A Neglected Grace by Jason Helopoulos
A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian Home, by Jason Helopoulos. Ross-shire, Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013. 119 pp. $10.00.
“Family worship in the Christian home” is a neglected grace according to author Jason Helopoulos. Helopoulos, Assistant Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan, laments that many Christian families have given into the perpetual struggle to maintain regular family worship, and he offers a motivational and practical guide to encourage families to recognize the joy and benefits of regular worship in the home.
Helopoulos approaches the topic humbly: “I am not an expert on family worship. My wife and kids can testify to that. My family and I continue to learn how to do family worship better, more faithfully, more consistently, and with more joy” (16). He begins by articulating the importance of family worship, maintaining that it flows out of private worship toward corporate worship. It is part of the parents’ responsibility to rear their children in the Lord and finds precedent in Scripture: “There are plenty of commands that in our homes we are to teach our children, read the Word, pray: in essence—worship” (30).
After establishing this important biblical and philosophical foundation, Helopoulos begins to offer practical helps toward the end that families not pursue worship together legalistically, but rather out of a desire for a sweet and joyful time of spiritual profit. He contends, “Family worship is not something we have to do. Our right standing before God has already accomplished all for our salvation. Rather, family worship, like other spiritual disciplines, becomes something we want to do” (16, emphasis original). He offers both positive tips and addresses potential difficulties in various situations. The book includes several appendices of resources to help families in their worship.
A Neglected Grace is a welcome and useful tool to encourage families in their worship, not only because of Helopoulos’s extremely helpful tips and resources, but also because of his deeply uplifting and understanding tone.
This is just an introduction to the topic, however. While Helopoulos does offer biblical reasoning behind the need for family worship, a far more thoroughly developed theology of the essence of worship and nature of how a child learns and grows spiritually is necessary to fully correct deeply entrenched erroneous presuppositions in these areas that permeate Christian thinking today. Christians tend to believe that worship is something that comes naturally as an “authentic” expression of a regenerate heart. Yet if the Scriptures and church history reveal anything to us about worship, it is that left to themselves, even God’s people will worship poorly; they must be taught to worship, and what better time to do so than when a child’s heart is free from so many external negative influences—when his heart is ready to be shaped. It is my fear that most Christians do not recognize that before a child can even comprehend facts, his affections and imagination are already being shaped. In other words, far before a child can comprehend his purpose to worship God, before he or she can comprehend the concept of a god at all, the child learns how to worship. Children learn to worship God acceptably primarily through participating in rightly ordered worship (both in families and in the church). If parents fail to teach their children how to worship, even before they are regenerate, they risk rearing children whose default will be to worship themselves and whose expectations for corporate worship will be shaped by that ingrained inclination. Thus, while A Neglected Grace offers a very helpful introductory basis for encouraging family worship and provides wonderful practical suggestions for parents who are already convinced of its necessity, I’m not sure it would correct enough flawed thinking in the majority of Christians today.
Nevertheless, I would highly recommend A Neglected Grace as an introduction to the importance of family worship and as a practical manual for encouraging regularity in this duty.
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Fort Worth, TX