Family: Witnessing the Church

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The Church must be the place where marriages are strengthened and families are biblically educated. With this in mind, we can see why the message and witness of the church must be clear, consistent and well thought through. The reason for this is that untested beliefs and incorrect interpretations lead to incorrect discipleship, they are not just different opinions, ideas have consequences as the whole of human history testifies.

It takes a church to raise a child

It takes a church to raise a child, therefore the maturity of the congregation matters. We are not wanting our children to grow up in a church where the message coming to parents is “wait until they’re teenagers” , it’s as if people are willing children to depart from the faith. It is true that many teenagers seem to depart from church attendance, but as I have said elsewhere the church is not something which you attended it is something to which you belong. Therefore to belong to a church which calls in to question a child’s faith more than inviting them into the fellowship to witness the worship of God and hear the Gospel, is failing to do what it ought to do. The church ought to promote the truth that salvation is promised to believing heads and their families (Acts 16:33-34), because God shows mercy to a thousand generations to those who love Him and keep His commandments (Ex 20:5-6). The church must reflect the attitude of Jesus in regards to children and the church must imitate the parents who brought their children to Jesus (Luke 18:15-16).

When God commanded the gathering of His people for the reading of His law, He said “assemble the people, men, women and little ones, and the Sojourner within your towns, that they may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God, and be careful to do all the words of the law, and that their children, who have not known it, may hear and learn to fear the LORD your God…” (Deut 31:12-13). Children need to witness what maturity in the faith looks like, and this will happen when they are where the adults are, as they worship God together.

It takes a church to support a family

The duty of young families is to imitate mature families in the faith, they are to copy but never compare. Since the differences which exist within maturity exist for a reason and the reason is that God expects us to grow in Him and when this happens distinctions can be made. However, these distinctions are a matter of maturity which is available to all to continue to walk with the Lord in faith and obedience. It is therefore important to have the older, mature women in the fellowship to support the younger women and the older, mature men are to urge the younger men to be self-controlled (Titus 2: 1-6). Therefore, we see the importance of the children being where the adults are and why those who are young should seek the counsel of those who are mature. If we are thinking at this point that all of this is a matter of guesswork, there is no need, for the letter to Titus identifies who such people are.

Since individuals and therefore families are to receive their biblical education from the leadership in the church, those appointed to teach, for this is a gift from God to His body (Eph 4:11). We recognise that the teaching will make its way all the way down to the youngest and the reason it needs to, is because we all need to be instructed in the things of God, we all need to receive faith and have their faith strengthened.

When qualifications are neglected

Titus was left in Crete so that he might appoint elders in the church. An elder is one who teaches and defends the word of God (Titus 1:9). Pastors and Elders are never perfect but they are to be qualified and the implications of having an unqualified Elder/Pastor in leadership is far-reaching. The qualification which Titus will use for appointing Elders, is that they must be the “…husband of one wife, and his children are believers…” (Titus 1:6), these are not the only qualifications but these two are the subject of our focus. In some translations, it will say that the children are to be faithful, but this only begs the question, to what are they to be faithful? the greek word here is “pistos” which refers to saving faith, hence why translating the word as “believers” is preferred, due to its clarity.

Men who leave their role as an elder for the sake of their families, especially their children demonstrate the very maturity that ought to be imitated. This man is saying not only to his children but to the church that his family is more important to him than his role. His wife and children seeing this understand that they can affect his role to the point of whether or not he continues, but they will also understand that he is being faithful by prioritising his family over the church. They will continue to go to church and worship God together but he will no longer be an elder.

When Pastors/Elders do not step down it becomes clear to others in the church if they see this through the lens of scripture and definitely the members of their family that the family do not take priority. It does not help when the positioned is held on to by the Pastor/Elder on the basis that he is putting God first. He is doing no such thing, for God has taught that the qualifications for being in leadership begin in the home (Titus 1:6). The father who leaves his role as an elder in order to sweep the house (Luke 15) to bring his children back into the fold, who pleads with God in prayer the sacrifice of Christ even for those children who have left the home (Job 1:1-5), is demonstrating maturity which is his witness to all the other fathers who should do the same.

This is why the qualifications for leadership in the church are what they are, and not vices, though many might just believe that vices is what makes elders and pastors more approachable because they can empathise (a word and meaning which scripture never uses, for good reasons). Jesus sympathies with our weaknesses, He never empathises, for He could not be the saviour if He was in the same place as us if he was to commit sin just like us. The interpretation of these qualifications are straight forward but when a man’s identity is found in his role rather than in Christ, they can easily remain in a role that they should leave, and this is no small matter due to the witness it will have on the church and families in the church.

The love which takes care of differences

The differences that exist between families in the church will be many but the standard remains the same for all. Since we are instructed to bear with one another in love, we notice that this needs to happen because of those differences, and the aim is to be unified not uniform. The love of God never diminishes the standards of God and the grace of God is what will teach us to pursue godliness. God takes care of his church and the families in the church by the means of His grace. It is, therefore, the role of all in the church to support all families in the church properly understood.

 

By Daniel Ralph

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