I am reading the Puritan spiritual classic The Reformed Pastor by Richard Baxter (1615-91) with Ben Parziale this summer. Baxter encourages the Pastor to be diligent in taking heed to the flock. His comments on family ministry are fitting for reflection as we approach Father’s Day:
We must have a special eye upon families, to see that they are well ordered, and the duties of each relation performed. The life of religion, and the welfare and glory of both the Church and the State, depend much on family government and duty. If we suffer the neglect of this, we shall undo all. What are we like to do ourselves to the reforming of the congregation, if all the work be cast on us alone; and masters of families neglect that necessary duty of their own, by which they are bound to help us? If any good be begun by the ministry in any soul, a careless, worldly, family is likely to stifle it, or very much hinder it; whereas, if you could but get the rulers of families to do their duty, to take up the good work where you left it, and help it on, what abundance of good might be done! I beseech you, therefore, if you desire the reformation and welfare of your people, do all you can to promote family religion….
Baxter then tells the Pastor to do five things:
1. "Get information how each family is ordered…."
2. "Go occasionally among them … and ask the master of the family whether he prays with them, and reads the Scripture, and what he doth? Labor to convince them of the neglect of this…."
3. "If you find any unable to pray … persuade them to study their own wants, and to get their hearts affected with them, and, in the meanwhile, advise them to use a form of prayer, rather than not pray at all."
4. "See that in every family there are some useful and moving books, besides the Bible…. And engage them to read them at night, when they have leisure, and especially on the Lord’s Day."
5. "Direct them how to spend the Lord’s Day; how to despatch their worldly business, as to prevent encumbrances and distractions; and when they have been at church, how to spend time with their families…."
Neglect not, I beseech you, this important part of your work. Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labor, but will much further the success of your labours…. You are not likely to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much further increase.
Are you the master of a household? Are you doing your duty in leading your family in spiritual things?
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle
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