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Family Ministry Sunday October 7, 2013

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Joshua 24:13-18

Family Ministry Sunday

September 22, 2013

Focus: God desires all people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

Function: That the hearers actively engage in faith talk in their homes.

Structure: This is the problem…here is the response of God’s Word.

 

Family Ministry Sunday

            It was just a few weeks ago here at St. John’s on a Thursday night.  We had a visiting family, sitting in the back right over there.  When I saw their three little kids, I knew it meant we would do the children’s sermon that night.  Maybe you remember that one…when Jesus was talking about the narrow door.  So I asked the kids, what was that narrow door?  The oldest, a kindergartener, responded that Jesus was talking about the way we get to heaven.  Blew my mind.  She was right.  What was that family doing at home?  What can we learn from them?

With school starting up again, Christian education is our theme for this month.  And what was going on with that young family fits that theme.  We’re talking about Christian education.  We’re talking about family ministry.  That’s part of my call here at St. John’s.  That’s part of what you’ve called me here to do.  And it most definitely involves each of you.

As I prepared to graduate, I was interviewed by several churches.  Hannah and I are thrilled and thankful to be here with you all in Stewartville.  But of the eight churches, family ministry was the hot topic.  By and large, it’s why they were looking for someone.  The strangest part about it though, is most of them had no clue what it meant.  So that makes it fitting in our education month, to lay the foundation for family ministry here at St. John’s.

And let me start that with a disclaimer.  If you’re single, widowed, empty-nesters, retired, or anything other than the typical American family, don’t tune me out.  Since when does America get to define the church’s words?  Family isn’t limited to a mom, dad and two and half kids.  One pastor I know gave up fighting over words and calls his ministry now “faith at home.”  But we don’t need to do that.  We’ve got it right here at St. John’s.  You know what family really means.  Just look at your worship folder, at our mission statement: Serving as God’s family: Sharing His Love, Telling His Story.  God’s family….that includes each and every one of us.  So don’t think I’m not called here to serve you, because I’m still your pastor, no matter which group you fit into!

Family ministry is a really new category in the past two decades.  But where did it come from?  Why are we talking about it at all?  What’s happening in the church, what problems are we facing that we’ve added a new category to ministry?  You don’t have to look too far.

To our older generation, what do you think of today’s families?  What do you think of what you see in America now?  It’s deteriorating fast isn’t it?  Fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce.  Children are being raised in broken homes, missing one if not both parents.  Add to that the new laws in our country about marriage, and we’re a mess.  But, we’re not that far removed from the days when people didn’t think like this.

Churches are seeking young pastors, hoping their youth is the answer to putting other young people back in the pews.  They’re trying whatever they can to stop kids from viewing confirmation as graduation from church, and never coming back.  Dave is trying to work with our high schoolers and college students so that they don’t walk away from their faith because the world tells them it’s all a sham, nothing but lies to get them to behave.  The average age of an LCMS Lutheran today is 61 years old.  And our church membership as a Synod has fallen by over half a million in the past ten years.

These are some of the problems that the church is looking to family ministers to solve.  And they have identified the root problem!  We now know what’s causing these problems for the church.  It’s called sin.  Simply put, sin is a separation from God.  But sin is also rebellion, a rebellion against the way God has designed us to be.  Whether you’re doing things you shouldn’t be, or not doing the things you should be, we’re rebelling against God’s design.

That’s something the world today can’t stand to think about.  They can’t stand the idea that there’s a Creator, someone who not only made them, but also made them to be a certain way.  They can’t stand the thought He has a design and a plan for not only how the world works, but for us as well.  And they certainly don’t want anyone holding them accountable to such a design.

But for those people, they have no idea what they’re missing out on.  Paul says it well in his first letter to Timothy, “for God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”  And from the very beginning, God already knew how He’d make that happen.  He already had a plan, a design for how He would save His people.

From as early as Genesis 3, we learn about the Christ, the Messiah who would come to save us from our sin.  We learn about Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross restored our relationship with God.  By His blood, our sins are washed clean.  By His resurrection, Christ prepared the way for us to everlasting life.  And through His rising from the dead, we too will rise again to be with Him.

This is God’s plan, how He’s designed it to work.  That despite our sin, He would restore us and bring us back to Him.  And He left out no detail.  In our Scriptures today, God tells us how to carry out His design.  Genesis 18, Joshua 24, and Ephesian 6, among many other places, tell us how God designed mankind so that the faith would be passed on.  So that from generation to generation, the name of God would be praised, and the faith in Christ would be shared.

