WM

By Jason Hsieh at the Grace and Truth Blog

As biblical counselors, we’re always looking to suggest practical ways of living out what we believe. How often do we hear from friends and counselees (herein just “friends”) that they know what the Bible says, but are unsure what to do or how to connect doctrine with their struggles? In response, we typically remind them to remember God’s purposes for trials, to trust, to pray, and to fill themselves with God’s Word. All of which should be done. But most of us forget about Peter’s prescription of hospitality to a suffering people (1 Peter 4:9) as a way to demonstrate faith even in the midst of persecution and hardship.

Hospitality offers a vital prescription for growth, because it touches so many aspects of how we live our lives. According to the New Testament we need to consider the needs of others, to share the gospel, to love, and to be intentional with our resources; hospitality provides a tangible way to practice all of that. This post aims to encourage counselors to understand hospitality biblically and to prescribe it as one way to help friends grow in Christ-likeness and connect belief with action.[1]

What Biblical Hospitality Entails

When prescribing hospitality to friends, a natural question will arise: what is biblical hospitality? Scripture shows that biblical hospitality consists of:

  • Love for strangers and not just friends[2]
  • An offer of care for those who cannot repay you in any fashion[3]
  • Assistance to those who are truly gospel workers[4] while closing doors to false teachers[5]

In others words, hospitality need not be elaborate, nor even financially costly. It doesn’t even have to revolve around a meal. But it does require discernment and a willingness to forego your comfort, your convenience, and possibly even your safety and reputation.[6] For example: Jesus tells the Pharisees to host the socially outcast, not the popular people;[7] Onesiphorus traveled far to tend to an imprisoned Paul;[8] and David cared for a crippled man related to Saul, the very man who tried to kill him.[9]

Prescribing Hospitality

Who needs to practice hospitality? Everyone does, but consider the impact practicing hospitality would have on these individuals:

  • Drug addicts seeking a euphoric experience – serving others enables them to become more Christ-like – the very type of “transcendent” experience they are seeking
  • Control freaks – anything can and does happen in hospitality, and control freaks can learn how to be okay when things do not go perfectly since the focus is not on them, but in serving others
  • Slothful people – hospitality trains and requires them to be intentional with their thought, time, and resources
  • People who want to matter – they are reminded that nothing could be more significant than telling someone the gospel or helping those who do share the gospel

However, just like with evangelism, many excuses exist for not being hospitable, including a perceived lack of gifting or thinking others will do it. At its core though, a lack of hospitality may demonstrate a lack of understanding about the gospel of grace and a lack of love for others, so you would serve others well to help them break through such excuses. As always, bring them back to the core elements of the gospel and its implications.

Next, you might need to help your friend think through how to go about this. Review what biblical hospitality entails and then walk through a specific hospitality opportunity. Remember, hospitality does not need to be and should not be limited to just a meal; consider some other ways that you can help someone spiritually, practically, and physically. Below are a few questions you could use to spark your thoughts.

1. Who is in need in my relationships?

  • Who is new to church?
  • Which of my friends or family members have not heard the gospel?
  • Who has been in the church for some time, but has had friends move on?
  • Who is on the fringes of the church?

2. How can I love those in need?

  • What kind of questions and conversations will be most edifying?
  • What specifically are people in need of and when are they in need of it?
  • What would help my guest(s) feel welcome and well served?
  • What would be appropriate and fruitful for engaging non-Christian friends and family?

3. What kind of hospitality can I do as often as possible?

  • What in my schedule could shift or change to allow for more hospitality, and what cannot?
  • Who can I partner with?
  • For what reason has God given me time and possessions?
  • How can my family participate in practicing hospitality?
  • What will be realistic given my budget?

Your friend may also need you to pray, offer further encouragement, and address some fears or doubts. Just because something is biblical or commanded does not make it easy to do!

Lastly, follow-up with your friends. Talk about how the hospitality opportunity went and what impact it had on them as they served others with their time and resources. Continue to encourage hospitality and troubleshoot any challenges they may have. You can do so by reminding your friends why hospitality is so important, helping them find others to partner with, discussing the results of selflessness versus selfishness, and encouraging them to pray as they prepare and practice the glorious task of loving strangers for Christ’s sake.

