Recently we began to exam a new publication of Crossway that I requested for review. The book is Donald S. Whitney’s Family Worship (2016, 80 pp.), which includes a nice chapter covering “family worship in church history”.
Chapter 2’s full title is “Here the Reformation Must Begin,” and in it Whitney gives a brief survey of how family worship was treated in the history of the church – for better and for worse. It includes this summary of what happened prior to and under Martin Luther, and why the Reformation was also a reformation of family worship.
As individual access to the Bible became increasingly rare and expensive, and with progressively more hierarchical clergy, family worship generally declined into dust from about this point in Christian history until the Reformation [That is, from the time of Chrysostom (c.349-407) referenced just before Luther]. But when the Bible reentered the house, so did family worship. By the time of Martin Luther (1483-1546), the trend began to reverse and the windows of a recovery of family worship were thrown open.
Luther preached almost every day, pastored a church, and wrote massive amounts of theology and Bible commentary. But he also recognized that like any other Christian husband and father, he had the responsibility to be the worship-leading pastor of his family. In one place Luther wrote of
Abraham [who] had in his tent a house of God and a church, just as today any godly and pious head of a household instructs his children…in godliness. Therefore such a house is actually a school and church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house (p.30).