Most of us who are heads of families have tried several times to get a regular family devotion going with a variety of levels of success. Pastor Peters from Pastoral Meanderings has an article titled “Faith Conversations” that perhaps makes us realize that we aren’t completely failing in our role as leader of the family when we can’t get a regular devotion going. He talks about faith conversations that naturally occur within our families or talking to the world at large, and how that is part of what we should be doing to help our children grown in their own faith walk.
Nearly everybody I know struggles with organized devotions on the family level. Busy schedules, noble intentions, and frequent failures all lead to the idea that we are failing in our roles as Christ to our spouses and children. I think there is another take on that.
Speaking for my family growing up and for my family today, our conversations are filled with discussions about faith. We have faith conversations all the time — not organized ones in which we set out to discuss a theological point or moral issue but the spontaneous ones that erupt from items on the news, from incidents around us, and from the relationships we have within the home. We have faith conversations about issues that I would never have thought to raise but they present themselves in ways that allow us to teach (and speaking as a Pastor, even to be taught) by my family, friends, and co-workers.
People are hard wired by God for religion and faith. Sin has short circuited this need so that it manifests itself in idols of all shapes and forms but we cannot escape the religious dimensions of our human lives. This is not something to be fought but the divinely given opportunity to direct this hard wired need to its true expression in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I do not understand those who say they have no opportunity to share the Gospel. All the time I hear conversations in which faith is the implicit subject or the implicit answer. They are conversations among youth, pre-teens, teens, twenty somethings, and all the ages on up. They happen so often that it is often dizzying to keep up with all the potential places to speak God’s Word and proclaim Jesus Christ. I wonder if we are listening.
Today I came home and my oldest son and I listened to the news while we ate supper. There was an item on about brain waves being recorded in people long in a vegetative state or coma. These researchers were actually communicating with those who had long been thought completely out of it. Well this led to a discussion of what we do with people physically unable to care for themselves and no longer mentally alert. This was not a discussion about which institution but what is life, where does it come from, how do we care for it, what are the implications of the choices we make… This was a FAITH conversation!! It did not start out to be — just an off hand comment on a news item. Wow. It was stimulating and challenging — the way it always is when we attempt to apply our faith and values to the thorny issues of life in this world.
When I talk to youth (especially about the movies they have seen) it is so easy to turn these into faith conversations. They may not be explicitly religious movies but they give us great opportunities to speak faith. Look at the Twilight series with its vampires resisting the impulses of their nature — is that not a great entrance to speak about the Christian call to self-control? Look at the Matrix series with its hero who does battle with the the Mr. Anderson who has people plugged into bondage that appears to be freedom — you telling me you cannot turn that into a faith conversation? Look at the Transformers and the hero who gives up his own life to save the world/universe — is that not a familiar story line? Why are we not using the opportunities all around us to have faith conversations with our children, our family members, our neighbors, our co-workers????
You don’t have to invent a moment to speak of Christian faith and values — it is simply a matter of choosing from among the many opportunities presented to each of us every day. God has hard wired us for faith and religion. Sin has stolen from us the place to plug in this built in need but God has restored it to us by the incarnation of His Son who bestows the Holy Spirit to re-wire us to hear and respond, to listen and believe.
Organized devotions are wonderful and prayer times important but we dare not forget or ignore the opportunities provided to us every day to have faith conversations — for it is in these faith conversations that we can make the most impact upon those who do not know where their religious desire is meant to find its full expression. That is why we need to be in Scripture — so that we can speak its voice in these faith conversations. That is why we need to be connected to the community of believers — so that we can learn and grow in the ability to recognize and capitalize upon these opportunities. That is why we need to have our lives centered upon the means of grace where Christ comes to us and works within us through these external means — so that we know where to direct the people around us (whose feelings and reason and desires are neither trustworthy or true)…
Christians need to be having faith conversations all the time — not the made up ones where we begin with some insidious question like “where would you go if you died tonight” but the honest conversations of a people designed for faith but crippled by sin from the place where this faith finds the way, the truth, and the life — Jesus Christ!