How is your life as a Christian going? In answering this question, what criteria are you using to evaluate? Are you assessing your Christian life by the way you live and worship or simply by how you have felt recently ? James Bannerman (1807-1868) described the faithful Christian as a “man in the closet, man in the family, man in the church…equally bound to the duties of the personal, the domestic [i.e. family], [and] the public worship of God.” According to this theologian, the faithful (not perfect) Christian life is characterized by acts of worship. Could your family’s schedule this week be handed confidently to Bannerman with the expectation that he would say: Yes Christian, your life is defined and governed by the worship of God in the personal, familial, and public spheres of your life? Or would he respond differently, and if so, what do you think he would say?
Like all of us, Bannerman was a flawed and sinful Christian. However, I think his comment above on the Christian life is a desperately needed guide for Christians today. Instead of evaluating our Christian faithfulness by how close we feel to God, let’s try picking something more concrete - our weekly schedules. I’m not saying that our schedules are the only important indicator of fruitful Christian living, but it is one important place to start.
Bannerman’s claim is that our weekly schedules must reflect the command of Christ to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). This means, for Bannerman, that a Christian’s life is structured around acts of worship within three central settings of life: the personal, the familial, the ecclesial (church). Let me give you a purposefully general description of a Christian’s schedule that takes seriously Bannerman’s three pillars of Christian living:
When we start our day, we force our slothful selves to set God apart as holy in our individual hearts. This practice is no easy task, but it is worth it. The puritan, John Flavel, said of this practice, “how difficult it is to keep our hearts, how dangerous to neglect them.” The faithful Christian sets aside time each day to come before God as an individually crafted, image bearer of God. Through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus, our personal thoughts and desires are lifted in prayer to God as we feast upon the holy Scriptures. Sometimes we trivialize these moments by calling them “me and God time” or various other cutesy names. Why not call it what it is, personal worship? It is a labor, a duty, and, over time, a joy. It is the first line of defense against the “schemes of the devil” (Eph 6:11).
At some point as we faithfully work to provide for our families, contribute to our societies, and love our neighbors, we daily gather together our households to participate in holy acts of worship. While writing to the Ephesian church, as Paul was in the midst of commanding husbands to love their wives, he took time to highlight the issue of worship, not date night or romantic getaways (not that these are bad!). Paul instructed husbands to “sanctify” their wives through the “washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:25-26). Shortly after, Paul told these same leaders of the home to “not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). In Deuteronomy, God commanded Israelite parents to teach their children about the Lord “when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deut. 6:7). These Scriptures still apply to us today! In our hyper-busy environment, how will Christians heed the commands of these particular Scriptures without intentionally scheduling practices of family worship? If you are unfamiliar with this historic practice, I recommend you check out this little book: Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney.
Six days or 144 hours have been gifted to each of us for the express purpose of carrying out our regular responsibilities. On Sunday, The Lord’s Day, we are commanded to rest and to worship. Yes, that’s right, our good God knows that we need a command to rest and to worship. Yet so many Christians fail to prioritize public acts of worship in their weekly schedules. Public worship in the local church has rightly been treated by most orthodox Christians throughout church history as an immovable pillar in their weekly schedules. How dare we so arrogantly believe that public worship is somehow unnecessary for us today? Check out this other blog post to see some thoughts regarding that tricky question. All I will say now, is that every Christian who is unsure as to whether they prioritize public worship may want to begin keeping track of their worship attendance. Mark on your calendar every time you miss worshipping at your local church or show up late to worship. This record may speak volumes about your actual view of public worship.
Allow me to end this post with a word of encouragement. Some of you may feel like your lives are miles and miles away from having a schedule that reflects a genuine concern for personal, familial, and corporate acts of worship. This feeling is completely understandable. We exist in a culture that considers worship superfluous, embarrassing, and sanctimonious. We must strive to resist this American tendency which ignores the Scripture’s clear command to worship God with our entire selves (Romans 12:1, 2). Take a moment in prayer to recommit your family’s schedule to the Lordship of God, and then take clear steps to put Christian worship back at the center of your week.