Parents pass on the faith to their children.  Faith is taught and nurtured in the context of families, households.  I mentioned earlier that family ministers had found the root of the problem, that it’s sin, the rebellion against God’s design.  Well, they’ve done their research.  They’ve found that only 10% of Christian homes talk about God.  One out of ten homes actually talks about their faith with one another.  That’s rebellion against God’s design.

We see it in our church today.  The home is no longer the place where faith is passed on.  It’s been given to the church to do.  Back in the day when public schools weren’t common in America, kids worked all week long, only getting Sunday off.  So the church came up with a great a community outreach program. The church brought the kids into the congregation by teaching them the basics of education, reading, writing, math, so they could function in the world.  They called it Sunday School.  Look at how that has shifted.  Now, not only is it just religious instruction, but it’s often the only God talk these kids get all week.

The same goes for confirmation.  Martin Luther’s Small Catechism wasn’t for 7th and 8th graders to learn at church.  It says specifically, “As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household.”  It was a tool designed to help parents teach their children the faith, to pass it on from one generation to the next.

Now singles and empty nesters and everyone else, I told you not to tune out.  The Bible is very clear: Christ is to be the center of every home.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids.  Or a spouse.  If it’s just you or a few, Christ is to be there.  What are you doing in your home?  Is it set up so that you can deepen your relationship with God, strengthening your faith through Word and prayer?  Or is it merely another outlet for personal entertainment?

This is what family ministry is trying to tackle.  This is the move they’re calling for: to put Christ back into the center of every home.  As a church then, it asks us to look at everything we do a certain way.  Like a business does with their mission statement, we are to look at everything we do and see if actually helps put Christ back into the home.  If it doesn’t, how can we tweak it?  We’re not calling for blowing up Sunday School or eradicating confirmation, even if that would make my class happy.

Instead, we want to begin to ask the questions: “How does this program equip parents to teach the faith to their children?”  “How does the way we are scheduling things here at church impact our homes?”  “Can we take what we are already doing and make it more family-oriented?” or “How does our worship style encourage people to live out their faith at home?”

St. John’s is off to a good start in some areas, compared to our sister churches.  I’ll tell you, it’s fantastic that we don’t have a worship service at the same time as Bible class and Sunday School.  What would that teach?  It would only show that getting to know God’s Word isn’t important.  And I also applaud you for not having a nursery.  Children learn by imitating, and they develop the most from birth to age six.  To have them here in worship during that time is paramount.  They learn by watching.  They learn how to behave, how to use the hymnal, how to pray, how to give an offering.  They see the value of the Lord’s Supper, and of going to worship as a family.  So if a visitor walks in the door and asks you where the nursery is, simply tell them that we don’t have one because we want their kid in the pew.  Offer to sit with them if they seem like they’ll need help with some crazy kids.  But what a blessing we have to share.

Now there are other areas we can work on.  That’s why I’m here, to bring new ideas.  It’s also part of being a community, that we’re constantly growing together.  We welcome your thoughts and ideas for what you’d like to see as we move forward together.  If you’re single, could we do a Bible study sometime on the blessings of singleness?  Paul talks that way!  For our older generations, you have so much wisdom and a colorful account of your faith that you could share with the younger generation.  How can we find opportunities for you to share?

You’ll be hearing more about my ideas, things like milestone ministries, intergenerational events, family newsletters, devotion ideas, and much more.  But it’ll come with time.  We’re a family and we’ll do this together.  Hopefully you’re starting to get some ideas.  Brainstorm.  If you want to be more hands-on with some of this, come talk to me.

Above all, never lose sight of what the goal actually is.  The goal of family ministry is to equip you, people of all walks of life, to live out the lives that God has given you, to be actively growing in your relationship with Him and living out each of your vocations at home, work, and play.  The goal is to put faith back in your homes, to put Christ back in the center of your life.

That’s the goal, because that’s God’s design.  That’s God’s plan for you and your life.  That you would be His child, whom He loves, whom He forgives, and whom He saves.  Never forget God or what He’s done for you.  Never forget that He’s bigger than your biggest problems.  Never forget that’s He’s always with you.  Just like Israel before you, you have a decision to make:

“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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