Book Review: Family Worship, by Don Whitney
Donald S. Whitney, Family Worship. Crossway, 2016. 80 pps, $7.99.
Christian discipleship should start in the home, and this book from Donald Whitney shows husbands, wives, dads, and moms how to do it.
In five chapters, Whitney makes a biblical case for family worship, gives examples of it throughout church history, lays out a simple plan for family worship any family can follow, addresses common hindrances, and encourages us to commit to this practice for the glory of God and the good of our families. It’s an encouraging, convicting, and simple little book.
I appreciate the fact that Whitney doesn’t try to motivate us toward family worship through guilt, but through encouragement. His presentation of the biblical material and the vignettes into church history cast a vision for family worship that makes it desirable. What wife wouldn’t want her husband to take her sanctification seriously (Eph 5:25-26)? What father wouldn’t want to bring his children up “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4), “so that they should set their hope in God” (Psalm 78:7)?
Wouldn’t you want your child to be able to say what John Paton wrote about his dad: “How much my father’s prayers at this time impressed me I can never explain, nor could any stranger understand. When, on his knees and all of us kneeling around him in Family Worship, he poured out his whole soul . . . As we rose from our knees, I used to look at the light on my father’s face, and wish I were like him in spirit.” As Whitney puts it, “Isn’t this what you really want to do?”
The book is encouraging, but it’s also convicting. Whitney includes plenty of pointed application throughout these pages that calls us to repent of our neglect of family worship. For example, we all want to raise godly kids, but “when, specifically, do you bring your children up ‘in the discipline and instruction of the Lord’?” If not through family worship, then how? The clear biblical mandates, the godly examples from church history, the simplicity of the plan—all of this should leave one wondering, “Why haven’t I been doing this?”
One of the greatest strengths of Whitney’s approach to family worship is its simplicity. Family worship doesn’t have to be complex or long and drawn-out. Whitney lays out a simple plan made up of three elements that any family can use: read, pray, sing. Read the Bible (or a children’s storybook version of the Bible), pray together as a family, and sing together. That’s it. Even the length of this book reflects the simplicity of his approach. Anyone can read this concise book, and any family can follow this simple plan.
My wife and I have four children under the age of seven, and we have been pretty consistent in reading the Bible to them and praying with them before bedtime. But, several months ago we started making a concerted effort to have a block of time in the evenings after dinner for family worship. Usually we begin by reading an entry from the Big Picture Story Bible, then I get out my guitar and we sing a few hymns and worship songs, and finally we pray.
This has become one of the highlights of our day. The principles Whitney lays out in this book have become precious to us. We plan to share Family Worship with the other families in our church so they too can be encouraged to experience the joy and spiritual blessings family worship brings. I hope you’ll read and share it as well.