How to do Family Worship

As a pastor, I desire to help for all of our church families to be passionate about teaching Jesus to their kids. Seminary professor Don Whitney has written a helpful little book called Family Worship to help guide parents as they teach their children about the Lord. There is no substitute for parents faithfully teaching their children about God in the home.
Below is an example of how we, the Pascarella clan, do family worship:
Notice two things:
First, the video is only 1 minutes and 49 seconds. Although I typically read more of the book, my goal is consistency rather than length (at this point). We strive to do this four nights a week for five minutes a night.
Second, some discipline may be necessary. Kids need to learn to sit still. If you’ve ever been around our son, you know he’s very active! But I believe that it is important for him to learn to be still during the reading of God’s Word. Although he may not fully understand what’s happening right now, hopefully he will begin to understand that when daddy opens up the Bible, something important is happening.
 
The Pattern:  Read, Pray, Sing
 
Read: We read a page to two pages out of the Jesus Storybook Bible 
 
Pray: Our “model” prayer is, “Thank you God for…In Jesus’ name. Amen.”
 
Sing: We sing a song out of the Hymns of Grace hymnal

Michael Horton’s Understanding of the Lord’s Supper

From God of Promise: Introducing Covenant Theology:

Salvation and the Sacraments

God of PromiseThe Holy Spirit brings to fruition the “new creation” in Christ. Horton uses speech-act theory in relationship to God’s work in the world, “The Father speaks, the Son is spoken, and the Spirit brings about in history the effect and perfection of this speech” (137). The Father planned salvation, the Son accomplished salvation through His life, death, and resurrection, and the Spirit applies it personally to people. How does the Spirit apply it? He applies it through our faith. But where does faith come from? God’s Word. The preaching of the Word creates faith in believers. A Christian’s faith is then confirmed by the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. The sacraments are signs and seals of God’s covenant promises.

The ceremonies surrounding the sacraments belong to the world of covenant-making (137). Horton writes, “Every time we witness a baptism or receive Communion, God is shaking hands on the deal he has made with us” (137). His hands are the “larger” hands, which enfold ours in this divine-human hand shake. While we must believe the promises given in the covenant, God makes good on them (138). Both the OT and the NT confirm the identity of the sacraments as “signs and seals” of the covenant, which is tied to covenant ratification (138). The sacraments are tied directly to the covenant.

There is a big difference between “religion” and Christianity. Religion tries to placate God through moral efforts, while in Christianity the point is to be, “Summoned and addressed by and bound to the covenant Lord” (139). Therefore, God’s Word is central. Genesis 3:8-10 illustrates the primacy of God’s Word. God’s presence comes as both bad and good news. For those who are rightly related to the Lord, His presence is a blessing. However, to not be rightly related it to fall into the hands of the living God (Hebrews 10:31).

When we talk about God’s presence, we’re not really talking about “space.” God is everywhere; He’s omnipresent. When we talk about being “near” or “far” from God, we’re talking about our relationship to Him (139). Our problem can be summed up with this question: “Where is God for me, for us, given where we are (in sin and death)?” (139).

Whenever Israel took God’s grace for granted, the result was idolatry: a “god” could be near without bringing judgment for our sins (140). (See the golden calf incident in Exodus 32). When Moses intercedes for the people, God’s presence is the response to Moses’ need for reassurance (141). It is God’s presence, not Israel’s righteousness, which is the distinctive mark of Israel.

Moses has an opportunity to gain greater intimacy with the Lord after this incident. Although Moses wants to see God’s “face,” God shows Moses His “back”—which comes in the form of words: an announcements of His glory and goodness (141-42). God’s full presence would be terrifying to sinful creature so He accommodates to our weakness through His words.

God’s face is equivalent with His presence. Thus, when God’s face is “lifted up” and shines on people this a good thing. When it is not, it’s not a good thing.

Paul goes on to argue that God’s presence is found in His Word, as is confirmed in Colossians 1 and Romans 10. “The presence of God is to be sought in His Word and God’s gracious presence is to be sough particularly ‘the word of faith'” (143).

“Only in the consummation is the full presence of God seen, and than in the face of the glorified Son” (cf. Rev. 1:16) (143).  Name, word, proclamation, promise, and presence are covenant words.

