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Cultivating Christian Culture in Your Home

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Pastor, I take my kids to Church and they’re bored. I take them to youth group and all they care about is the Mountain Dew and Pizza. I bought them a Bible that they don’t read. What can I do?

Does that sound familiar? For years I have counseled Christian parents who say things like this. There is no quick fix for it.

Specific behavior grows out of general culture. Think about your professional life. When you have enjoyed going to work it was a series of things that made being at work enjoyable. Sometimes we can pinpoint one problem and fix it, but those cases are rare. Families are just like other organizations. They have cultures.

Thankfully though, the Bible gives us insights and commands as to our habits, attitudes, and practices that can cause a seismic shift in our family’s culture.  God wants our families to thrive spiritually! Culture shifts take time, but they are the most productive way to long-term and lasting change. We can’t punish or praise our way out of this one. We are going to have to apply the spirit of instruction in . “If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles.” (NLT) This former soldier is asking you to carry your family’s gear one mile more than is obviously needful and then go a mile farther for family success.

Go further than church. A hand held on mission is worth two holding a hymnal on Sunday morning. “Someday serve the Lord with what I’m teaching you” can never replace “Let’s go serve the Lord together today.” Church is a place for relationship. It matters. However, that relationship is supposed to go further than the front door of a sanctuary or even baking cookies in the fellowship hall.

In 2015, my wife and I moved our four kids to Haiti to establish the ongoing work we have in that desperate and beautiful place. We immediately brought a fifth child into our home. My kids don’t see adoption as an abstraction. She’s their sister. My kids don’t see the mission of God as a Sunday School concept. It’s their life. Racial reconciliation? What’s that? They just do authentic Christian life with everybody.

Now, this is not an essay in self-righteousness. My kids are still kids. We still have plenty of struggles. Still, God has allowed our family to enter into a lifestyle of what I sometimes call “assumptive Christianity.”  We have taken quite literally dozens of other families on mission in Haiti and watched the same thing happen in their lives.

Do you want kids that are more spiritual? Do you want your children not to drop their faith the second you stop dropping them off at youth group? Well, we have to lead them further than the front door of the Church into a life of mission for God. A half-hearted occasional mission trip divorced from daily life won’t cut it. It is a lifestyle.

In the author writes, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” (NLT)

I have this wonderful little picture of my middle son walking the streets of his beloved Haiti holding hands with kids from the community. It is one of my favorite pictures from Haiti. He is probably the most relational of my kids. He loves babies and everybody, really. He’s a people person and has hopes of pastoral ministry and missionary work one day, just like his dad. After a year of doing life full-time in Haiti, he was the most upset about moving back to America. I tried to explain to him that he’d be back often. He was inconsolable. Now, we return often (my wife and kids are in Haiti for extended times), but he is a kid and didn’t know what the future would bring. Through his tears, he finally said, “In Haiti when another Christian is your friend you know they are your friend. They’ll come at midnight if you need them. In America you can be in a room full of people at Church and feel alone.”

We need to go further than Sunday worship and gatherings in Church buildings. Christian family culture springs up from Christian families working together to glorify God in the world.

You do not have to go to Haiti to get on mission, but how can you go further than church?

Go further than instruction. Mom and dad, you and I have to be what we want them to become. We have to provide and recognizable pattern of lived faith. If we want to cultivate Christian character in our kids, we have to give them clear examples of it in our selves. There is no other way.

I teach a Karate-based discipleship program. In fact, my kids are among the students. Teaching Totally Christian Karate has required this old Marine to stretch and use muscles that prefer dormancy. But, if I want the kids to learn the physical movements, I have to demonstrate them at a high level of proficiency. Describing a sidekick simply cannot replace demonstrating one.

I don’t mean to sound all “Mr. Miyagi” on you, but this is one of those times that the work we thought was for someone else is actually for us. One day in Haiti my youngest daughter was my teacher. We were visiting the Matthew 25 House (our ministry’s elderly care home) when she said, “Hey daddy, I thought you said these old ladies are like grandmas God gave me. Why are you in such a hurry to leave?”

Ouch! I was focusing so much on the business of ministry that I was forgetting the actual stuff of ministry. I was in a hurry for my next appointment instead of dwelling in a divinely appointed moment.

Your family’s appointment may or may not be in Haiti or even on a foreign mission field, but our Christian families all have divinely appointed opportunities to go further than church. All Christian parents must go further than “do as I say” Christian discipleship while we sit on the couch. Let’s go beyond trimming the hedges of limited Christian fruit and go to the root of shifting the culture of our homes in a decidedly Christian direction.

I greatly suspect that your church has plenty of opportunities to go further than church. Your pastor is probably waiting for you to sign up. It takes more work to go further than instruction, but real parental spiritual leadership demands it.

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About The Author


Dr. Chris Surber is a disciple-making minister and missionary. He, his wonderful wife, and five children have made their home in Michigan, where Chris serves as the Senior Pastor at Mt. Hope Congregational Church in Livonia. Chris is also Co-founder and Executive Director of Supply and Multiply in Montrouis, Haiti, a ministry which equips and empowers indigenous Christians through various programs including Bible clubs, agricultural development, and elderly care housing. Chris enjoys writing books, articles, and columns to inspire faith and provoke thought for the Christian Church and the