One does not need statistics, polls or research to know that the family is in trouble. For Christians who believe and live out the belief of the centrality of the church in their lives and the body of Christ, this poses an especially troubling and challenging problem. The church is made up of predominately families and if they are in trouble so is the church of which they are a part. Families make churches and if our families are broken then so are our churches.
But there is hope of family restoration. While salvation may be an individual working of God on a person we understand that salvation is not merely individual. As John Barach points out in the foreword, Christ “dies so that relationships could be restored, so that every aspect of life, including our families, might be healed and made new….healing for our families is found in right relationship to God through Jesus Christ and that the context for that healing is the Church, which is the body of Christ.” (p. xii)
While the reader may initially may be thinking that The Church-Friendly Family is a book about making the church family-friendly (though there are some points of agreement there), that would be missing the point of the book entirely and a misreading of the subtly of the title of the book, The Church-Friendly Family. While there is some legitimacy to making the church family-friendly as in being family focused. What Randy Booth and Rich Lusk want the church to see is the subtle and yet drastic difference there is between making the church family friendly and the family church friendly. “We must come to see the Church as the primary family and our individual families as outposts of the Church.” (p. 20) Barach sums up the book well when he states
Our families are not ultimate, and they will not be restored and glorified by an exclusive focus on the family. In fact, if we make our family and its well-being our highest priority, we sow the seeds of our family’s destruction. Rather, our families must be placed in the context of the family of God. The nuclear family does not need more advice or exhortation; it needs Jesus and it needs His body. Only if we make our families “Church-friendly” – only by putting our families in the context of the church, by putting Christ and His people first, by bringing our families to share in the Church’s worship, fellowship, calling and mission – will our families be restored, and more than that, be transformed from glory to glory. (p. xii)
In his editors introduction the book, Uri Brito continues to crystalize the central focus of the book with the following words:
The mission of the Church is the heart of God’s mission for the world. And since the future of the natural family is not based on the centrality of the natural family but on the centrality of God’s new cosmic and supernatural family, then the future of the individual family is a future found in the Church. The family must die so that it must be raised to a new status, so that it may embrace the glorious and eternal family of the Church. (p. xix)
Following these two summaries, Randy Booth and Rich Lusk set out to explore what the Church-friendly family looks like in all of life such as work, worship, school, society, politics and the various relationships within the home itself. One of the founding themes that runs out of the Church-Friendly family idea is the role that the Church plays in the life and redemptive success of the family. It is the idea of the Church as an outpost of the kingdom of God and families as outposts of the Church. What we see is that there is a circular relationship between the Church and the family of giving and receiving. The Church gives to the family that the family might give back to it and vice versa. A healthy Church cannot exist without healthy families and vice versa.
Another important aspect of the Church-friendly family philosophy is how the activities that happen at Church shape the families activities at home. Central to the family shaping activities of the Church is the act of worship. Booth explains,
Family worship is an extension of the Church’s corporate worship; it doesn’t stand alone. The same is true for individual worship. The worship of the congregation is central or primary, and the failure to understand this has diminished the influence of the Church in the culture. (p. 25)
One of the natural aspects of the outflow of corporate worship into family worship is the family dinner table. In a world of soccer mom vehicles carting kids from one thing to another and fast-food chains every five miles the stable family dinner table has been traded for a mobile table that is not conducive to family growth, togetherness and table worship and fellowship. “Fast-food and drive-thrus have replaced the family table.” (p. 49) On the centrality of the family dinner table Booth writes,
We begin each week gathered around the Table as children to be instructed and nourished just before we are sent out to live. And so, too, we go to our homes and gather around smaller tables to be instructed and nourished, and from there we also fan to live and to love. The liturgy is practice for life. (p. 50)
But if we are to have Church-friendly families then we need to have families who are raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Too often in our parenting we just want to raise “good” Christian kids who obey the ten commandments and live “good” lives in our secular world. But we “don’t just raise godly children so you’ll have godly children. You raise godly children so they carry forth the mission of God…” (p. 73) Since Christians are on the mission first given to Abraham we are raising kids with the kingdom in mind. “Raising kingdom kids means a lot more than just raising kids who are ‘good Christians’…..We cannot settle for moral kids; we must raise missional kids, kids who learn to live with a sense of being ‘sent’ into the world with a divine mandate.” (p. 77)
There is no shortage of good things to say about The Church-Friendly Family. It was a pure joy to read and put a smile on my face time and time again. My heart kept singing amen and amen with each passing page! This is a book the Church needs to read and head. Yes, we need Churches to be for the family. But Churches for the family are nothing without Church-friendly families.