Passover and the Lord’s Supper: Covenant Meal

In the Bible, meals often signify the making of a covenant. Recall Moses, Aaron and the elders eating with Yahweh (155). The Bible also ties ritual “cutting” to the actual making of the covenant: “The sign and the thing signified were viewed neither as identical nor in isolation” (155). For example, circumcision could stand in for the covenant. The term “Passover” could stand for the whole Passover event in which later generations identified with the original generation that experienced it. Furthermore, the vassal in a covenant could invoke the suzerain for help. Calling on the name of the Lord is a covenant term for calling on the help of a stronger king. The covenant, therefore, is not only secured (i.e. made) through spoken words, but also through actions. The Passover meal did not create the covenant, but rather confirmed that, yes, there is a covenant with God, and, yes, we are His people.

There is a distinction, yet unity, to the sign and what it signifies: “Paul represents the sign and the thing signified as distinct yet united” (156). The union of the sign and what it signifies is covenantal and centers on the mediator. Paul further shows the unity of the sign and what it signifies by showing that those who eat sacrifices are participants in the altar upon which those sacrifices were made (1 Corinthians 10:18). Eating “united” the participants to the “god” of the altar.

Horton argues for a “third way” between two errors. The first error is “sacerdotal” (Roman Catholic) error: failure to distinguish the sign from the reality. In this view, no sacrament actually exists because the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ. (Thus, they’re no longer bread and wine). The reality obliterates the sign. The second error is the “memorialist” error, which doesn’t recognize any union between the sign and the reality. There is no sacrament here either, because all that is left is the sign itself. The sign does not get attached to the reality: “They are not themselves regarded as the occasions of God’s powerful witness and work” (157).

Horton then analyzes how each view treats the “warning” of 1 Corinthians 11:27-32. The Roman Catholic Church views it as a warning against the wrong view of the Lord’s Supper. You must acknowledge transubstantiation. The memorialist views it as a warning to “rigorous self-examination.” Are you “holy” enough to partake in Communion? (157). Looking at the wider context of 1 Corinthians 8-10,  the Reformed view shows us that the main point is that the, “Sacred meal unites the participants into one body” (158). After the words of institution, Paul gives the warning in 11:27. What he means is that, “One cannot worthily receive the body and blood of Christ in the supper while destroying the body of Christ that is the church” (158). For Paul, the warning of examination is all about how we treat each other in the church. Horton shows from Scripture that, “Wherever there is a discussion of unity in the New Testament, the sacraments are close at hand” (159- Ephesians 4:5; Galatians 3:26-28; 1 Corinthians 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13).

The Lord’s Supper is a covenant meal. Communion confirms God’s pledge to us (“I am Your God”). It is also a “family meal”—a confirmation of our pledge to God and each other (159).  Communion has “vertical” and “horizontal” dimensions. We have “fellowship” with Christ in the meal and thus it binds us in “fellowship” with each other.

The Lord’s Supper as covenant meal has practical implications. First, it unites believers together and does away with worldly divisions. When viewed as a “memorial,” it becomes too focused on the individual and we lose the corporate character of communion. The memorial view also becomes too focused on being threatened by the Law. Consequently, memorialism undercuts the joy of the Supper and causes churches not to want  to celebrate it that often. When it is view corporately, however, we gain joy because it is a foretaste of the divine marriage supper of the Lamb.

Worthiness to partake in the Supper does not depend on the individual clearing his/her conscience. According to Horton, if an individual is not excommunicated by the church, then they are a worthy recipient of the Lord’s Supper, “We need to make clear to our congregations that they cannot excommunicate themselves. After all, excommunication does mean to keep from communion. Yet we do not have this right to excommunicate ourselves” (161). The sacrament is not given to the individual who determines whether they are worthy, but the sacrament is precisely given to strengthen weak faith. Since the sacrament is good news visibly demonstrated (see St. Augustine), then the “worthy eating” is about reverence for what’s taking place, and not divisions within the body of Christ (162).

Spiritual disciplines help us grow. But the Word and sacraments are the means of grace. While we come to God in prayer, God comes to us through Word and sacrament! We cannot bestow grace upon ourselves, only the King can bestow His favor on His subjects. Nothing we do through our own efforts can confirm God’s promises in our lives. Only God can do that. This is why He comes to us and commands us to preach the Word and observe the sacraments (162).

What Do Sacraments Do?

Too often, discussion of the sacraments get caught up in a philosophical question of, “How can material things convey invisible grace?” (163). Roman Catholicism answers: The spiritual obliterates the material (transubstantiation). Memorialism says: material things cannot, so it’s just a remembrance.

