Have you ever been asked why the church focuses so much attention on families? It does seem a bit strange, since Jesus never married, that the church doesn’t affirm singlehood more. Instead, churches often provide resource upon resource for married couples and families. So, what’s the reason for this? Why is the family so central to the church?
Before we dive in, let’s address one thing. I feel certain that churches do not intentionally push singles away by speaking about marriage and family. Faith and family are simply so intertwined, that it is almost impossible for us to imagine one without the other. Think for a moment of the familial symbolism found in the Bible: God as Abba Father, we as His children, and the church as the bride of Christ. You can’t read the Old Testament without stumbling upon entire chapters detailing lineage. We often breeze quickly through those passages to get to the good stuff, but we should stop to think of their significance. There’s something going on in those family trees. A pattern emerges from the pages of God’s Word—family is important to God.
That’s not to say that singles are any less important to God . . . far from it. God is a God of individuals. His Word says that in the end, “each one” of us will stand individually before Him (Romans 2:6). But we still must consider the importance of the nuclear family to God’s plan and to the church. Why must churches make family a priority? What purpose do families serve in building God’s kingdom?
The answer is two-fold. Family is key to the future of the church, first, because it preserves history from generation to generation and, second, because it is unquestionably the best place to grow disciples.
Family Preserves History
We’re all familiar with Paul’s call to parents in Ephesians to bring up their children in “the training and admonition of the Lord” (6:4), but the responsibility that parents have in passing on the faith is not something that began with Paul. You have to go back to the very beginning of the Bible where you find God commanding the nation of Israel to share the faith with their children. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). I love that word “diligently,” don’t you? It rings of constant communication between parents and children. God could have stopped there, but He didn’t want to cast any doubt on what He meant by “diligent,” so He specifically breaks it down further. When you sit in your house, when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Morning, noon, and night parents are to teach their children God’s Word.
Another passage with similar instructions can be found in the Psalms. “For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which He commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children; that the generation to come might know them, the children who would be born, that they may arise and declare them to their children, that they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (78:5-7).
Here, God’s plan and purpose for the family is unmistakable: to pass down His laws from generation to generation. To preserve the story of God’s works, commandments, and His love for His people.
Family Grows Disciples
One of the biggest mistakes parents make is relegating the task of raising godly kids to the church. It is great that they bring their children to church, that they involve them in Christian camps, and activities, but none of those replace the importance of what happens in the home.
This is beautifully illustrated for us in Paul’s second letter to Timothy. “I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (1:4-5). The live-body detail here is fascinating, not only because we are given the names of Timothy’s mother and grandmother, but also because we get a glimpse into his childhood home. Can’t you just imagine Timothy’s mother and grandmother working together to teach him the Scriptures as a young boy? His mother, Eunice, may have been making bread while his grandmother, Lois, sat beside him recounting the story of Moses crossing the Red Sea. Every few minutes, Eunice would break in with another detail or insight. And they did this day after day. Their diligence and instruction paid off; Timothy grew up to become one of the leaders of the early church. No doubt, his status as a Christian had much to do with the influence of these two godly women speaking daily into his life.
Many of us have been fortunate enough to have had mothers and grandmothers like Eunice and Lois . . . two women faithfully living out God’s command to pass His law down from generation to generation. What a perfect model for Christian homes today.
If we want to raise faithful families and grow future leaders, we must start in the home. That is where true discipleship starts. Warn parents not to underestimate the influence they have over their children. There is never a guarantee that children will do exactly as their parents teach, but parents have the greatest opportunity for discipleship because they live the day to day with their children. They have countless moments to walk alongside them and share faith with them. Disciple making is serious business. It can’t be left to the church or chance. A Christian family doesn’t magically appear because we wish it into existence. Parents must be serious about the task of passing on their faith, about living the way God calls them to live in front of their children and others, all day, every day.