Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: A Neglected Grace

"...we cannot speak about the Christian faith impacting our world, our country, or our community if it is not first impacting our homes…" (Jason Helopoulos, A Neglected Grace, Chapter 9).

A Neglected Grace: Family Worship in the Christian HomeEveryone lives for something. This something shapes our daily activities.

In A Neglected Grace, Jason Helopoulos offers a thoughtful reflection worthy of consideration:
"A few Christians living under the same roof does not make a place a Christian home any more than two or three bankers living in a house makes it a bank. A Christian home will seek to be centered upon Christ, and if it is centered upon Christ, then it will be filled with worship."
Worship is the end for which we have been created. So, why do we fail to live worship filled lives? In Chapter 1 of A Neglected Grace, Jason Helopoulos answers this question simply and Biblically: sin has resulted in a shift of our object of worship. He writes: "The great sin of the Garden of Eden is fundamentally an exchange in the object of worship" and  explains that Adam and Eve went from worshiping God to worshiping self. Unfortunately, we do the same thing daily.

However, Christians were saved and recreated "to the praise of His glory" (Eph. 1:12). As a result, the Christian family will engage in family worship which, as Helopoulos explains:
"...is nothing more than our response in the home to God's magnificent and infinite grace. And it is by that grace that we gather together with our family members to delight in His excellent goodness and eternal glory. Family worship is not something we have to do. Our right standing before God is not impacted whether we lead our families in worship or not. Christ has already accomplished all for our salvation. Rather, family worship, like other spiritual disciplines, becomes something we want to do."
A Neglected Grace has been written by Jason Helopoulos "to encourage you and your family to introduce family worship in your home or to persevere in it" and to do so in a way that shows the benefits of family worship without weighing the reader down by guilt. In order to accomplish this, Helopoulos includes a number of quotes from Christians of previous generations such as: Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, John Knox, Charles Spurgeon, and Matthew Henry. He wisely notes:
"In the history of the church and the history of God's people in Scripture, there have always been three clearly defined spheres of worship: secret worship, corporate worship, and family worship."
 Helopoulos gives evidence for and briefly expounds upon each sphere and then, continues to explain how each of the spheres are "related, informed, and encouraged by one another".

In Chapter 2, Helopoulos seeks to lay a Biblical foundation for family worship, highlighting the fact that family worship is not merely a duty but a joyful responsibility.  He asks the reader:
"Do you see yourselves as key figures in the redemptive story?...If we understand the importance of what has been handed down to us then we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must share it."
He reminds us that God's works are to be proclaimed from generation to generation "So that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments." He challenges the husbands to lead their wives and children in the pursuit of God citing First Timothy 5:8 and contending that the "provision" therein is not simply physical since wives and children are not merely physical bodies but have eternal souls for which must husbands must also diligently care. Helopoulos also appeals to mothers throughout the book to pick up this joyful responsibility should the husband be unwilling or unable to do so. "If the father is absent, either physically or spiritually, then this joyful responsibility falls upon the mother."

Chapter 3 of A Neglected Grace outlines a number of other practical reasons to pursue family worship while Chapter 4 details various elements for consideration. Helopoulos writes: "A family that prays together, reads the Bible together, and sings together is a family which is placing itself in the way of God's grace." Interestingly, he calculated:
"If you introduce one new hymn to your family a month...over the course of ten years they will have learned one-hundred-and-twenty hymns." Furthermore, "If your family memorized one verse every two weeks for fifteen years, your children (and you!) will have memorized 390 verses!"
Helopoulos cites many additional blessings of memorization and notes helpful suggestions for making it fun.

In Chapter 5, Helopoulos considers "Our Manner of Worship". Perhaps most challenging for the average family is to strive for regular, consistent times of family worship.  He writes: "...there is nothing that will dilute the benefits and effects of family worship more than family worship that is sporadically practiced."

Helopoulos expounds upon "What Family Worship is Not" in Chapter 6. Among the topics considered, we are reminded that family worship is not a time to rebuke family members but a time to "fix a family's eyes upon Christ above all else and not upon the sins of one another." He also reminds us that family worship is not a guarantee that children will come to a saving faith in Christ (thought it might be a tool).

Helps for the journey are listed in Chapter 7 and common challenges are considered in Chapter 8, including the fact that conviction does not always lead to action. Chapter 9 shares encouraging testimonies "of God's work in the lives of others". Appendices include: "Sample Family Worship Structures"; "Simple Beginnings with Scripture and Prayer" (basic questions to ask of various ages); "Recommended Resources", "Sample Responsive Readings"; and "Catechisms and Creeds".

I trust that many folks will find A Neglected Grace an edifying and God-glorifying read. Jason Helopoulos does families a great service by bringing this much needed, fresh exhortation to pursue God together as families. May many families be encouraged to introduce their families to or persevere in family worship through this helpful resource!!

*Many thanks to Cross Focused Reviews and Christian Focus Publications for providing me with a complimentary electronic copy of this resource in exchange for my honest opinion!