Book Reviews > Christian Living > The Family Worship Book: A Resource Book for Family
Director of the RC Ryan Center for Biblical Studies and Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Terry Johnson and Christian Focus Publications have done a great service to parents who desire to revive the practice of family worship. There are a number of good books on the need for family worship (e.g. J. W. Alexander, Thoughts on Family Worship; Jerry Marcelino, Rediscovering the Lost Treasure of Family Worship). Johnson’s book recaps this argument in brief and then proceeds to provide many practical resources and ideas for actually putting this into practice. Chapters 1, 2 and 7 are for reading straight through but the rest of the chapters are resources.
Chapters 1 and 2 (about 20 pp.) are the argument for family worship. Johnson provides a moving call, setting it in the context of Jeremiah 6:16, as a call to return to the ancient paths. As part of the fabric of his argument one finds a critique of our hectic lifestyles and a high and exciting view of worship and the Lord’s Day. For instance he states,
We do in worship what we were created to do - offer to God intelligent praise. We become more truly human at that point than at any other of human existence. (p.4)
Johnson critiques the way the church contributes to the frenetic pace of life by suggesting that what we need is special courses, extra counseling, more meetings, etc. Johnson refreshingly asserts:
What can we do? Slow down. Stay home. Quit running mindlessly all over town. Limit yourself. And do this: commit yourself to the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House and little else outside the home will be necessary for the cultivation of a thriving spiritual life. (p.6)
Amen! I resonate with the assertion that the key to a family’s spiritual health is consistent, faithful attendance at the weekly worship services of the church. There is a significant impact on children to see their parents organize life around regular Sunday worship as something non-negotiable, to see the their parents humble themselves before God in worship, to see them singing and praying to God. This impact is exponentially heightened when this worship is then taken into the home daily. Johnson details the benefits of families singing, praying, and reading together - memorizing scripture, hymns and the catechism. These benefits are inspiring, but there is not space here to list them. I will settle for one quote on children hearing their parents pray:
Our children should grow up with the voices of their fathers pleading for their souls in prayer ringing in their ears, leading to their salvation, or else haunting them for the rest of their lives. (10)
Chapter 3 is one page giving an outline for family worship. Chapter 4 then develops each point of the outline providing sample prayers and calls to worship from scripture, the text of the Apostles, Nicene, and Westminster Creeds, the 10 Commandments, the Beatitudes, and scriptural benedictions. Chapter 5 then gives a sample of how these different elements might be combined for one actual session of family worship. Chapter 4 provides many different items, but only a few will be used each time so that in Johnson’s arrangement family worship can be held in as little as 15-20 minutes or can be expanded depending on the age of the children, etc. This is also encouraging as one can be overly ambitious or become overwhelmed. The idea is not to do everything at once but to daily gather around the Word in prayer and worship. ‘A quarter of an hour each day is better than one hour every two weeks’ (25).
Chapter 6 is a collection of resources. First there is a record of family Bible reading where one can mark each chapter as they are read, providing space for each chapter to be marked three times. Then there is the full text of the Children’s Catechism and the Shorter Westminster. These of course teach infant baptism but the appropriate questions can be altered by reference to the Baptistic versions of these catechisms (The Baptist modifications of these catechisms can be found in a number of places. I simply mention two web versions: for modification to the Shorter Catechism see, http://www.desiringgod.org/Online_Library/OnlineArticles/TheologicalDistinctives/Catechism.htm; for modification to the children’s catechism see http://www.npbcwebsite.org/bgcatechism.html). Lastly, a list of 50 ‘Great Passages’ from scripture are given as suggestions for memorization.
Chapter 7 contains three historical resources. First is a condensation of Isaac Watts’ ‘A Guide to Prayer,’ which was written to teach young men to pray. It doesn’t take long in our churches to see that we have too often not been taught to pray. Second, there is Thomas Manton’s preface to the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms where he upholds catechesis as the answer to the ‘general complaint concerning the decay of the power of godliness, and especially of the great corruption of youth.’ This exhortation is must reading. The third resource is the Directory for Family Worship published by the Church of Scotland at the same time as the Westminster Confession.
Chapter 8 provides the texts of 60 psalms and 60 hymns for singing in family worship. The names of the tunes are given but not the actual music. I assume that many who read this will, like me, be familiar with the hymn tunes but totally (and regrettably) lost on the tunes for the psalms. Johnson has been mindful of such as we by pointing to some audio recordings which include these psalms. Johnson also suggests a system of memorizing one hymn or psalm a month, so that in ten years all 120 psalms and hymns in the book would be memorized.
This is an excellent resource for Christian families and I sincerely hope it receives wide reception in our churches. I remain convinced that one powerful and primary means for the revival and reformation of the church is the revival of worship in the family, the original small group. This book can help and encourage our faltering efforts in this area.