Ephesians 4:11-12 – And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ (ESV).
David Guzik’s Commentary states – “equip” means “to be put right, the idea of mending a net, or fixing a broken bone.” New International Bible Commentary – “The word equip conveys the idea of a harmonious development in which all parts are brought to a condition of being able to perform according to their created purpose.” Equipping, training, perfecting, are all various translations of this word regarding our life call. The idea is that as under-shepherds, we are to be about the business of correcting what is wrong in doctrine, theology, and thought patterns encompassing orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and to strengthen and encourage what is healing and redemptive.
Most of us would probably agree that the family unit is broken, or at least in need of strengthening/repair. Many inner city troubles have been tied to the absence of fathers – with an illegitimacy rate of 70% the problem is staggering. Unbelievers realize that parents are a necessary part of the solution promoting programs like, “Parents, the anti-drug” and “do you know where your children are right now?” campaigns.
Divorce statistics for the church at large are equal to the people that are not born again believers. The rates of crime and abuse associated with children of divorced homes are well documented. That fact that our public schools even do such studies as, Morbidity (state of disease) and Mortality Weekly Report is a reflection of the problem we encounter. William Bennett reported that violent crimes are up over 400% in the age group 10-17 years old since 1960 in several of his books. In 2009, 19% of all violent crimes were committed by school age children, and typically accomplished in at least pairs, and often in groups. Recently, many of us saw the news regarding the two 12 year olds that dropped a shopping cart on a woman’s head from four stories up and laughed as being taken away in cuffs.
Independent studies from Barna, the Southern Baptists, Dawson MacAlister and others report that the faith rejection rate of young people by the time they reach college age is typically between 70-90%. We may disagree with reasons for, and even the validity of the minutia of the studies, but few would argue that we do not have a major problem on our hands in the Church.
I have not performed the research, but based on the last 30 years of experience I would venture to say that the bulk of my counseling time has been devoted to the breakdown of the marriage (communication, $ and sexual issues) and parent/child relational issues. I assume yours has been as well.
I have performed detailed doctoral research on what the Bible contains regarding the roles of parents and the organized religious intuitions, both Old and New Testament, regarding faith impartation to the next generation, and the results were staggering. There are virtually no direct commands to either the church in the New or in the sanctuary/temple patterns of the Old regarding the organized religious community’s role, but hundreds directed towards the parent’s role and responsibilities, in addition to a great deal of Scripture regarding the marriage relationship.
Perhaps God intended that the parents take the leadership role in such things and that the leaders of the organized community come alongside them to supplement.
The traditional family unit is broken and in need of significant repair. What are we who are charged with leading God’s people doing about it? I have been blessed to be around the inner workings of multiple churches covering a wide spectrum of ministry philosophies and I appreciate the diversity in the Body of Christ, and many attempts are being made to address this tragedy.
Perhaps some new ministry departments or staff positions should be considered as well:
Staff in charge of strengthening the father in his leadership role in the home; Pastor in charge of training husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church through dying to himself; Malachi 4:6 curse avoider trainer. Encouraging the wives and mothers in their Biblical mandate counselor; How not to destroy your own home by your words consultant. How to be more Christ-like with those that know you best, pastor. Family devotions to implement the pastor’s message during the week advisor. Marriage Stability and Longevity Coordinator; Divorce prevention pastor; reducer of Hypocrisy in the home consultant. Preparation for being a godly spouse trainer. Teenage rebellion avoidance ministry leader; Sibling relationships enhance. Helping young people make wise, godly decisions under their parent’s authority director. Giving single adults a purpose in life by serving others leader; Grandparents as support to parents and not undermine minister, and perhaps you could think of some others. Research indicates that we often spend a great deal of time and money on recovery programs but not all that much on prevention. While parking ambulances at the bottom of the cliff is helpful, stronger guardrails at the top would also seem in order.
