Husbands: Lead Your Family in Family Worship-Discipleship
By Matthew Steven Bracey
Forming new habits—new practices—is sometimes difficult, especially if they cut against the grain of your family upbringing.
Throughout my childhood, my mother ensured I attended church on Sunday mornings. As my youth turned to adolescence, I began attending church on Sunday and Wednesday evenings, as well as other church events, because my mother deepened her commitment to church attendance and spiritual life.
Fast-forward about a decade to the eve of my wedding. God instructs the husbands to give godly leadership to his home. “What does such leadership look like?” I thought. “Am I really prepared for this?” My personal family experience included Christian moral standards in the home and (generally) faithful attendance in the church. “Is that all God requires?” I wondered. I thought not.
My pastor and youth pastor taught me better than that. I knew the Bible called me to more.
Undoubtedly, I am tremendously grateful to my mother’s good influence, as well as my father’s, because God, within the cradle of that context, gave new life to my spirit. But as someone thinking about my own responsibility to my future wife—as someone thinking about the accounting I will one day give to God for my stewardship of that calling—I knew He expected more from me. Christian morals and church attendance are great. But they’re just the beginning.
Husbands: your responsibility to your family, to lead them in family worship and discipleship, is paramount. If your parent(s) modeled good family worship-discipleship, then carry forward that good legacy. However, if your upbringing was like mine, give thanksgiving for what you received, yet know you may need to build upon what you were given, or even construct a whole new foundation. Whatever your background, scrutinize the spiritual quality of your leadership in the home according to the revelation of God.
The biblical justification for family worship-discipleship is straightforward and strong. In the Old Testament, God establishes His covenant with man so that its leaders would oversee the spiritual development of their homes, teaching the Lord's commandments to their children and their households (Deuteronomy 6:7) and instructing them in the way of righteousness (Psalms 1:1-3).
The purpose statement (so that) may seem too emphatic, but it is precisely what the Bible says: “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him” (Genesis 18:19; cf. Galatians 3).
Joshua also demonstrates the Old Testament’s enjoiner: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15). In addition, Psalm 78 explains that generational discipleship occurs across decades and centuries (verses 3-4; 6-8).
The New Testament expands this emphasis on family worship-discipleship. Husbands shall honor their wives and lead them spiritually unto holiness (Ephesians 5:26; 1 Peter 3:7), as well as fathers leading their children (Ephesians 6:4). In summary, the Bible instructs husbands and fathers to lead their homes in family worship-discipleship. If you’re not the receiver of a biblical heritage, then pave new ground and build
Elements of Family Worship-discipleship
Family worship-discipleship does not occur spontaneously. It requires planning and time. Husbands must reject laziness and passivity and instead choose to seek intentional, diligent leadership. That is the example we see in Jacob, who led his household to forsake pagan deities, to purify themselves, and to worship God alone (Genesis 35:2-3). I hesitate to describe what family worship-discipleship should look like in each family setting. Each home will differ according to its composition and the unique personalities and life stages of its members. Nevertheless, I recommend several elements that could, or even should, be included in family worship.
Donald Whitney makes some helpful suggestions in his excellent (and short!) book Family Worship. If you’ve not read it, please do so. It’s affordable, easy-to-read, and practical. Whitney points to three primary components of family worship-discipleship: read, pray, and sing. Read the Bible, and pray and sing to God as a family. Whitney identifies three additional, components: catechesis (Bible teaching), Scripture memory, and book reading. Exactly how husbands incorporate these various elements into their own family settings will depend upon the variables I reviewed above, according to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Whitney also suggests brevity, regularity, and flexibility. How can we as husbands add yet another responsibility to our family’s already busy lives? Family worship-discipleship should not take long. Fifteen minutes is sufficient; too long may be counter-productive. In addition, husbands should lead their families with consistency, as regularly as they eat their meals. Finally, they cannot be too rigid but be flexible through the changing seasons of life.
Family worship-discipleship is an indispensable part of family leadership. Non-Christian upbringing, inconvenience, and other difficulties are not good excuses to fail in this calling. Nothing is. The foundational reason husbands must lead their families in the instruction and admonition of the Lord is because He directs us to—pure and simple. In conclusion: husbands, resolve to give your families a moral education and to guide their spiritual development and, in doing so, to obey your Father’s command to lead your homes in family worship-discipleship.
About the Writer: Matthew Steven Bracey (M.T.S., J.D.) works at Welch College as vice provost and professor, teaching courses in ethics, theology, and law. A prolific writer, Matthew is also co-founder and senior editor of the Helwys Society Forum (thehsf.com) and has published articles and/or reviews in the Biblical Higher Education Journal, The Brink magazine, Christian Academia magazine, Evangelical Quarterly, FUSION, and Integrity.