———————————————————————

[1]. By using the word “prescribe,” I do not mean to dull the command of hospitality to something that is optional, but rather aim to encourage counselors to suggest in gracious and gentle ways to their friends to practice hospitality. Any “softness” in using the term “prescribe” and its variances should therefore be inferred to using it in counseling someone rather than how it is portrayed in Scripture.

[2]. Romans 12:13, Hebrews 13:2, and 1 Timothy 3:2

[3]. Luke 14:1-14, Exodus 22:21; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; 2 Samuel 9: 7-13

[4]. Romans 16:1-2 and 3 John: 7-8

[5]. 2 John 10-11

[6] Acts 17:5-9

[7] Luke 14:1-14

[8] 2 Timothy 1:16-18

[9] 2 Samuel 9:7-13

Permissions: You are welcome to freely share this material, provided that you include the following statement: “This article (Prescribing Hospitality for Growth in the Christian Life by Jason Hsieh) originally appeared on the Biblical Counseling Coalition website and is used with permission.”

FamilyWorship

Perhaps the biggest barrier to regular family worship is getting started.  Many families, convinced that worshiping together in their home would strengthen the spiritual maturity of their family, don’t know how to take the initial plunge.

Hopefully this post will help!  Before we begin let me mention that, as is probably obvious, I am assuming that those reading are already convinced of the importance of doing family worship in their homes.  However, if that isn’t the case let me suggest taking a moment to read the following articles at Desiring God and Radical Experiment (PDF).  When you’re done come on back here and carry on with this post.

A few points before we get started: Please keep these in mind (repeat them to yourself quietly if necessary):

A. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.  We should assume that new ventures don’t always go as planned or desired initially.  That is okay.  Getting through your first time of family worship makes each subsequent gathering easier so this first run, even if bumpy, is well worth doing.  And even if you stumble a bit the first time (or the first several times) keep in mind, like batting practice, you are getting your reps in and will get steadily more comfortable having your family together for worship at home.

B. Keep it simple. We’ll talk in just a moment about the elements to include in family worship.  However, you don’t have to go whole-hog the first time.  Pick the most essential and easily available elements and add in others as you go along.  Really.  That’s fine.

C. Family Worship Supplements Corporate Worship.  As I’ve alluded to above, there are a number of benefits to practicing family worship in your home.  However, as beneficial as family worship is, it is no substitute for regularly gathering with your local church for corporate worship on the Lord’s Day.  Build your family’s worship around what you do when gathered with the body – sing the songs you sing with your church, read and discuss passages from the book your pastor is preaching from, etc.

D. Ideally, Dads will Lead.  If They Can’t, See Point A Above. Dads have the primary privilege and responsibility to lead their family in worship of the Lord.  However, for various reasons, dad-led family worship can’t always happen.  In those cases please remember that it is beneficial for mom, grandpa, grandma, uncles, foster parents, etc. to lead those in their care – even if visiting for the weekend – in worship.  Don’t delay beginning family worship just because you think there is someone more qualified to initiate.  Invite them in but don’t let their lack of initiative or involvement stop you.

Furthermore, don’t consider family worship limited to nuclear or extended families with children.  Christian roomates?  Empty nest married couples?  These things apply to you as well.

E. The Younger the Children the Lower the Expectation. People who know me will realize how odd it is for me to write that.  I’m certainly not for dumbing down our worship.  What I mean is this: younger kids, particularly those not used to gathering for family worship, will have shorter attention spans.  Plan for this – and plan too for helping them grow in their ability to participate for longer stretches.  Also, younger kids are more fidgety.  Don’t worry if it is hard to keep their attention and certainly don’t worry if they want to move around.  This freedom of movement is one of the unique opportunities of family worship and shouldn’t be seen as a negative.  Knowing this up front and taking a gradual approach to helping them grow in their ability to simply stay and listen pushes back against discouragement about how your worship times go.

What Should You Do?

I suggest Acts 2:42-47 as a guide to what Christian worship looks like.  Yes, it more directly speaks to corporate worship in the local church.  Nonetheless, it addresses elements of Christian worship and is thus useful for our purposes here.  If you want to discuss that point we can do so but for now let’s look at what the text identifies as consistent with Christian worship and then what can be done in our homes.

The Apostles’ Teaching

Fellowship

The Breaking of Bread

Prayer

There is some debate about what fellowship entailed but, considering it is distinct from the breaking of bread, it appears we’re supposed to understand fellowship as some Christian communion and breaking of bread as taking the Lord’s Supper.

