The first weekend of July I had the pleasure of being a guest speaker at the Family Retreat in Waxahachie, TX. I had been given the broad title “The Family and the Church.” Praise God, even though they were quite hard-hitting, the talks were well received. Here is an outline of each presentation, which was given under the auspices of Veritas School of Theology:
First Presentation: All in the Family
This talk centered on the key institution of marriage in God’s structuring of society, and the very different definitions of “marriage” in the world and the Church. I cited two worldly definitions; one from Psychology Today, and one from Wikipedia, to demonstrate the looseness of these views. I noted that “love” in such definitions did not entail a full commitment to the other in the biblical sense, but that it referred more to a sentiment or feeling. I also pointed out that according to these sources, marriage and family were human inventions and institutions, and hence were fixed by convention only.
Contrasting this with the Bible’s portrait I used an excellent definition of marriage from John Stott, noting that it was both specific and others-centered. I also called the audiences attention to the fact that “love” was not in most sound definitions of marriage for the reason that it is liable to be grossly misconceived. I closed with short expositions of Genesis 1:26-28a; 2:18-24, and Matthew 19:3-9, making sure to include a last slide addressing the issue of sex before marriage and its damaging affects.
Second Presentation: Divided Families and the Church
I began this talk with some reflections on the impact of secularization and its dehumanizing influence. I then tied this to the Church’s lapses in not correctly reading this cultural turn, asking if the Church (and the individual believer) knows how and when to say “No!” to the cultural mores.
From there I launched into a study of “Love” in biblical perspective. Understanding love is crucial to understanding our difference as Christian couples and Christian families. From there I turned to the husbands and the commandment to “love your wives.” I told the men (and myself) that “if there is no love in the home it is the husband’s fault.” Then we studied Ephesians 5:22-33, first for men, and then for women. I finished off with a quote from John Angel James: “If they would preserve love, let them be sure to study most accurately each others tastes and distastes, and most anxiously abstain from whatever, even in the minutest things, they know to be contrary to them.”
Third Presentation: The Concept of the Church
I took the opportunity here not to teach ecclesiology, but to to build upon what I had already said and highlight the fact that families make up the greater part of the Church, and thus, local churches ought to be expanded families. I again reminded those present of the threat of our culture’s values and how they have seeped into the Church. Then I studied briefly the meaning of the word ekklesia, defining it as “a summoned community in Christ.”
The next part of the presentation was a run through “What God wants to see” in the individual (from the Beatitudes), and then the local church (focusing on Romans 12). The lecture ended with a contrast of the two last churches addressed by the Lord in Revelation 3.
Fourth Presentation: Church, Family and the Word
The final talk was given more extempore as I had been getting many different kinds of questions from different age groups who were there. I wanted to anchor this talk on the importance of the life of faith for all Christians, no matter what there situation may be. I grounded the talk in an exposition of Ecclesiastes 8:1-7, noting that I was deliberately taking some liberty with the passage by replacing the earthly king of the context with the King of kings.
Among the things I noted was the connection between wisdom and humility. I asked husbands and wives and children if they were willing to be corrected by their spouse/parents. I then tried to drive home the cruciality of not deserting God because of our misperception of His lack of interest in our condition.
From here I moved onto the subject of the awkwardness of change. What I meant was the question of what others will think of me if I am not as selfish and absorbed as usual. This was tied into the true meaning of love as service for another. The presentation concluded with a mention of the truth that we need to recognize the structure which the Lord has built into the physical and moral world and move in accordance with it and not against it (this is the Dooyeweerdian stuff on “structure” and “direction” which I think is a keen insight, although I didn’t bother to reference the Dutchman himself in this context!).
The talks each ended with stimulating Q&A. I thank God that the feedback has thus far been very positive. now I need to practice more of what I preach!