The family was designed by God to be a unique place, the most basic form of community, where much of our spiritual growth can occur.
Because God designed families, churches should support families and minister to them. In this effort, churches need to encourage families to live out their faith outside of Sunday morning. It is during the week, within the natural context of our home, where we make our daily decision to follow Christ.
At a formal level, midweek gatherings help parents, children, and youth to refocus on Christ. At the same time, there needs to be balance. Especially for young families, rather than “over programming” and having families over-commit (which can be counter-productive to spiritual growth), churches should support spiritual growth that can take place within the home. Extra help should be provided for young families who are just starting their journey.
We should never forget that churches need to be a “second family” for dozens, if not hundreds of people. Many do not have families, and others do not have healthy families. Because of this, it is important for the church to be sensitive to these needs and provide a safe place for orphans, singles, divorced, and widows. As the church loves as a family and ministers to those in need, the gospel is supported and enabled to spread (Acts 6).
Regarding biblical study and the use of commentaries, Eugene H. Peterson uses a captivating illustration to demonstrate the reason why Christians should read commentaries. It is our way of entering into the vibrant conversation, of hearing many other voices and eventually expressing our own. I read this years ago, but I’ve never forgotten it. Since he says it better than I could, I’ll simply share his own words:
“…biblical commentaries have for too long been overlooked as common reading for common Christians… Among those for whom Scripture is a passion, reading commentaries has always seemed to me analogous to the gathering of football fans in the local bar after the game, replaying in endless detail the game they have just watched, arguing (maybe even fighting) over obersvations and opinion, and lacing the discourse with gossip about the players. The level of knowledge evident in these boozy colloquies is impressive. These fans have watched the game for years; the players are household names to them; they know the fine print in the rulebook and pick up every nuance on the field. And they care care immensely about what happens in the game. Their seemingly endless commentary is evidence of how much they care. Like them, I relish in a commentary not bare information but conversation with knowledgeable and experienced friends, probing, observing, questioning, the biblical text…. there is so much to notice, so much to talk over.” (Eugene H. Peterson, Eat This Book, 54)
Followers of Jesus should have an insatiable desire to become more like Jesus and are never satisfied with the status quo. We should want to be separate from surrounding sin, and without a doubt, distinct from the crowd. Although we are born and raised in a crowd of sinners, our life’s goal should be to step out of that crowd and move towards God.
However, sanctification is not an act of self-improving ourselves. As A.B. Simpson worded 1 Thes. 5:23, ““the God of peace himself [will] sanctify you wholly.” Although we choose to be sanctified, God’s role is more important than our own. He is the one that will clean us and make us into who we need to be. Only He can accomplish what we are incapable of doing on our own.
My prayer is that God will sanctify you and calm you with spiritual peace. You can stop the endless efforts to defeat sin on your own and start trusting in God for complete healing. In Him, your brokenness may once again be made whole.