Review of The Church-Friendly Family
Is the church is a ministry to families? Should Godly families steer clear of the world? What is the point of the family? And what is the point of the church? Pastors Randy Booth and Rich Lusk aim us in the right direction as their new book, The Church-Friendly Family, compels us to rethink these questions through a Biblical lens. God has a family and that family is the church. Our own families are pictures of the church. The church reaches out to the world through families. The authors show us that the Body of Christ is primary in God’s plan, and this does no harm to our own families; rather, it gives them strength, blessing and purpose.
Many times over Randy Booth and Rich Lusk offer us wise and pastoral insight into ways that churches and families can mature for the sake of the kingdom. They offer correction, encouragement and vision for families, and churches, and especially for fathers and husbands. Booth explains the major shift we need to make: “We must come to see the Church as the primary family and our individual families as outposts of the Church.” The Trinity is a community. So is the church. So is the family. But sometimes we allow our families to become insular, hiding from the world in the church, and sometimes even hiding from the church in our homes. When we open our families to being modeled on the church, and being changed for and through worship, then we become effective outposts for God’s mission.
Randy Booth also encourages us that we will have to die and be resurrected to get to the proper place in God’s work, allowing God to clean and heal us of the way we operate in family, church and world:
Following Jesus begins with forsaking our relationships with other people, ourselves, and our possessions. All of these relationships are corrupted by sin. As soon as we come to Him, He sends us back to all those relationships, to ourselves, and even to all our material possessions to truly love them as new men in Christ.
A resurrected view of how our own families work as part of the church affects parenting. We form our children’s identity as part of the church and as ambassadors of Christ’s church for the world. We want them to grow up to remain vitally connected to the body of Christ, and to be both free and strong enough to draw the world into the church as well.
Parenting is missional says Rich Lusk, looking at Jeremiah 29. It is God’s way of growing the church. Not because high birth rates are a natural way of growing church rolls, but because God saves the world through godly families settling into the surrounding world to bless it. Referring to Psalm 127, Lusk asks us what the point of a full quiver of straightened arrows is. Is it to be decorative and out of the way of war? No. Families are to have children, to make and keep them Godly , and to show them how to go out into the war for the hearts of the world. Our children will then direct men back to the church, to meet with Christ there.
But godly child rearing requires several things: Fathers need to take responsibility for how they love and listen to their wives. How they honor them. How they find their own wives to be their own lady wisdoms (as seen in Proverbs). Beyond loving our wives well, we must also view our children as God views them – Psalm 128 tells us that our children are covenant members – olive shoots around the family table. We are to believe that they own the kingdom, and treat them as Christians, (that is, as family members) from the beginning. This means understanding our families and even our children as having their proper identity in Christ.
Not only do families need to be stretched (in a way dying to be reborn in God’s image), but churches need to be transformed as well. Churches can also be insular, fearing that worldliness may corrupt their holiness. But God calls us to imitate the Lord Jesus, who went about doing good works, and who was seen enjoying God’s creation (food and drink) with people unfit for the Synagogues. We need to let the world in, practicing hospitality, but without compromising the word of God. There is plenty, Lusk argues, that we can concede to make the gospel available to non-believers without losing biblical worship or holiness. We may, however, have to die (to comfort), and be raised again as a church truly interested in reaching and saving our neighbors.
So I commend to you this book. It is a fount of Biblical wisdom deep and wide. I found myself amazed and convicted and encouraged. I believe it will bless many. The Church-Friendly Family could be a truly transformative book for churches and for families if it is taken seriously as it deserves to be. May we all grow to know who we are in Christ, and what he wishes to do through each family, and each church.