The Church is Not Like Family

Today I want to reflect on the role of the church in our lives, motivating us to follow Jesus and share his saving love. God encourages us through Paul, in Hebrews 10:23-24, to appreciate the church:

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

The following article by Pastor Dhati Lewis (Blueprint Church, Atlanta) also outlines how close the church really brings us, to God and to one another.

Of all the word pictures and metaphors used to describe the church, one stands out above the rest: family. In fact, it is so much of the essence of the church that it cannot even properly be called a metaphor. Metaphors describe what the church is like or similar to—light, flock, field, building—but family is not metaphorical; it is a literal description of the phenomena we know as church. The church is not like family; it is family.

God is literally our Father, Jesus is literally our elder brother, and we are literally brothers and sisters in Christ. Family is the primary way the early church identified themselves. This can be seen by the fact that the word “disciple,” so prevalent in the early part of the New Testament, disappears after the book of Acts. It is replaced by the term “brother” in the rest of the Bible. Family dominates the self-understanding of the early church. We could argue that this is because of Paul’s letter, but it didn’t come from Paul. It is deeply rooted in the revelation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The Christian Identity as Family

Our creeds and confessions focus on Trinitarian orthodoxy, but Matthew 3 emphasizes the revelation of God as a family. What the revelation of Jesus Christ introduced into the world is that God is more than what we thought, namely that God is family. In our adoption as sons [and daughters], we are brought into the experience of what God has always been. In church life, we are usually more concerned about orthodox statements that express this reality than we are with living out the experience of family.

Paul consistently threads together the Fatherhood of God and believers’ relationships with one another. He cannot think of God outside of His “Fatherness,” and can’t think of believers outside of their ‘brotherhood.’ Our problem is semantics. When we say church, we don’t think family. We have to understand that we are not simply planting a church, we are not starting a Bible study, we are not starting a 501(c)(3); we are establishing a family.

What are the implications of this insight for our everyday lives? Let’s start by asking this question: as family members, how (well) do we appreciate and embrace the support we all have among fellow Jesus followers here at the Church and share that support with those whom God has placed in our lives?

At our most recent faithBuilders “Equipped for Mission” series (Prioritizing for Missional Living, held in April), we discussed how easy it is to compartmentalize our faith/church lives, seeing the ways we ought to share Jesus’ love with others as extra tasks to be done, or as fitting into our lives only if we first accomplish the mundane duties a given day or week requires. We then asked, “What happens if we shift our perspective to one reflective of our missional God, prioritizing missional living within the relationships and communities we already occupy?”

Brothers and sisters, God has placed and equipped each one of us uniquely to connect others to Him by following Jesus’ example – listening to, truly being present with, and responding in love to the people we see each day. Think about your upcoming week, and ask yourself who in your life might need some special care or a listening ear, and make a point to reach out to them! I’m praying Jesus’ words for us this week:

“Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” (John 20:21).

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