Since the 1950’s churches tend to break up the family for worship and teaching times, and many believe there is a great deal lost because of this, for example; the role model presented by the father and mother taking notes and worshipping, thus communicating how important this is to the nearby observing child. Valuable life traits like death to self, I am not the most important, and it is not all about me, are imparted to the little one as they are trained to sit quietly for the sake of others. The child is also given a break from our entertainment-oriented lifestyle, and learns to appreciate adult church before being thrust into it after experiencing something else for many years. The father and mother are given the opportunity of enhancing their position of a wise teacher as they explain words and concepts that the child did not understand from the message later on in the day or week. Cross-pollination between the age groups is also gained and positive peer influence is applied. Children are challenged to come up to an adult level instead of adults coming down to the child’s level of maturity.
The family is the central unit of society and is the plan that God established in His Word for continuity in the faith. Fathers and mothers explaining the truths of God’s word to their children is the clear pattern repeated throughout the pages of our Holy Book. God chose a family model out of all the possible ones, being call Father instead of CEO of the universe, or Supreme Executive. He sent His Son not the VP in charge of Humanity, and we are adopted into the family of God, we do not become shareholders of the human corporation. We now have many brothers and sisters instead of business partners and again, we are adopted, not merged, absorbed, or taken over. Adam and Eve were the start of a family, Jesus was born into one, and all of time will end with a marriage feast between Christ and His bride. The traditional family is centric to Christianity regardless of how our society attempts to redefine and destroy it.
I like to say, “If I were the devil, and for the official record, I am not,” I would attack the family. Jesus said if you divide the home, the house would fall. One result of a broken, dysfunctional home is that the children will question the reality of the faith and of the Christian claims to a life full of power and promise. Statistics clearly show a generational impact for destruction for most divorced people come from divorced homes. The majority of rebellious young people when asked will state hypocrisy in the home as the number one reason for rejecting Christianity. Voicing something like – “As my parent Christianity was powerless in their life to make any real, visible difference, why should I follow or repeat it?” Our foe has been successful.
If we are to turn the tables on the destruction of the family, we should begin to rethink what our goals are and how to go about implementing change. If we keep doing the same things, we will keep getting the same results. We must work with the fragments of the family and attempt to present a Biblical model for the next generation.
There are many expressions of the Church and ministry models, and most are not a matter of right or wrong but right and left. However, every ministry and program should probably be filtered back to; is it Biblical, is it strengthening the basic family unit, can we do it better?
My appeal to you and I today is to consider the following – If my job is based in Eph 4 and if I am charged to help fix what is broken, to put right what is not right at the moment, I believe one of my main emphasis will center on the basic family unit which by almost any standard used, is in desperate shape. An evaluation of what I am doing or allowing should be made to see if it helps or hurts, strengthens or weakens at this root level. What specifically am I doing to stem the tide of destruction? Every destroyed family unleashes generational destruction; what will every restored one unleash?
A partial answer based on practical observation is, that a great deal of effective ministry will come from a functioning home, and very little from a messed up one. As marriages are healed and relationships restored within the home, outreach to others is a very natural result. A parent reaching their children for Christ is a wonderful fulfillment of the last verse of our Old Testament and helps fulfill the great commission. Training our folks to reach the potential disciples right under their roof will give good practice as they go out into the highways and byways. Leadership skills learned in the home do transfer to the organized church and world around us. Strong leaders at home can be strong leaders in the Church. One definition of ministry is making a difference or effecting change that lasts. What could be better than reaching the basic building unit of society and working for generational change?
I could go on to qualifications for elders/deacons being tied to the family, how marriage is a picture of the mystery of Christ and the Church, how prayers are hindered by husband wife relational problems, how power is released when two agree together, how Biblically we cannot delegate away our parenting responsibilities and of the stewardship responsibilities tied to our families given by God, etc. but time restraints impact us all. My prayer is that as those charged with fixing things that are broken, we would begin with the ones closest to us, and that we would capture the harvest that is white within our own fields before we go to other ones.