We need to think in covenantal terms, not philosophical ones. The bread and wine joined to the Word of God by the Spirit are connected to the heavenly reality. They seal the covenant like the blood shedding and covenant did in the Near Eastern worldview. There is no contrast between spirit and matter. When kings in the ANE pronounced blessing and curses “on the head of a ram,” they weren’t saying that the actual substance of the ram changed, but its use. Now the ram was designated as the “federal head,” it represented the political body connected to the god on behalf of the people.

Furthermore, grace is not a substance, but a personal attribute (164). Grace is God’s own attitude and action that He shows to those who deserve only judgment. If we think in terms of a king bestowing favor rather than a substance being infused into the soul, then much of the confusion is cleared up (164).

The contrast is then not between the material and spiritual but between “this age” and the “age to come.” In this age, we are under constant assault in our consciences. But in the age to come, we will be with Christ. The amazing truth of the gospel is that the age to come has broken into this age through the giving of the Holy Spirit (John 16:8-15). Now, the Holy Spirit brings believers into communion with the physically absent Redeemer (John 14:26). To say that our communion with Christ is spiritual is not saying that it’s opposed to matter. Rather, what we’re talking about it is that it refers to the Holy Spirit. The Spirit makes us participate in the semi-realized new creation (164). The presence of God in this age is a “coming presence.”

The bread is consecrated and thus set apart by words. The words aren’t directed toward the bread, but to the hearers. They are for our benefits. Calvin writes: The sacrament consists of a visible sign, which is connected somehow to the reality. We need to receive this promise by faith. Through faith, we are actually made partakers of Christ’s flesh and blood. Why would Christ command us to eat bread if we didn’t actually participate in Christ’s body and blood?

Calvin speaks of the analogy of bread and flesh. In the Lord’s Supper, Christ condescends down to their level. The Reformers believed that our faith needed these physical sacraments to be sustained. Furthermore, God responded to Abraham by giving him a sign and seal of the covenant (165).

The Reformed Confessions hold to two truths. First, Christ is ascended bodily and therefore is not present in, much less as, the elements. Second, believers nevertheless receive this same Christ. But they received Him in heaven where he is seated on the Father’s right hand. The agent who brings us up to heaven so to speak and makes us commune with Christ is the Holy Spirit (166). We receive in Christ both His divine nature and human (bodily) nature. Thus, the Lord’s Supper is a mystery. The Spirit, takes that which belongs to Christ and gives it to us. The Spirit cries out in our hearts “Abba! Father!” but also effects our communion with the ascended Lord (166).

Communion confirms God’s promises, “The Lord’s Supper is at first God’s certification of His unyielding oath” (167). Christ died for us as the words of institution say. Through our eating and drinking, the new covenant is reconfirmed and supports our faith. It is the actions of God that make the sacraments effective, not our own works (167). The benefits offered by the sacraments are the same the gospel: Christ and all his treasures. The sacraments point to and reconfirm the promises of the gospel (167). The Reformers did not deny the reality of the presence of Christ. They just redefined it biblically. It was a union of the sign and the reality. The Reformed hold that the real presence of Christ is there in the whole of the Lord’s Supper, not just the elements themselves. In the supper, we have the signs and the realities they signify.

God’s presence in the Lord’s Supper is not a question of space, but of relationship (170). God is present, He is near, and He comes in peace. The Lord’s Supper not only looks to the past, but to the future. We look to the coming of Christ (1 Corinthians  11:26). There is close unity between the covenant word and the sacramental ratification (171). The Holy Spirit is our down payment/guarantee and will make us share in the world to come.

Church as the Body of Christ

Baptism is the entry way into the church of Jesus Christ. It is the identifying marker that God has made good on His promises and has brought new life to someone. It is also a public statement to the world that new Christians are now “all-in” with Jesus. They left everything, picked up their crosses, and are following Jesus.

Once we enter the church, we encounter various description, metaphors, and pictures of what the church is. The church can be described as a “temple” (1 Peter 2:4-5), a bride (Revelation 21:9-10), and commonly, the “body of Christ.” What does the Bible mean when it talks about the church being the “body of Christ”? Two main things. First, Jesus is the “head”, meaning that He is the authority over the church. He tells the church what to do and how to do it. Second, the metaphor of church as the body of Christ is used to explain how all Christians are dependent upon each other and work together to advance God’s mission.

