Where Does the Family Fit?

Someone has recently asked me: “How do we find the balance between family discipleship and family idolatry?” I thought this was a good question and I would like to post some thoughts here that may be helpful. Let me try to do this by comparing family discipleship to (1) family irresponsibility, (2) family idolatry and (3) quirky clonishness.

Family Discipleship

  1. Family discipleship takes seriously the Lord’s calling for Christian parents to be the primary disciplers of their children.
  2. Family discipleship attempts to submit all the details of a family’s life under the lordship of Jesus Christ, including educational choices, social activities, career planning and everything else.
  3. Family discipleship recognizes that God has designed the life of the family to overlap in blessed ways with the life of a local church to which the Christian parents are committed members.

This is not an exhaustive list but hopefully it is a helpful list. For some folks I imagine these will seem like no-brainers, and for others they will present some challenges. I think that is ok. Call them pastoral principles and search the Scriptures to see if they line up with what you find. Here are some contrasting principles:

Family Irresponsibility. Christian parents can delegate their authority over their children but not their responsibility over their children. God will ultimately hold parents responsible. Examples of family irresponsibility:

  1. Relying on the church, or the Christian school, or the Christian youth group, or your Christian friend/relative to disciple your children without your active oversight and strategic involvement to the best of your ability.
  2. Being more concerned about participation in worldly activities and achievements for your children than spiritual progress and purity.
  3. Having the attitude that “I wasn’t actively and purposefully discipled by my parents and I think I turned out ok so it probably isn’t important that I put all the effort into discipling my children either.”

Family Idolatry. The family has become an idol when it trumps gospel realities or redefines biblical responsibilities. Examples of family idolatry:

  1. Family discipleship does not focus exclusively on the family. Family introversion equals family idolatry.
  2. Family discipleship does not neglect the church. The local church, as the body of Christ, is a blessed sphere in which families should live and move and have their being. 
  3. Family discipleship does not say that if the local church does not meet all the personal desires of my family, I should ditch the church. This is an example of worldly consumerism.
  4. Family discipleship does not ignore the need to make disciples in every arena of life by actively pursuing a lost world with the gospel of Christ.

Quirky Clonishness. Examples of areas in which uniformity is not required by the gospel. Good Christians will have some variety in these areas and that variety is to be cherished. Examples of quirky clonishness:

  1. Family discipleship does not mandate a particular style of dress. Modesty and prudence are spoken of in Scripture, but not style.
  2. Family discipleship does not mandate what hobbies we think are cool. Stewardship and sanctification must be considered biblically, but variety based on personality is expected.
  3. Family discipleship does not mandate a particular venue for child education in every situation (i.e homeschooling, private schooling, or public schooling). These decisions are important and must be thought through biblically in every case, but it is a mistake to think that the answer is a forgone conclusion.

These thoughts are not meant to be exhaustive but I do hope they are thought-provoking and encourage God’s people in their appreciation of the divine institution of the family.

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