“Engaging Families With Jesus”: ELS Convention Essay

One of the highlights of the ELS Convention each year is the essay, which focuses on some particular doctrine or practice of the church. This year’s essay, connected to the overall vision statement of the synod, “Engage Others With Jesus,” was entitled “Engage Families With Jesus.”  Essayist Rev. Donald Moldstad, chaplain of Bethany Lutheran College, presents the home as “Heaven’s Little Embassy” here on earth. Moldstad does an excellent job at showing that the home is a place where evangelism takes place, as parents bring their children to be baptized, and train and nourish them in their faith through regular devotions and by modeling faith and repentance in their own lives. The unique God-given roles of Christian fathers and mothers are clearly presented. Challenges to Christian family life are also addressed, such as divorce, modern culture, false views of family in public education, and pornography. To strengthen our faith and family life, Moldstad directs us back to Luther’s Catechisms, which in turn, direct us to Scripture.

Among the many gems in this essay, these statements stood out as I listened to Moldstad deliver his essay:

As the sainted Prof. Juul Madson once said, “Sometimes sanctification can get in the way of justification.” Staying off drugs, retaining one’s virginity until marriage, etc. are to be treated as wonderful by-products of keeping our families with Christ, but should not become the focus of our theology. The thief on the cross may have come from a broken home, struggled with alcoholism, and lead a rebellious adolescence prior to his conversion. The woman at the well lived in the sin of fornication, had multiple marriages, and yet, by God’s grace came to repentance. How many others in Jesus’ day had all the right outward, moral criteria for being considered a healthy family, and yet lacked repentance and trust in Him alone for salvation? There will be many in hell who had strong marriages, and great parent-child relations. We must keep our eyes on the true target of our faith: heaven through repentance and faith in Christ. (p. 3)

“The Gospel is at work through one person in the home, and the best missionaries are a believing mother or father whose life is a preaching of salvation for their spouses and children. The best missionaries are not ‘the evangelists’ who bring tears to our eyes and cause us to fall on our knees. The best missionaries are parents who bring their children to church for baptism and those who are patient with their unbelieving spouses.” (Dr. David Scaer) (p. 4)

Most certainly father and mother are apostles, bishops, and priests to their children, for it is they who make them acquainted with the Gospel. In short there is no greater or nobler authority on earth than that of parents over their children, for this authority is both spiritual and temporal. (Luther, LW 45: 46) (p. 4)

“Marriage is the foundation of human society, planted by God at creation and sanctified from the beginning. But ever since it was corrupted by the fall into sin, the devil still rages against it, for he knows that when he spoils marriage, he undermines all order of society and makes us like Sodom and Gomorrah… As many as will follow the Lord Jesus must heartily hate this lie of the devil and maintain the sacred, indissoluble nature of marriage.” (Bishop Nils Laache, Book of Family Prayer) (p. 9)

“You cannot feminize the church and keep the men, and you cannot keep the children if you do not keep the men.” (Robbie Low, Church of England) (p. 11)

“’Our Father, Who art in heaven…’ – God would hereby tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children.” God exercises His fatherhood through earthly fathers and mothers. By His design there is to be a link in the chain of authority from Himself through the parents (primarily the father) and then to the child. Learning to have spiritual respect toward the parents is the primary place for teaching a child to have a similar spiritual respect toward God. Veith notes that this cannot be taught – or at best can rarely be taught – by a youth leader or a pastor, or, we might add, a Christian day school teacher. It is best instilled in the mind and heart of the child in the home during the early “plastic stage” of life, as Dr. Paul Kretzmann labels it. (p. 12)

Today it frustrates pastors to see parents abdicate their authority once the child is confirmed, imagining they no longer have a say in the matter of church attendance. We must teach them to retain spiritual control in the home. They have the right to say about worship, “This is a non-negotiable issue.” Think how meaningless the child’s Sunday soccer and basketball leagues will seem to everyone on the Day of Judgment. Trying to be the lenient parent in their youth may be the very attitude that undermines their relation with Christ. Satan beams with joy when he sees parents place a higher priority on a child’s batting average than his connection to Christ. (p. 28)

I hope these quotes have whet your appetite for reading the whole essay. It is now available online by clicking here

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