Christ as Head

The Bible repeatedly talks about Christ as the “head” (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 4:15, 5:23; Colossians 1:18, 2:10, 2:19).  He is the “head” of men (1 Corinthians 11:3), the church (Ephesians 5:23), and all rule and authority (Colossians 2:10). Christ rules over all people, places, and things. But Christ is especially “head” of the church, because only the church is described as His “body.” Just as our head (i.e. in today’s language brain), guides, directs, and tells our body what to do, so also, Jesus guides, directs, and tells the church what to do.

Ephesians 1:19-23 further describes Jesus relationship as head both to the cosmos and to His body, the church:

These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

Notice that Christ’s rule is based upon His death and resurrection. Jesus died and is raised from the dead, and then seated with God at the supreme place (1:20b).  When Jesus came into the world, He had a job to do: die for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). Due to His complete obedience during His lifetime (what theologians call Jesus’ “active obedience”) and His complete obedience by dying on the cross and fulfilling God’s mission (what theologians call Jesus’ “passive obedience”), God highly exalted Christ and gave Him the most supreme name above all names. Consequently, everyone will bow in adoration of Christ (Philippians 2:6-11).

In Christ’s exalted, post-resurrection state, God has now given Christ “as head over all things for the church.” Christ rules over the whole universe for the benefit of the church (Peter T. O’Brien, Ephesianspg. 145).  The church is then described as Christ’s “body.” Paul, however, explains even further what this means. The church is the Christ’s “fullness.” Christ’s presence fills the church just as God’s presence filled the temple in the Old Testament. What this means is that Jesus is present to bless His people when they gather together. He is present with the church. He sees what’s going on. He guides and directs our decisions. He shows us the different decisions we should be making. He reminds us of our acceptance before God through Him.

But how does Christ rule?

Christ as “head” also means He rules over the church. Christ’s rules over His church through His Word. First of all, the church gets it very existence from God’s Word:

It has been rightly claimed that the church is the creation of the Word (creature verbi). The new birth, as part of the new creation, is effected in the church (i.e., through its ministry of the Word), but not by the church. The individual does not give birth to him- or herself, nor does the community give birth to itself; both are born from above (Jn 3:3 – 5). The origin and source of the church’s existence is neither the autonomous self nor the autonomous church: “So then, it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy” (Ro 9:16). Where there is God’s Word and Spirit, there is faith, and where there is faith there is a church. (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith, pg. 752).

If the church derives its existence from God’s Word, it is entirely natural for Christ to continue to sustain the church through His Word as well as guide and direct (i.e. rule) the church by His Word. Ultimately, all Scripture is Jesus’ Word because all Scripture points to Jesus (Luke 24:27-47). So all of Scripture guides the life of the church, not just the “red words” of Jesus. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament letters, properly interpreted, inform how the church should live in the world.

So what does this mean?

Christ as head fills the church with His presence. So God’s presence does not need to be sought for anywhere else other than in the gospel–The good news that Jesus died for sinners. Once embracing the gospel, we grow in Christ not by looking outside the church but by looking to the practices and forms of worship God has established within the church. Regular corporate worship with all of God’s people who have committed themselves to a local church is foundational for growth.

Since Christ rules over the church by His Word, careful, focused, repeated reading of God’s Word is necessary. To repeat: the foundational activity for growth is to attend corporate worship with open ears. To hear God’s Word prayed, preached, and sung will grow you. Moving into your week, however, calls for further devotion to Word of God. Reading it, memorizing it, and meditating over it are good personal practices for growth. Attending a Bible study or Community Group throughout the week is also a way of being devoted to the word.

Vertical and Horizontal

Christ as the head of the church is a “vertical” reality–how we relate to God. Christ’s presence fills the church and He rules over the church by His word. But being the “body of Christ” also has “horizontal” implications–how we relate to one another as believers. To that horizontal reality is what we will turn to next time.

In Defense of Youth Ministry

I never wanted to do youth ministry. I never had any experience doing youth ministry. Yet, I now find myself three years in with leading my church’s youth ministry.

While I was in seminary, much discussion centered on the need to “rethink” youth ministry. I got the sense that there was a lot of angst surrounding youth ministry. Even now, while doing youth ministry, I still feel a palatable sense of foreboding about youth ministry from many church leaders. For example, many youth pastors feel the burden of the high dropout-rate statistic which get cited frequently: almost 80% of our youth leave the church during college.  Timothy Paul Jones shows that this statistic is not true.

