FIRST-PERSON: A fresh call to the family altar

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)--For most families across our nation (and throughout the Southern Baptist Convention) the "family altar" is considered a relic of the past. While some hold firmly to the individual practice of a daily, personal "quiet time," many openly confess that such a practice is attended to only sporadically, or not at all.

The family altar, a time when the entire family gathers for Bible study, prayer and a mutual expression of love, understanding and mission, has been virtually replaced by a myriad of activities and our all-consuming attachment to media. Far more is said about the "family viewing hour" on television than the "family hour" of devotion. This is an issue which the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life hopes to remedy.

The Word of God, prayer and a sense of family togetherness are indispensable elements for effectively facing the challenges of life. It is at the family altar that children come to appreciate the faith of their parents, and parents come to understand and connect with the hearts of their children.

For this reason, the SBC Council on Family Life urges every family to set aside one night every week as "family night," a night of Bible study, prayer, establishing family goals, planning family mission projects and developing a sense of teamwork. This night should be a fixed order of business on the family schedule, chosen because it will not interfere with either worship or other activities. It should be planned for in advance and approached with an attitude of openness and inclusiveness. In fact, the simple process of scheduling your own family night can become an exercise in which your family can participate together.

The large single adult population presents special challenges and opportunities when thinking through your approach to a family night. Families are urged to invite the participation of singles. This would include senior adults whose wisdom and maturity would be a benediction on your home AND younger singles who are away from their own families and can help you think "outside the box" when considering how to fulfill the Great Commission. Couples are challenged to include others as well in their own weekly time of devotion, Bible study and planning for Great Commission Projects. Many of our SBC entities have made available an incredible array of resources for a weekly family night.

This major emphasis on family night is a fresh call to Southern Baptists at a crucial moment in history. It has the potential for becoming a catalyst for spiritual awakening in our nation, providing an atmosphere in which God may be pleased to send revival. It will demand creativity, diligence, faithfulness and sacrifice, but the rewards far outweigh any of these costs.

For many Southern Baptists this will be a new experience which will bring untold blessing to their homes. But it is in the home that God desires each of us to first hear his Word, call on him in prayer and focus our energies on the fulfillment of our Lord's Great Commission. Every Southern Baptist is urged to heed this fresh call to the family altar.


Elliff is pastor of the Oklahoma City-area First Southern Baptist Church in Del City and chairman of the Southern Baptist Council on Family Life which, in conjunction with the SBC Pastors' Conference and LifeWay Christian Resources, is inviting Southern Baptists to the SBC's first-ever Kingdom Family Rally June 16 in Phoenix, Ariz.