LIFE AT HOME TOGETHER
BY LAUREN BLACKBURN, CHRIST THE KING, BOONE, NC
You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise future increase.
- Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor
Christ the King, our little fellowship in the mountains of northwest NC, has been recently described as having “a heart for teenagers.” We laughed, because it naturally lead folks to ask about our youth ministry program and our youth minister, neither of which we have! I say “naturally” because that has been the way of churches interested in reaching and discipling young people. In fact, hiring a youth minister remains a leading strategy for “church growth.” But if the Southern Baptist Convention’s statistics are true that 70-88 percent of churched teenagers abandon their faith by their second year of college, then the practices in which we are already engaged with our youth are not self recommending. Have we, broadly speaking, wrongly located the engine room of Christian formation?
At CTK, we believe that when God created Adam and Eve, they weren’t just the first man and woman. Rather, God created a husband and father and a wife and mother. Her for him. The mandate to be fruitful and multiply, is not merely the call to procreation, it is the call to filling the earth with an authentic image of God. That makes the family and the home the locus of multiplying God’s glory. In other words that mandate and those means are constitutional—they don’t change with the waxing and waning of cultural epochs like the industrial revolution or “women’s liberation.” To depart from them is not only an abdication of our creational duty and calling, but a rejection of God’s order and ways.
So, we believe deeply in the ministry of fathers and mothers. Firstly, one particular father and mother to their particular children, and then, family to family. We don’t leave our hearths to engage in ministry, we start there, focus there, and finish there. We are discovering that biblical formation and flourishing is best engaged in the home and from the home when we sit there, when we go away and come back, and when we lie down and rise there…. and when we welcome the lost or wandering to talk and do these things with us. Mission is rooted in hospitality. It’s a Deuteronomy 6 lifestyle. Day by day. In short, we are finding the Bible is calling us back home. To each of our homes. To the grace and peace that are supposed to rule and reign there, to the glory making that is supposed to be engendered there, and from there, multiplied to the Body and to the world. God made us for life together at home. Gospel flourishing happens there. Culture making happens there. One home at a time, then family to family, home to home, our homes to the world. To the ends of the earth.
So, we do have a heart for teenagers, it’s true. But the position of children’s/youth minister is already filled many times over within our families. We want to excel in the duty and honor of forming our children, and then when they are old enough to engage ideas and their consequences further afield from home, we share the duty and honor with other fathers and mothers in our life-together-community. Until our children are ready to be shot out, worthy arrows and able glory makers. Not only with their lips but in their lives.
This is some of what that sharing looks like within our common life.
On Friday mornings early, the Michael Barry family hosts the Men and Boys Sausage and Biscuit Bible Study. They are reading through the book of Judges right now, and my 12 year old son Joseph wrote the study questions for chapter 12 this past Friday. Observation, interpretation, and application. The sausage biscuits are good, but the time in the Word with grandfathers, fathers and sons around the table is even better. The boys are learning to handle the Word of God as men, as they will one day need to do in their own homes.
On the second and fourth Friday nights of the month, the Kiser family hosts what they call Discussion Group. It is mainly made up of the young adults in our fellowship, but includes other teenagers from the wider community, as well as a sprinkling of fathers and mothers and little children playing in the yard. Danny Kiser, the father, covers a range of topics whether they read and respond to a Chesterton essay, or watch a movie (Bella, most recently) and talk about the relevant issues, or, speak of the concerns of our kid’s own efforts at reaching their friends who do not know the Lord.
On the third Friday of the month, some of our families and some of our singles gather at the Hospitality House to make a meal for the homeless there.
On Monday nights, our senior warden Matt and his wife Sue host Christ and Kilos. This gathering is for men, attended mostly by high schoolers and their dads. They meet at 7:00 (after family dinners at home). For the first hour and a half, they lift weights in the basement and encourage one another in becoming strong. The second half of the meeting, they read, discuss, and pray together about what godly manhood and leadership means (so far: Mansfield’s Book of Manly Men, David Platt’s Counter-Culture, and now Lewis’ Screwtape). They encourage one another to become strong of heart. To quit themselves like men.
On the last Tuesday of every month, the mother’s and daughter’s gather at the same home for Needle Night. The girl’s and mother’s gather to make baby blankets for the unwed mothers connected with our local pregnancy resource center. That they might be walking in the footsteps of the proverbs 31 woman who fears the Lord…. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”
On the first and third Tuesdays nights at 7:30, I host the Young Women’s Reading Group. This is for our teenagers, and a mother or two often shows up. At present, we are reading through Eric Metaxas’ 7 Women, and talking about the issues of these women’s lives that grab our hearts and stir us to worship and obedience.
On Sunday mornings, we worship together, everyone. During the week we learn and worship as families in our homes.
During the academic year, our fellowship hosts a first year college program (INSIGHT: World Center for Missions) that presently is credited through Trinity International University. Our young people are studying Theology, Koine Greek, World Civilizations, Philosophy, Missions, and Leadership. This too, happens in homes. Last month the students attended the International Justice Mission’s Global Prayer Gathering in Washington, DC.
Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 4:5-6). At Christ the King we are aiming at family reformation, families in the world but not of it. We certainly do not have all the answers. But some things are becoming clear, and we are trying to be faithful in them. For the sake of our children. For the sake of a gospel witness that has not left our own homes untransformed. For the sake of the earth being filled with the glory of the Lord.