But despite having no basis in reality, the dropout-rate statistic has caused many youth pastors to rethink their model of youth ministry. In recent years there has been the rise of “family-integrated” ministry which does not have any ministries based on age. Youth, teens, and adults are all in the same studies together. Even if not going that far, many churches, including my own, have adopted such lingo as seeing parents as “the primary disciplemakers in their homes.”

Reinvigorating parents to see their vital role in the home is extremely important. But neither the importance of parents nor a faulty statistic should be enough to change the way we do youth ministry substantially.

Furthermore, caricatures of youth ministry do not help. I was surprised to see Peter Leithart commenting on youth ministry, since I figured he was writing some large theology book.  In reality, all he was doing was summarizing James K.A. Smith book, You Are What You LoveHere is Smith’s description of youth ministry in his book:

“We have turned youth ministry into an almost entirely expressivist affair, surmising that what will ‘keep’ young people in the church is a series of opportunities for them to sincerely exhibit their faith. Instead of embodied worship that is formative, we have settled for a dichotomy: an emotive experience as a prelude to the dispensation of information, thirty minutes of stirring music followed by a thirty-minute ‘message'” (145).

I gotta be honest: nothing that Smith describes in this paragraph applies to my (or most) youth groups. I find it odd that Smith would criticize the church for providing “opportunities for them to sincerely exhibit their faith” through youth group. Maybe I am misreading Smith at this point, but isn’t the whole “faith without works is dead” thing about sincerely exhibiting your faith? Sure, we don’t want to elicit a merely emotional reaction in our students. But don’t we want to provide some opportunities to put their faith into action?

The flow of our youth group is like this. We play an hour of games. Then we teach the Bible for 30 minutes, then we break up into smaller groups to discuss and apply the biblical passage for 30 minutes. We pray in our smaller groups. Then we eat snacks.

The “rap” against youth ministry typically seems to be two-fold. First, youth group is light on substance and heavy on fun. Second, youth group is about creating an emotional experience rather than having the students anchored in liturgy and substance.

Let’s answer these each in turn. It’s true that youth group could be seen as purely fun. But it’s also important to remember that students learn and bond through play. Early childhood education makes this case persuasively. Teenagers aren’t too different. Playing games and having fun creates a shared common experience, especially with adult leaders. Furthermore, males usually learn by sharing a common challenge or experience. It can be very difficult to have most teenage boys open up about their lives when sitting in small groups. But when coupling that small group time with games and fun, it is a powerful way to get to know them and connect on a deeper level.

It’s also important not to place too much emphasis on youth ministry. Youth Groups are one piece of a much larger pie. Don’t expect youth group to save your teenager. Don’t look to youth group to be the primary place where students learn biblical truth–the Sunday morning worship services should be that place. Don’t see Youth Group as exempting you from your biblical role as the primary disciplemaker.

Here’s why “traditional” youth ministry is still important and effective:

1. Students need Christian friends their age

You need people going through the same things you are who also believe the same things you do.  Even as adult Christians, we recognize the importance of deep friendships with people our own age. Why are students any different? Youth Group gives them a space to connect with their friends also in the context of learning Scripture.

2. Youth Group helps students bond to other Christian adults who aren’t their parents

Christian Smith, in his study called The National Study of Youth and Religion, found six factors which contributed to a student “staying Christian” through the transition to adulthood. One of the six factors was that the teen has many adults in a congregation to turn to for help and support (found in It’s Not Too Late by Dan Dupee). Let’s be honest: teenagers aren’t known for being super open with their parents. Even if you’re the world’s best parent, there still will be times when your kids clam up. They need other Christian adults to turn to. Youth leaders can help fill this gap.

So what is our Youth Group all about?

Two things: relationships and God’s Word. That’s it. We try to velcro students in deep friendship to each other and the leaders. We try to teach them the Bible and let them read it for themselves. That’s the hole that youth ministry fills. Your role as a parent indeed is to be the “primary disciplemaker” in your teenager’s life. Youth ministry cannot replace that. But Youth Group can do other things really well: foster friendships with other Christians and promote Bible study.

 

 

Fatherhood for Older Father’s

Two weeks ago I preached on fatherhood from Ephesians 6:4. Unfortunately, due to a congregational medical emergency, I wasn’t able to conclude my message. Here is my conclusion:

Some of you in here may be thinking, “What can I do? My children are all grown up and out of the house! I’ve blown it with my kids!”

