At the end of last month, the Supreme Court of US passed a law that caught the worldwide Christian community in a storm. Why should Malaysian Christians be concerned? Because the issue does not just affect them, it affects Christians in our nation too. The issue is more than a legal issue; it is also a cultural and spiritual one.
But in the storm that raged, many prayed for judgment on that nation while many others mourned, and I somehow feel that this is not right. As humans, even Christian ones, we tend to look at symptoms and react to them, because that is easier. Additionally, we are so used to looking at things from a macro level instead of getting to the grassroots, and sometimes I feel we need to look at root causes.
What is God really telling us? Personally, I felt this as a wake-up call to families and the Church. This is not going to be an article about the Rainbow Banner issue. In my heart, I believe that this is a tough issue and time both for the mainstream Church and for the community involved.
But I seriously believe that this is a cry for families to discover the meaning of reconnection in an increasingly disconnected world. For the Church, it is also a message that for too long, we have tended to separate church and family. As a result, the sacred has at times become an afterthought.
The ancient Israelites did not live this way. Their culture was one of integrated holiness with God, and this included every aspect of life, even in their relationships, both socially and within the family. I do not profess that I have answers for such issues as these, but every help is imperative for us as the Church now, and recently I came across Rev Dr T. Jeyakumar’s book ’A Family-Friendly Church’.
Rev Dr T. Jeyakumar is a top leader within the Methodist Church of Malaysia, and he has over twenty years of pastoral ministry. Throughout the time, he has been passionate about family ministries and church growth. In December 2012 he was elected President of the Trinity Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Malaysia.
Rev Jeyakumar wrote in the introduction to his book that it was undertaken with the conviction that faith-formation should take place in the home first. Many Scriptural passages in the Bible give advice that was aimed for families, both in the Old and New Testament. The most famous of these is Proverbs 22:6, and in the letter to the Colossians, Paul reminded them to instruct their children in the Lord. God is directly involved in families and He has a deep concern for their well-being and spiritual development.
Yet at the same time, passages from both Testaments also spoke of the role the religious community has in supporting the spiritual growth of its members. This clearly indicated that the religious community should partner with parents towards this objective without taking away their responsibility. Furthermore, the Scriptures also state that this community has to take the initiative in guiding even non-Christian homes towards the context of a Christian family.
Every generation in the Bible worshipped God together, child and parent. It was an integrated thing, and the Scripture teaches that every generation should grow together with the others. Rev Jeyakumar wrote that every generation grows emotionally and spiritually stable when it has the support of the other generations.
Today, we have somewhat lost this essence of the Church. Instead of a home-centered church supported ministry, we have a church-centered home supported ministry. Instead of faith formation being the primary task of the home it has become that of the church. Pastors, youth workers, and Church School teachers are primary disciple-makers and not parents.
We need more churches that know how to equip, empower and enable parents to do faith-formation at home. Sadly, instead of churches freeing parents and children to have more and better quality time at home with each other, today many members of churches are caught up in their own programs and activities.
A family-friendly church would emphasise on intergenerational ministries that intentionally reach out to every generation together, rather than solely on intentionally segmented-programmatic ministry, focusing on gender groups and different age groups, that pull families apart.
Divided into 4 main areas, the book delves into topics such as Biblical Basis for Family Friendliness discussing the biblical basis for parents (especially fathers and mothers) to do discipling at home; an Overview of Family-Friendly Literature; what the traditional churches are doing with regard to being family-friendly (Family-Friendly Ministry in TRAC Churches), and a chapter on constructing a Strategy to Create Family-Friendly Churches.
Published in 2014 with the objective of helping churches understand why families are important and how family-friendliness could be achieved (Awareness); to provide a Resource to families and churches; to help churches develop a Structure that facilitates a family-friendly church model; to Equip parents to be owners and enablers of the task of faith-formation in their respective homes, and to act as an Enabling Arm, the book is prophetic and a very useful as well as a much-needed one at this time .
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– Jason Law
NOTE: The book is published by Faith Books, an imprint of the AUGUST Publishing Sdn Bhd (www.AugustPub.com) and can be found in the Burning Bush Bookstore at Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC).