Over the past 18 months, my family has participated in various spiritual activities that have often felt cutting edge. For example, we’ve participated in the establishing of a lay church, we’ve delved into forgotten liturgy, and we’ve practiced communion on a weekly basis. But perhaps one of the most novel and creative things–or at least I thought–was our nightly practice of household worship.
I was raised in a Christian home, but a home that did not regularly practice any type of family devotion or worship time. This is typical of Christian households, as only one in ten regular church attending families read the Bible together in a typical month. But now that my wife and I lead our children in worship every night, it can seem new, exciting, novel and even a little bit creative.
This is why I was so surprised to find the words of the fourth century saint, John Chrysostom on Fr. Ted’s Blog the other day:
Let us take all this to heart, then, dearly beloved, and on returning home let us serve a double meal, one of food and the other of sacred reading; while the husband reads what has been said, let the wife learn and the children listen, and let not even servants be deprived of the chance to listen. Turn your house into a church; you are, in fact, even responsible for the salvation both of the children and of the servants. Just as we are accountable for you, so too each of you is accountable for your servant, your wife, your child. (St. John Chrysostom, Eight Sermons on the Book of Genesis, pgs. 19-20)
And not only did I find that household worship is not novel or creative, but it’s been practiced for a couple thousand years by Christians around the world! The ancient church practiced things like home worship, learning the catechism and celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Unfortunately these things often feel foreign and new to modern-day Christians.
You may be thinking, “Well of course household worship isn’t novel or creative . . . I could have told you that.” But perhaps it is better to examine our own lives, to examine the emphasis of our churches and to look at the overall practice of Christianity in our culture to determine if family worship time has now become novel, new and foreign.
We are in the midst of a secular culture that considers novelty and creativity to be a virtue, and this has also gushed into the Christian church. And that has eroded some of the most important pillars of our historic Christian faith.
A good example is the Nicene Creed, which is all but unknown to many evangelical churches. Luke Timothy Johnson writes,
In a culture that rewards novelty and creativity, they (Christians) use words written by others long ago. In a society where accepted wisdom changes by the minute, they claim that some truths are so critical that they must be repeated over and over again. In a throwaway, consumerist world, they accept, preserve, and continue tradition. Reciting the creed at worship is thus a counter-cultural act.
Pastor Foley often tells me, “When it comes to faith, don’t be novel or creative. Just be faithful.” This doesn’t mean that we should be against technology or that we should get upset when a new worship song is written. But it does mean that we value and preserve the faithful practice of Christianity over the past 2,000 years, just as much if not more than our present-day religious experiences.