Parents who have adult children can express much regret after hearing about God’s calling to raise up their children “in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). For some, they regret not being a Christian during the time when they were raising children. Having come to Christ later in life, they look back and see how their sin has alienated or hurt their children. For others, they regret that although they knew Christ, they did not take God’s Word seriously enough to seriously invest in their children spiritually.

Either way, you may find yourself in a position where your children are adults and out of the house, and seemingly far away from you–both physically and spiritually.

It’s not too late.

It’s not too late to begin repairing any damage that was done. And it’s not too late to begin influencing your adult children for Christ. But how?

It first comes with an acknowledgement that God is a God of restoration. God delights in taking our lost and ruined lives and restoring them. All of us are made in the image of God. But due to our sin, that image has been corrupted and effaced. Yet through Jesus we are “being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him” (Colossians 3:10). God loves restoring things. Especially the lives of His image-bearers. He can bring restoration to your relationships with your adult children. He will do it through the gospel of Jesus Christ. By seeing your own sin and “owning” your own sin, God will bring you to the point of crying out for forgiveness. The Bible tells us that forgiveness was purchased for us through the brutal crucifixion of our Lord and His glorious resurrection from the dead. In Christ, you can be forgiven of all things–even parenting mistakes.

Remembering your forgiveness in Christ, then, gives you the power to forgive and reconcile with others–even your own children.

It’s easy to allow objections to flood our minds, however: “But what’s the point, it’s been so long!” Years may have passed since you’ve even had a meaningful conversation with your child.

It’s not too late.

Think about this way: Imagine you’ve been estranged from your child for 50 years. 50 years! That’s a long time. Now on your deathbed, your child comes to you. Would it be pointless to reconcile? Does it make sense to say, “What’s the point now. I’m almost dead. It’s been too long.”? No way! Of course you would reconcile. And although for yourself it may be too late to really build upon your relationship (since you’re on your deathbed in this imaginary scenario)…think about all the good it would do for your child! Reconciling on your deathbed may actually change the course of his/her life! The focus isn’t so much upon what you could get out of it, but upon the good that it would do for your child.

So why not now?

You’re not a failure as a parent. God has brought you on this journey so far and He has brought you to this point. You can’t go back and re-do their childhood years. But you can make a fresh start today to reach out to your children.

With God’s help, it’s not too late.

Suburban Ministry–The Challenges of Reaching Men, Pt. 2

In a previous post, I looked at some of the challenges of reaching men in suburban culture. The two issues I raised were “pragmatic” issues: busyness and scheduling. They are practical realities which affect (afflict?) men in my Northeastern suburban context, about 45 minutes outside of NYC.

Today, I want to explore some further issues in reaching men, more “worldview” or theological issues.

Money
“You cannot serve both God and money,” Jesus said  (Matthew 6:24). Money dominates the landscape in NYC and the surrounding suburbs. Some of it is practical: you cannot get a good paying job unless you work in NYC. But some men are driven by money to work crazy long hours and make intense sacrifices.

Work
This is corollary to money but  a little bit different. While some men might be driven by greed, others are driven by the need to accomplish something great. This will lead them to sacrifice their marriages, and families, to build their careers. It may not even be the greatest paying job in the world, but the desire to achieve greatness at work pulls many men away from their families and the Christian faith.

Commuter Culture
Money and work put together creates a commuter culture where people will drive all over the place for work. Mothers will drive their pre-school age children 30 minutes to preschool. It’s insane. The 4 for 1 rule is always good to apply in Monmouth County. It takes 4 minutes to drive 1 mile!

Family
Surprisingly, family plays a huge role in many of the lives of people in Monmouth County. “That’s surprising?!?!” you might be thinking. It is to me, especially since you hear stories of and see the statistics of the family breakdown throughout our country. I think a few things mitigate the factors of family breakdown in Monmouth. The first is affluence. The studies show that wealthy people are still marrying and marrying at a higher rate than poor people. It’s true that the sexual revolution affects the poor much more than the rich. For example, if a daughter gets pregnant at 16 and decides to keep the baby, it may lock in that girl to a cycle of poverty if she comes from a poor area. If she was the daughter of a rich family, they could easily afford an abortion. Or they could bring around their daughter all of the necessary “supports” to keep her going on track for a “good” life: tutors, day care expenses, etc.

There is also a large Italian population with its emphasis on family. Tradition still holds a grip on families quite a bit. Although the theological content of Roman Catholicism seems to have been sucked out of many families, the cultural staying power of Catholicism is actually pretty impressive to see. Even nominal Catholicism still seems to bind families together in a surprising way by today’s secular standards/