As a Baptist, I understand the Lord’s Supper to be a local church ordinance, meaning that it should be taken within the context of a gathered local body.  As a result I cannot recommend taking the Lord’s Supper at home.  With that one off the table (no pun intended) lets take a look at the other elements.

I. The Apostles’ Teaching

The early church had the unique and very desirable opportunity to hear the Apostles preach and teach.  As much as we would like to have that experience ourselves we must remember that we are at no disadvantage compared to the early church because we have the complete text of Scripture.  This is the teaching of the Apostles as much as their verbal declaration and, more importantly, is the perfect Word of God.  Thus availing ourselves of hearing and taking the Word into our minds and hearts should be a primary goal of our spiritual lives and family worship.

This can be done during family worship in a number of ways.

Read the Bible Aloud – This simple act brings us under the authority of the Word and creates space useful to the Spirit’s work.  One note for those with younger kids – sticking to stories is a good idea and can be your main reading diet while the children are particularly young.

Give the Meaning of the Text – If there is someone available who can do so, have that person give some insight into the text.  Here too, with younger kids, keep it simple and short.  If no one there feels confident about explaining the text this time then make your Bible reading something connected to your pastor’s last sermon and use his points.  Even if you’ve heard it before it is always a good idea to be reminded and refreshed.

Memorize Scripture – As your family’s abilities grow, add in Bible memorization to your time of hearing Scripture.  Don’t, however, turn this into a laborious chore.  Aim to help everyone enjoy taking God’s Word into their minds rather than checking off verses on a list.

Practice Catechesis – Memorizing what Scripture teaches is an important supplement to memorizing what Scripture says and catechesis is a proven method of discipling believers.  This too can be added in as you grow in your practice of family worhsip.  For adults I recommend Hercules Collins’ Orthodox Catechism, a Baptist version of the beloved Heidleberg Catechism and for children I recommend A Catechism for Boys and Girls by Tom Nettles.

Work on one question and answer at a time.  When that section is memorized move on to the next and keep the memorized sections fresh with review.

Also, feel free to start very young; my 2 year old has done well with questions 1 and 2; he’ll pick up more as he goes along and, more helpfully, as he hears his older siblings answering later questions.

II. Fellowship

It is here that I recommend some singing.  I’m not, in doing so, arguing that what the early believers did that Acts describes as fellowship is reduced to singing but I do believe it was an important aspect of their gatherings and one that can – nay, should – be replicated in our homes.

Consider how important good singing is to Christians.  It has been said that we sing the truth of God’s Word into our hearts through singing together.  Consider two texts:

Ephesians 5:18-21 – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Colossians 3:16 – Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

We serve one another when we sing together.  Serve each other well!  I suggest picking simple and well-known songs to sing together – songs like Holy, Holy, Holy and Amazing Grace because their familiarity and simplicity help overcome fear of singing together in a new setting and, as a bonus, young children can memorize them comparatively quickly.

If there is no musician in the family be thankful you live in the era of Youtube, where versions of most every spiritual song your family knows can be found with both music and lyrics (see the links above).  Use the computer you are reading this on and let those versions lead you.  Of course, the versions I linked to might not suit you – or be easy to sing with – so make do if this is your first time and spend some time later finding preferable versions.

One note for those with small children – one song, sung [relatively] together is a good goal.  As mentioned previously, plan to grow in that ability but one time through Holy, Holy, Holy together is spiritually profitable.  Don’t be dissatisfied if that is what your group can do.

III. Prayer

Prayer, too, is an important act of Christian worship.  The person leading family worship can pray on behalf of the group or, if each participant is able, you can take turns.  One warning for those with young children – this is a tempting moment for children to become particularly silly.  Give some forethought to how you will have them participate – ask them for requests, help them think of who and what to pray for, or simply ask them to slow and quiet themselves while the leader prays.

Now Get Started!

There you have it – a simple three-part guide to family worship.  Pretty painless, no?  I’ve even provided links to your first song.

So what are you waiting for?  Pick a time, gather everyone, and give it a shot.  I’m confident you will be glad you did.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Additional Resources

I appreciate the work of Seeds Family Worship in their efforts to provide churches and families with resources to encourage and grow in the practice of family worship.  I also receive via email D6 Family’s Splink which provides very practical and specific guides to leading your family in worship.