I haven’t been able to stop thinking about something a (Christian) commenter said on a recent post, “Learning to Think Rightly About Birth Control“:
“I really struggle with labeling the family as “the ripe mission” field and creating a “mini-church” in the family. Honestly this is probably the main reason I don’t homeschool beyond preschool–it’s a little to inward focused for me.”
She was trying to make the point that “the whole world is our mission field” and that paying too much attention to our families discounted the fact.
My heart breaks over this, a common view of family among Christians, who assert that the homeschooling movement has “created an idol of the family” (though some very well may have), giving a knee-jerk reaction that misses the biblical view of family and ultimately destroys this mission field first given to us.
Scripture is saturated with the proper view of the family, analogous to the church and the relationship between the Father and the Son. The institution of marriage was initiated by God, not the state, and was “set in motion” to be the very picture of a fruitful, thriving church.
Yes, the family is meant to look like a “mini-church” in the way it operates.
Dr. Joseph Atkinson writes:
“The family offers Christ and intercedes for its own members and those around it (priestly); the family is a sign of Christ’s love and faithfulness to a world that is enmeshed in the culture of death (prophetic); and the family serves its own members and those around it sacrificially (kingly).
By participating in the saving and redemptive nature of the Church, the family is profoundly rooted in the Church’s mission. The family has truly become a little church, or as it is better known, a domestic church.”
Regarding the original comment, there is hardly such a thing for a mother or father of young children to be “too inwardly focused”. In fact, during the young family’s life, it is probable that discipling their children, providing for their spiritual, emotional and physical needs is ALL they can do and these families need to understand that IT IS ENOUGH.
Theological Error (Ideas have consequences.)
I think our faulty view of the family stems from some theological error. First, we have “now-centered” thinking where God works over long periods of time to accomplish His purposes. So our evangelical mission is focused on making fast numbers instead of a seeing a steady growth of solid disciples brought up by solid Christian families, who will, in the right time, become ministers all over the earth. We can’t save people; we can only live for Him and be ready to give an answer of the hope that is ours. Therefore, the way we live–the way we operate in our families (since it is a living picture of the gospel)–is paramount.
Secondly, because of the accepted norm of birth control, life is now something we think we can choose or not, so children have become less valuable, more of a commodity and not viewed in our eyes as the Lord views them…”…for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” We don’t even realize it has happened, but it can be clearly seen as evidenced in comments like the one that prompted this post. Truly, our family is a mission field, ripe unto harvest, and until we have come to a correct perspective on our duties there, we are not fit for evangelism anywhere else.
God sent His son for the most dynamic Christian mission the earth has ever known, and yet we have no record of his ministry until he was in his thirties. When he left, he had around 150 disciples. Compared to our mega-church mentality, his mission work wasn’t too impressive. But He was about His Father’s business and He knew the long-term vision and the importance of investing in a few disciples, day in and day out, so they would survive the long haul, bearing fruit in their season.
One passage of Scripture that has become almost obsolete gives us a closer look at the importance of family:
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Timothy 5:8
This passage refers to financial provision. We know from Scripture that the spiritual life of a man is of far more importance than his physical life, and yet this verse speaks so strongly about the lesser of the two. How much more, if we do not give ourselves to the spiritual provision of our families, are we at fault?
The Heart of the Matter
“Give me your heart, my son.”
This is no longer the plea of the modern, Christian parent. Getting the hearts of our children is essentially “the heart” of discipleship, clearly demonstrated by our Savior as he walked with his earthly children. It is impossible to understand the necessity of this discipleship and worry about “too much inward focus”.
As a family functioning as it should (notwithstanding its own difficulties), it becomes the “city on a hill” the light in a dark world, the most effective form of evangelism.
We had better get inward focused if we want to see real outward change in the world for Christ.