unknowingly.
Whatever you do—integrated or not—rehearse the gospel with the children. They don’t need a puppet show about making friends, or listening to their parents, or making tough choices. They need Jesus. They need to hear the call of God to worship. They need to rejoice at the call. They need repentance. They need to hear the gospel and be assured of forgiveness. They need the Word of God. They need the blessing of God. They need what we need. They need all of Jesus for all of life.
If children are seen as a distraction to worship, as a problem to be solved during worship, or as a body to be entertained, then how can we send these children out during the week? With what hope? What have we rehearsed in their hearing? We have said, “The gospel is for grown ups. What you need is entertainment or moralism or a distraction.”
What’s more, how many of us look side eyed at the parent of the unruly child, “Why isn’t that parent handling their child?” Or have you looked at a child and thought, “Why are they here? I need to be fed.” Or “Seriously! There are unsaved people in this service. What if they never hear the gospel again and all they remember about today is that little brat.” What do these feeling betray about our view of God? He’s small. He needs our help. The gospel saves, but sometimes along with the Spirit working, God needs our assist. But they also betray a lack of concern for the child. Is their soul less valuable? Are they not loved by God? Do they not need the gospel? Just think about that. Sit down and consider. How does your service marginalize the children?
4. Worship Isn’t About You
God calls us to worship him. We respond. When we meet, it’s all about God. In my church experience, I see two ditches—either evangelize or disciple (as if they are mutually exclusive). Did you notice another thing about the ditches? They center on us. We are focusing on the people in the pew—either unregenerate or regenerate. Worship isn’t about us. We are not the hero of the story. Evangelizing and discipling are important, but they are not the centering Person of our worship.
When we meet on Sunday, we are meeting God and rehearsing His story. We are pointing to Him and saying, “You are faithful.” We are pointing to Jesus and saying, “Worthy is the Lamb.” We are pleading with the Spirit, “Change our hearts.” We hear the good news proclaimed, “The King is come. He brings peace. He never breaks a promise. He’s making all things new. Come taste and see.” The thing about the good news is it’s good news for everyone. We don’t move past it. We don’t grow beyond on it. It’s the air we breath. When the good news is proclaimed, sinners repent, the Spirit brings dead people to life, and saints become more like Christ. So stop worrying about market research, current events, cultural relevance, and start worshiping God for who He is and rehearse His story faithfully.
When these four things happens, families are equipped to rehearse the gospel through week. They see the importance of all of Scripture for all of life. They see Jesus in all of Scripture and long to know him more. They have a gospel liturgy, a rhythm of worship, that can be repeated daily, personally and within the larger family worship context. Each member of the family knows the gospel is for them. And they know life isn’t all about me. It’s about God. It’s His story. It’s His world. It’s His everything, every square inch. That’s worth rehearsing daily for the rest of our lives.
Mathew B. Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes and writes for CBMW Manual, Gospel-Centered Discipleship, Borrowed Light, and other publications. He also works as the managing editor at Gospel-Centered Discipleship and offers freelance editing and book formatting services. He blogs at Grace for Sinners and The Bacon Coalition. His family is covenanted at Downtown Presbyterian Church.