Monday, January 31, 2011


Mary and I just finished a weekend family life conference at the First Baptist Church of Tahlequah Oklahoma. Buddy Hunt is the pastor serving with a great staff and many volunteers who made for a great time. I concluded my part of the conference by preaching the Sunday morning message entitled "The Family--Function & Form."

My purpose here is not to regurgitate a message onto the blogging community, but to emphasize one point that was presented. The title makes that point. Function and Form are, in fact, two different ideas that, when understood, will help clarify anything being discussed. So the purpose of this present writing is to try to briefly explain the two and draw some biblical implications as a result.

Take function first. By definition function is, as Webster's New American Dictionary says, "The particular purpose for which a thing exits. In other words, what or why something is and has to do with "being" instead of "doing." To bottomline the point being made, function addresses the reason a thing is instead of how a thing is done.

As an illustration, take my hand. My hand exists for the purpose of doing WHATEVER my brain says is to be done. If I have an itch on my arm my brain tells my hand to scratch it, and it does. That's fulfilling function or the reason for which the hand exits.

The second word is form. By definition form is, as Webster's New American Dictionary says, "The established manner of doing something." This is the method followed or the way something is done. It has to do with "doing" instead of "being." To bottomline this point, form addresses the action done rather than why something needs to be done.

To go back to my illustration, my hand, being told to scratch an itch, could do it with the fingers OR rub it with the palm. That would be choosing a form with which to accomplish a need. The form can alter or change as the circumstances dictate. [A deep itch requires a deep long rub.]

My personal perspective is that the Bible is a guidebook for function rather than a handbook on forms. This is important because the implication would be that functions are, therefore, sacred but forms are not. So the form something takes to fulfill a function is not an issue of sacredness or "Because the bible said so." It doesn't address forms. I'll give a few illustrations of this for clarification.

The function of prayer is that we might, in our spirit, commune with God who is Spirit. That is the purpose of prayer. From this purpose can come wisdom, [If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God...] direction, understanding, and a host of things, but it is the function the bible speaks about.

How prayer is done is another thing. Someone might suggest that one can bow the head and close the eyes to effectively shut out everything. Good idea. Unless or until someone says you have to bow your head and close your eyes for it to be REAL prayer. Some say to pray early in the morning is the best. Nothing wrong with that. The Psalmist did. But there is no command that such a form is to be the practice of EVERY Christian. The form prayer takes is NOT sacred and to make it so is to go beyond the scriptures.

The hook and eye Dutch of Pennsylvania read where the bible says "Come out from among them and be ye separate..." So they make their clothes with hooks and eyes instead of buttons. Nothing wrong with having hooks & eyes, unless you make it a sacred thing that one MUST do to fulfill that verse. That moves from function to form and makes the form a biblical mandate which is clearly reading something into scripture.

Now apply this to the family. A man is to "BE" to the family..a woman is to "BE" to the family..children are to "BE" to the family. There are functions clearly involved scripturally in making a family or home godly in nature. Being built on the foundation of Christ, then functioning by serving, breadwinning, nurturing, teaching, training, housework, cooking, and a lot more that could be listed.

The one thing we do know for certain is that the birthing will be done by the woman. But the form or shape that comes about for all those other functions to be fulfilled, including teaching and nurturing of the children birthed, are NOT stated and can take a variety of shapes or forms to be accomplished.

I'm convinced that too much of what is reflected in family life today is more cultural than Christian and I'm not speaking of our society here but of our churches. Defined roles and responsibilities have taken on a sacred tone that is far beyond the scripture and what is masculine or feminine can get bent way out of shape scripturally.

To be candid with you, I've had to go through the text and language of every one of the three or four passages [Eph.5/Col.3/1Tim.2:12] that seem, to some at least, to establish the man as the one who does certain things a certain way. I can honestly say that my attempt to correctly translating the language of those passages in context has ONLY re-enforced the perspective I'm sharing here.

This is the essence of what was shared and illustrated over the weekend. What do you think?

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


Good stuff!

"....too much of what is reflected in family life today is more cultural than Christian and I'm not speaking of our society here but of our churches".

"cultural": Do you mean secular, church/traditional, or both?

How I wish more of our brethren would see that there is only ONE Head of the home, and He is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is equally Head over father, mother and children, as you say, "the same as the Church."

When Old Covenant headship is replaced by New Covenant headship, far less time would need to be spent in, so-called, counselling, which often ends as pouring oil on troubled water instead of dealing with the issues at hand.

A plaque which often hung unnoticed in homes said, "Christ is the Head of this house; the Unseen Guest at every meal; the Silent Listener to every conversation".

When parents can teach and model the grace of New Covenant headship, as demonstrated by Christ with His Church, we will begin to see the changes we so desperately need.

Law will only engender rebellion!

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I remember that plaque well. We had one.

I'm continuing to remember you and your wife in prayer. The news out of your home country weather wise is still not good. Hope all is well.

We awoke to about 4 inches of snow with the prediction to be as much as 18 inches in our area. Beautiful stuff but if it happens it will be impossible to move around outside.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for your prayers. All IS well!

Strangely enough, after the many inches of rain we've had, it has only taken a few weeks of very hot (88 deg. F.) weather to cause us, in the S.E. corner of Queensland, to need a shower or two (of rain, that is). You can take it for granted that with the extreme humidity which accompanied the heat, we, personally, needed more than a shower or two :)

It seems that,in about 13 hours time, Cairns in North Queensland, just over 1000 miles north of us, are to receive a cyclone which will be as big or bigger than your Katrina experience.

Hospitals have been evacuated and something in the order of 30,000 people have had to leave their homes.

You speak of snow. Word verification is "skier"!

Rex Ray said...

Now that’s what I call writing that can be understood. Thanks for defining ‘function’ and ‘form’ so clear.

Pharisees twisted ‘function’ into ‘form’: “…Teaching for doctrine the commands of men.” (Matthew 15:9)

Your “Because the bible said so” reminds me of my uncle arguing a man killed Saul: “Its in the bible – don’t you believe the bible?”

Paul Burleson said...


I think your assessment of the Pharisees is spot on. For those back then AND present day. Thanks for commenting.

Rex Ray said...

How would the ‘we’ work in the following?

A man said to the dentist, "Doc, I'm in a hurry. I have two buddies waiting to go deer hunting and our feeders go off in thirty minutes - don't have time for anesthetic! Just pull the tooth.”

The dentist thought, ‘this sure is a brave guy’ - "Which tooth is it?"

"Honey, open your mouth, and show him.”

Paul Burleson said...


Now that's FUNNY.

Don't worry about the "we" there. Won't be one as soon as she's able to see the lawyer. ;)

Rex Ray said...

You’re probably right, but I’m thinking she may be singing that old song to the judge: “I didn’t know the gun was loaded…”

Paul Burleson said...


Either way she comes out the winner in my books. ;-)