Six Modes of Missional Engagement in Families
“Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:9 (The Message)
The habits we cultivate in families shape the kind of life we share together and what kind of people we become. In an article about the habits of American families one author listed the following as bad habits American families fall into: eating too much fast food, bickering, living in a disorganized and grubby home, wasteful spending, scheduling too many activities, failing to eat together on a regular basis, too much screen time, skipping church and hiring help for all the tough chores. By contrast another author listed the following good habits: cooking and eating healthy meals together, sharing activities such as reading together, gardening, movie nights, or other joint activities, sharing household chores to keep a neat and clean home, practicing good communication skills – working to resolve disagreements before bedtime, exercising together, expressing feelings honestly and openly, practicing gratitude, living within our means, practicing grace and forgiveness. These articles demonstrate wisdom and good common sense.
When we think about six modes of missional engagement for families, I want to help you develop habits that will help you discover both the best life God has in store for your family and how your family can become a growing blessing to the world. If we learn to practice these habits regularly, not to say mechanically, but thoughtfully creatively, our families will thrive and grow stronger as God’s witnesses in the world. You will see many of the above habits addressed, but with greater attention to the ways God’s word in the Old and New Testaments speaks about them. We’ll see how every family an embodiment of God’s mission and how God outfits and prepares each family through these practices for the mission he has for each family.
I use the words “mode of missional engagement” rather than “habit,” because a habit implies a repetitive practice which is done in the same way over and over again. For example, we can practice a habit of prayer before meals in our family. We can say the same words of the same prayer before each meal. That is not a bad thing, but for some it will become a stale and meaningless habit. On the other hand, if we embrace prayer as a mode of missional engagement in our family, we will often look for ways to pray in families that will change over time, depending on the changing stage of life of family members and new circumstances. We will always look for ways to practice prayer in our family, but we will not always pray the same prayers in the same words and in the same times and places.
Here are the six modes of missional engagement. I’ll write a few brief words about each one here. Then in the subsequent postings I will describe each one in more detail.
- When You Sit in Your House: Engaging God’s Word in Families. God’s word in the Bible tells us that our families have come into existence as a result of God’s design and purpose. It affirms that God is the author, the creator of each family and gives to each family its name. (Ephesians 3:15) As a result, we want to hear what God says to us in his word.
- My House Shall be called a house of prayer: Responding to God in Prayer. It is an amazing fact that God speaks to us. As we listen to God’s word in families, we want to answer him. We want to say, as Anne Lamott has summarized it in a book on essential prayer, “Help! Thanks! Wow!” To pray is to answer God. It is part of a living conversation that begins because God has spoken to us in his word. The conversation must not be one-sided. We reply to God when we pray.
- Welcome the Stranger: Practicing hospitality. When we engage with God’s word and pray, we are so to speak, tending to and caring for the life of our own family. When we practice hospitality, we begin to reach outside our family circle to care for others. We welcome others into our midst and show them the love of God.
- Freely Give: The Home Economics of Generosity. Jesus commands us to freely share what we have received. In order to do that we need to practice a sensible lifestyle in which we have something to share. In a consumer society many people have lost the practices of managing their household in such a way that they have some left over to share. Not only this, but members of the household often feel as if they are strangers because all their time is spent in workplaces and school away from each other. They share no common tasks. Here we will look at how a shared family economy builds family cohesiveness and allows families to be generous.
- Spur one another on to good works: Introducing friends to friends. Followers of Jesus are called up to encourage one another. We can do this in families by introducing those we know to those who serve Jesus in our town or city or in other places around the globe. We receive encouragement and give encouragement when we meet and hear the stories of others who follow Jesus in places where sometimes it is difficult to follow him.
- You are the Light of the World: Go! As family we can also move out as God’s witnesses in various ways. Whether it means walking across the street to meet your neighbors and invite them to dinner or selling your home and moving in the name of Jesus to serve people in another country, all of us who follow Jesus are called to shine as light and move out into the world to make Jesus known.
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