Jason Helopoulos is Assistant Pastor of University Reformed Church in East Lansing, Michigan. If you’re keeping score at home, that’s Kevin DeYoung’s church, and he and Jason are good friends. Jason is also a graduate of Dallas Seminary (finishing the same year I started college), so we probably have some mutual professor friends. What I’m trying to tell you is, you may never have heard of Jason (unless you remember him taking over DeYoung’s blog this and last summer so DeYoung could have a break), but he seems like a pretty legit guy.
His first book, A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in The Christian Home, is rather short, but it is timely and shouldn’t be overlooked if you’re a guy. I say that because if you’re a guy, the default is to neglect family worship. Either you’re currently doing so with your wife and kids (or just wife), or you’re single and it’s not on your radar for the future. In either case, this book is for you.
As Kevin DeYoung tells us in the foreword,
I love the title: A Neglected Grace. Instead of hammering us with the heavy hand of ought, Jason holds out family worship as an example of divine kindness. Yes, we need motivation for the discipline of family worship, but the best, longest-lasting motivation comes not by feeling terrible for what we could be doing better, but by believing what good God has in store for us. The message of the book isn’t “Pray with your family or else!” but “Think of how sweet this will be.” (11-12)
That is important to keep in mind as you read. Family worship is first and foremost as grace to us. As Jason explains in his introduction,
Family worship. This glorious expression of our Christian faith used to mark Christian homes, but over the past one hundred years, the evangelical church seems to have forgotten about it. It is time for us to explore and promote family worship in the church again. We need to hear about the need for family worship in our homes. Pastors need to stress the importance of it. And laypeople need to be talking about it. But even more importantly, we need to begin to practice it, so that this silent void which has crept into our Christian homes will disappear. My hope is that our Christian homes will once again be filled with fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, sisters, and brothers that are worshiping to the glory of God. (13-14)
In writing about family worship, Jason hopes that “the Lord will use this book to encourage you and your family to introduce family worship in your home or to persevere in it. There is no better time than now for this time-tested and beneficial aspect of the Christian life to be revived” (15).
With that in mind, chapter 1 lays the foundation of worship as a fundamentally human activity. Jason sees worship in three spheres:
- Secret worship (private devotions, that sort of thing)
- Corporate worship (Sunday gatherings)
- Family worship
A healthy spiritual life will engage in worship in all three spheres. We tend to get the second sphere, struggle with the first, and speaking from personal experience, all but ignore the third. To help with that, chapter 2 explains how family worship should be our joyful responsibility. Chapter 3 then enumerates more reasons we should want to pursue family worship:
- It centers the home
- It encourages our children in Christ
- It encourages Christian character
- It encourages peace in the home 1
- It binds the family together
- It provides common knowledge
- It equips our children for corporate worship
- It reinforces spiritual headship
- It provides systematic discipleship
Since this is quite the list of compelling reasons (I think at least), in chapter the focus turns to the nuts and bolts of practicing family worship. Jason’s advice comes down to singing a worship song together, reading through a passage of Scripture, briefly discussing, and then closing in prayer. You can add additional elements, but the opportunity to sing, read, and pray may lead to further conversations, or it may not. At most, you’re looking at about 15 minutes to sow grace into your family life.
In chapter 5, Jason discusses the manner of our worship. He sees that it should be reverent, joyful, and regular/consistent. As he encourages readers:
Whenever you realize that your family worship hasn’t been regular and consistent lately, remember that it is a means of grace, not a burden to bear, so just pick it back up and start again. It is good to remind ourselves that every family goes through different seasons. There may be times when my family is joyful, and other times that it seems like anything but joyful. We may have a couple of weeks in which our family’s interaction with Scripture, praying of prayers, and singing of hymns seems to be marked by an uncommon reverence, and other weeks that it seems to be treated casually. Through all seasons, be patient, be gracious, and keep praying that God would bless. He isn’t looking for perfection; that standard has been met by Christ. Rest and enjoy what you have, while all the while striving and praying that your family worship becomes even more reverent, joyful, regular and consistent. (71)
Chapter 6 then clarifies what family worship is not so that there is no confusion over its function in the Christian life. Chapter 7 is Jason’s practical tid bits to keep in mind once you are attempting to regularly practice family worship and chapter 8 deals with special circumstances (single parents, feelings of inadequacy, unbelieving spouses, Christian spouse not on board, ages of children, etc.). Finally, in chapter 9, Jason closes out with and encouragement to “just do it,” and offers testimonials from various friends (and family) about their experience in regularly participating in family worship. The book proper finishes with appendices offer sample structures, resources, and creeds (and a list of catechisms).
All in all, I found this a very helpful book. Family worship is something we’ve been attempting to do regularly, though with unfortunately more misses than hits. I definitely want to have the habit down before we start having kids. If you’re in a similar situation, you’ll find Jason’s book both encouraging and a great resource to get your started. He pretty much covers all the bases clearly and concisely. He doesn’t beat readers over the head with their failures and is very realistic about how things will go. He provides the tools you need to get started and the tips you’ll need once the ball is rolling. If you’re a guy, you probably ought to pick up this book. That is, unless you are already a family worship master. 2 But, since we could all probably use some help with leading our families well, this a great little volume to pick up.
- Author: Jason Helopoulos
- Title: A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in The Christian Home
- Publisher: Christian Focus (June 30, 2013)
- Paperback: 100pgs
- Reading Level: General Reader
- Audience Appeal: Men especially who are or need to be leading their home in family worship
- Gratis Review Copy: Yes (courtesy of Christian Focus)
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- Jason writes, “As a pastor, I have seen very few marriages end in divorce because of one act of adultery or some other “notorious” sin. Rather, most divorces occur because of built-up pain, a lack of forgiveness, grudges, etc., which have accumulated over time. Family worship aids a family to confront their own sin and its effect upon each other. As an example, it is awfully hard for a father to lead his family in worship when he has just yelled at his wife. If he is going to lead his family before the throne of grace, he will first have to ask for forgiveness from his wife. And she will find that it is hard to worship unless she willingly forgives him. This couple’s children will observe and learn from this. They will be encouraged to pursue peace and forgiveness as they see their father and mother model it” (45) ↩
- If that’s you, maybe pick this up for a “friend” and give it to them? ↩