Monday, July 02, 2018

Book Review: Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney

In his short book (67 pages) Family Worship, professor Donald S. Whitney of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary contends:

"While there is no direct, explicit commandment in Scripture about family worship, the Bible clearly implies that God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families.  Also, its practice is evident throughout the Bible." [p.15]

Yet Whitney reports that from his own ministry experience in hundreds of churches, little family worship takes place in Christian homes today.  As a lay apologist, I find this especially interesting.

As most apologists know, much has been made of the recent "youth exodus" problem among our church going youth.  Numerous studies have demonstrated that a high percentage of churchgoing teenagers leave the church once they finish high school.  Many apologists have argued that one of the main reasons for their departure is their lack of training in defending the faith.  And I freely confess that I agree with them wholeheartedly!  However, Whitney offers perhaps another reason why we are losing our youth:

"One of the leading problems with this issue is that...most of these young people have no early, sweet memories of family worship.  Such recollections, if they had them, might help prevent their departure from the faith in the first place.  Of if they do walk away, the memories might be the means to turn their hearts to seek God again later." [p. 12]

This reader can personally attest that family worship is one of the best places to answer the questions of young children about God, Jesus and the Bible.  So, could family worship be part of the solution to the youth exodus problem?  Professor Whitney surely thinks so and in Family Worship, he makes the case for what he argues is a forgotten, yet essential, practice.

Chapter 1- As for Me and My House, We Will Serve the Lord: Family Worship in the Bible

Drawing from both the Old Testament and the New Testament, Whitney successfully demonstrates that while the Scriptures never explicitly command Christians to engage in family worship, it is a practice implicitly seen throughout the Bible.

Chapter 2- Here the Reformation Must Begin: Family Worship in Church History 

Beginning with the second century theologian Tertullian and ending with modern day theologians such as John Piper, Whitney offers an impressive list of Christian heroes from the past and present that firmly believe that God deserves to be worshiped daily in our homes by our families.  Further, he offers sound reasons to conclude that they practiced family worship in their own lives.

Chapter 3- Read, Pray, and Sing: The Elements of Family Worship

Whitney continues in this chapter by sharing, and briefly unpacking, the "three elements of family worship: read the Bible, pray, and sing." [p. 44]  He also offers a justification as to why those 3 elements are essential:

"...when you examine a list of activities the Bible says to do in worship, only three things on that already short list are equally as appropriate in family worship or in private worship as in congregational worship.  Those activities are reading the Bible, praying, and singing." [p. 45]

This reviewer was glad to see the author included other elements that can be added if time permits such as catechism, memorizing Scripture or reading books on various biblical topics.  Further, it has been this reader's experience that family worship looks slightly different in each home.

Chapter 4- No Family Worship Situation is Unique: But What If...?

I know that when I talk to other believers about the importance and benefits of family worship, they understandably have questions about its feasibility.  After all, what if there is not father in the home? How do you conduct meaningful family worship with very young children?  These questions and more are adequately addressed in this section.

Chapter 5- Isn't This What You Really Want to Do?: Start Today

The author ends this short work by admonishing fathers to resolve to lead their families daily in worship, even if they are not sure how to begin.  Further, Whitney explains that some may feel ashamed when they awaken to their "...spiritual responsibilities in the home...because...he has failed to lead family worship for so long he feels embarrassed to begin now." [p. 59]   However, he contends that father's must humble themselves and tell their families:

"I have come to believe that the Bible teaches I should be leading us in family worship, and I want to start today.  I have a lot to learn about it, but I want to do what I believe God wants me to do.  Will you join me?" [p. 60]


Family Worship by Donald S. Whitney is a perfect introduction to the subject.  His writing is clear and straightforward, challenging the reader throughout of the biblical and practical necessity of family worship.   For the spiritual leader of the home who desires to lead their family before the throne of God daily, I know of no better place to start than this work.

I wholeheartedly recommend this work!

You can get your copy here.

Learn more about Whitney and his ministry here.

Courage and Godspeed,

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