Turning Devotion-ills into Devotion-alls

Turning Devotion-ills into Devotion-alls

Aaron Lapp,
Kinzers, PA

Family devotional time has a widespread problem of becoming more ill than hale and more bothersome than wholesome. It suffers from low input with time for or it being cut, its practice in a rut, and therefore it falls underfoot.
Its symptom denotes failure with symptoms of the anemia of colorless vitality. It loses interest, peruses skipping it, and uses little originality. Any manufacturers who have made no variations in their product in the last ten years are out of business today. Family devotions, once started, are almost without any changes, and are sustained mostly by knowing we should—somehow or other—so we try to keep it going in a changeless mode.
Sadly, the expectation factor arising from family devotions is about as low as that of pulling weeds in the garden. The duty part is high but the joy in doing it has little reward. We are either too busy, too lazy, or too uninterested, or else, we don’t have time to do it since we can’t quickly get through it. Our weekday schedules are hectic, all our involvements are electric, and the cell phone becomes frantic for our time. Even most meals must be eaten in haste.
Every congregation needs an occasional revival meeting, council meeting, and communion service. Is there any possibility that the Christian might need a revival meeting in the area of family devotions followed by a council meeting and a little communion service in the home?
I suggest at least once a week when the whole family could arrange for a time to plan for family worship time and doing so without using any prepared booklets by someone outside the home for the thoughts and Scripture chosen.
Prepared books or booklets are what any individual can read during his or her own quiet time whenever it suits.
Here is a new suggestion: Appoint one of the children to be the family secretary for the once-a-week family worship. The secretary should be given a record book (like a composition book we used in school). Records would be kept of who did the reading, what was read, and the song that was sung. Someone could be appointed to read the Scripture he chooses at next week’s family worship. That all would be signed and dated. Dad is the overseer to see it all “flows,” and Mom, as the vice-chairman, helps out to see that the secretary has it all written down. She could be secretary if the children are too small, or when the designated secretary is “out of town.” What a wonderful family treasure in years to come in the memory of the mind and in that book!
“Doing” family devotions because we must for the sake of other people is the death of the vision for it. Stern duty can have its own reward if it has some semblance of joy in the duty. Otherwise, it is otherwise.
The reason for family devotions has the central idea of the father being the priest for the family. But he is not only priest for the family, he is also prophet for the family. The Old Testament prophet spoke to the people as God’s representative to them. The priest was the appointed person to represent people to God in their sacrifice and worship.
Here is my burden: as conservative Anabaptist churches, we have experienced some mighty revivals from God during the 1950s and 1960s and since. With the good use of Bible schools and a rich source of ready, spoon-fed Bible helps, we have produced many interesting and capable preachers.
Many people by now know that I have been writing extensively to produce a complete commentary of the New Testament. Many preachers tell me they are OK with preaching, but volunteer to say that they are not writers. They say writing is hard work. Did we say it is easy? Nowadays, the most basic work of making sermon notes can be accomplished by using the keyboard and the computer. I am saddened to hear grown men say they are not writers, even though they are quite capable with a computer.
What is ahead for the next generation? (Please bear with me if I paint too bleak a picture.) I frequently carry several of my commentary books with me and introduce them to young men in their 20s and 30s. Do you know what they often say? I am amazed that grown men will admit that they are not writers. But I am appalled that young men quite often will say, “I am not a reader.” I want to say, “O. Lord, open the heavens—the fathers don’t write and the young men don’t read!”
The revivals in Bible times came by writers and readers. The revival that sparked the Anabaptist movement was in part by writing and by reading. Men become serious about God’s Word and wrote important works on various doctrines of God and how it should be lived.
We are aware that there are many computer programs available which provide information of all kinds in an instant, including many kinds of Bible study helps. We hope that conservative Anabaptists will never lose their fascination with books worthy of meditative study. The hard work of writing which has put maturer men out of gear has now spawned a new generation of young men who shy away from the hard work of meditative reading and study.
The Bottom Line is that a little creativity here and a little expressive exercise there in family devotions could help to lead in the art of becoming self-taught to a degree in personal reading and writing. Hopefully, we are not too busy or too lazy for too long in having missed our opportunity and responsibility to raise a generation that appreciates the expression of personal creativity in biblical literature. Moms and dads should encourage their children to keep a diary or journal, and just maybe do some of that themselves—you know, like we say, for a little change at a slower pace. Or maybe even having a little revival right in our own home, beginning with the priest!