There’s a lot of talk in Christian circles these days about what it means to be “Gospel-centered.” The term has almost reached buzzword status, and can mean a lot of different things. As it relates to the family, there are even whole conferences held to hold parents and churches to God’s standard. As both pastors and parents we need to be clear about what we’re talking about and how it applies to the home. But what does that term mean when it comes to the family? How do we stay Gospel-centered when the baby is crying, the dishwasher is leaking, the laundry is piling up, the kids need to be driven to practice, and that’s not even a bad day!
Before we get to how the term Gospel-centered relates to the family, we must define what we’re talking about. Jeff Medders, in the introduction to his book, Gospel Formed, asked several prominent pastors and leaders for their meanings and then he defines it this way, “Gospel-centeredness means that the person and work of Jesus is the central message in all things; he is our model for all of life and ministry; the Son of God is our motivation in obedience to God’s word; and Jesus of Nazareth is the means to carry out all that God commands.”
Remaining Gospel-centered at home requires a few things we must be intentional about. Without these requirements and the intentionality to make them reality, the Gospel will become just one more plate we attempt to keep spinning.
Here are 4 requirements that will help your family remain Gospel-centered.
Someone needs to be in charge and responsible for keeping the family focused on the Gospel. It can’t be just lip service. Not only does this person need to be growing in the depths of the Gospel knowledge personally, but they also need to be demonstrating it practically. This should be the parents, and more specifically, according to Ephesians 6:4, this person should be Dad. I say “should be” for two reasons. First, because I recognize that Dad isn’t always in the picture. If he isn’t, then the responsibility falls to Mom. Secondly, I say “should” because if Dad and Mom are truly reflecting in their marriage Christ’s relationship to the church, (taking into account Genesis 2:24 where it speaks of the two become one), then it’s a shared responsibility at the same time.
Deuteronomy 6 makes it clear that parents have the primary responsibility over the spiritual upbringing of their children. Parents have both the most time and the most influence over their children. This means that the church has a responsibility to train the parents as well as the child, not take over for them. Parents being primary doesn’t mean the only spiritual influence. It’s right and even healthy for the church to partner with parents. The kids need to see faith in action beyond the example of their parents.
In order for the person to be the person, they must be present. They must be invested. They must show interest in the things that interest those they are attempting to lead. Moms, Dads … this means you. It’s not enough to just provide, you must lead in the area of discipleship. Parents should use their influence for God’s glory and the good of their family, not squander it. This presence must be seen in the everyday things of life. It doesn’t happen by accident; it must be intentional.
In order for the family to remain centered on the Gospel in all they say and do, there must be a plan. This plan needs to include regular Bible reading, prayer, worship, and service if it’s going to be effective. The plan should take into account things like best time of day and best method. Don’t think that having a book or study guide is a way to not have to plan (or study, or prepare). There are several good resources out there that can help along the way.
This plan also should be flexible enough to accommodate change. It’s okay to do something for a season and then change it up; in fact, that’s probably a good thing that will keep the entire family engaged. This change can be what you’re doing or how. A good rule to keep in mind when changing anything is to make sure it’s occurring at a natural break point.
Finally, in order for the family to remain Gospel-centered in the ups and downs of everyday life, they must remember that the God of the Gospel is a God who ALWAYS keeps His promises. He has promised to never leave us or forsake us. He has promised salvation to all those who believe. He has promised victory over sin, the world, and the devil. He has promised to return one day and make all things sad untrue. This is our hope and confidence.
These are some of the big requirements to keep the family Gospel-centered at home. It will take time and intentionality to find the proper rhythm for your family. Be patient with the process and the people involved. You will mess up and you will make mistakes, but that’s not a reason to not even attempt it. God’s not asking parents to be perfect, just faithful.