What Being a Church Family Means, Part 2


I finally got back to the second part of this short series  (Part 1 here) on the Church as family. The irony is that some of the delay was due to family issues, both biological and Church.

And that’s a good segue into what I want to write about today.

What else derails the tidiness of life like family? Should I view my Facebook wall, there’s a good chance that someone’s talking about plans that went awry because of family issues. In contrast, I’ll see just as many people talking about the blessings they enjoy with their families.

You can’t have one without the other, though.

To a lot of Christians, the mark of a good church is that it doesn’t add any discomfort to their lives. In fact, I believe the number one reason that people choose one church over another relates to comfort. Norman Rockwell - "Connoisseur"(What I don’t ever hear is “The Holy Spirit told us we need to join this church.” If you’ve ever heard someone say that, please let me know. )

What if we chose our biological families based solely on how little they irritate us?

We’d all be orphans.

About a year ago, I wrote on the growing issue of Christians dropping out of church life to go at the Faith as Lone Rangers. That mindset comes, in large part, from an inability to deal with the messiness that accompanies church life.

We lose something when we bolt from the messiness, though. We miss out on the character-building actions that accompany church family problems.

Those of us who have dealt with a dying parent, wayward child, addicted uncle, or perpetually needy cousin will tell you that being forced to walk through that family member’s pain, stupidity, fear, sinfulness, or need forged us stronger. If it didn’t drive us closer to Christ or show us something about our own pain, stupidity, fear, and sinfulness, I’d be shocked.

I think Rick Ianniello read my post last week, because he had a stunning quote on his blog, one I hope will make us all think:

“The central reality of church is a group of people called to an ever-deepening personal belonging of friendship with Jesus of Nazareth. The command is to abide, to dwell in him as he dwelt in the Father. You have an image that Jesus used of total intimacy. But Jesus doesn’t give us a deeper relationship with him apart from his Body. Jesus does not come alone. He can’t because Jesus already has a people, he has a family. And when Jesus comes to us he always bring his family with him. Then we say, ‘No, I want just you. What I’ve heard about you is fairly good but what I’ve heard about your family is not so good.’ And Jesus says, ‘We come together.'”— Gordon Cosby

I’m an unabashed Protestant with a leery eye for Roman Catholicism, but the one thing the Catholics do well is reinforce the idea that there’s no life outside the Church. The Cosby quote  adds to this by making it clear that if you want Jesus, then you just may get the crazy aunt in the attic along with Him. If she’s a believer, that is. And she probably is. (If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you know what I mean.)

Do we think of the Body of Christ as baggage? We may say we don’t, but our actions speak otherwise:

Some lose themselves in a megachurch because they like the anonymity of the masses.

Some show up on Sunday and go invisible the rest of the week.

Some think nothing of dumping a couple grand into the church building fund, yet they can’t loosen the vise on their wallets to help a single mom pay for her son to go to church camp.

Some worry so much about their careers that they can’t take a moment away from climbing the corporate ladder to show up at an elderly church member’s house to see how she’s doing.

Some never once had the thought to sit down and hand-write a letter of gratefulness to the people who helped them become a Christian.

Some praise God with their lips on Sunday morning only to gripe about brother so-and-so on the car ride home an hour later.

Some jump from one church to another and consider themselves wise for doing so.

That last one is more like the life cycle of a common parasite, not a human being, yet this is how some people act with regards to church family.

That said, there is no difference between where the parasite and the genuine member of Christ dwell. If both are true to their natures, they should be right there in the blood and guts of the body, down amid the bile and urine, doing what they do best. Yet one sucks away life and the other gives it.

This Body of Christ, this family of God, is messy. Yet who among us would stand at the cross of Jesus and see only the mess of it and none of the glory?

Other posts in this series:
What Being a Church Family Means, Part 1
What Being a Church Family Means, Part 3

18 thoughts on “What Being a Church Family Means, Part 2

  1. My wife and I chose to invest the last two year in a local church, not because of our own preference, rather because intentional thought in where God can use us the most.

    This choice grew out of prayer and conviction in the following path:

    -The church was one of a handful of churches invested in the Christian community ministry we were involved in at our apartment complex (ie. small groups hosting regular community meals, facilitating childrens events,

    -This church in particular was the best bridge point for connecting neighbors that we were building relationships with to the Church because…
    1. it would not be a culture shock for families coming from lower socio economic status (the church meets in a run down gym)
    2. it is walking distance from our apartments (commuter mega-churches don’t work if you don’t have a car)

    Of course this took a good amount of dying to self as there were other churches that we would have enjoyed more. After a couple weeks this was a non-issue.

    After a couple of months we began to see beautiful fruit in the form of confessions of faith, baptisms, radical acts of service and love directed towards our neighbors who we love so much.

      • If you are curious…

        We have blogged through the last couple years (though not as frequently as I would like) here: http://barberrianvillagers.blogspot.com/

        The movement has grown under the umbrella of Compassion Connect in order to develop a framework for credibility/support from local churches(not financially, but relationally) and now possibly replication. http://compassionconnect.com/

        We’ll be premiering a 2 minute “Apartment Complex Initiative” video in the coming weeks to clearly communicate what God has been doing.

        Following your blog the last few years has been very formational for me in my growth as a disciple of Jesus. It has impacted in one way or another in all of the things I have just mentioned. Thank you for your service to the Kingdom.

        • Thank you, David. I have many issues that I must contend with that have been heavy on me of late. Knowing that Cerulean Sanctum has been a place of growth for you is about the best thing I’ve heard lately.


  2. “We lose something when we bolt from the messiness, though. We miss out on the character-building actions that accompany church family problems.”

    This is true! I am grateful, though, that Jesus didn’t “bolt from the messiness” otherwise we would never have seen him walk this earth! I try to keep in mind his incarnation and humility to get stuck in down here whenever I get tempted to bolt – which is almost on a daily basis.

    Thanks for this post, Dan – hitting home as always 🙂

  3. I visited the church (at least, the congregation with the shingle out front that had the name and the legacy of being the church) where I asked Jesus into my heart a few years ago. I hadn’t been there in years. I went because I passed by their building while driving down the road. What? They finally had a building? Man, I gotta check this out.

    I spoke to one of the elders when I came in and recounted how I asked Jesus into my heart years and years before in their youth ministry. He ended up using me as a sermon illustration as he pointed out the need to reach out to the community. But he also preached about how the church was hurting for money. Oy.

    I had visited this year many times during the years, and every time I went, the congregation was small and the budget was too tight. And it seemed nothing had changed. I went for a long time after that Sunday, but I eventually quit going because (a) I already had a home church on Saturdays; (b) I tried to get involved in the youth ministry, and was pretty much shown the door (now isn’t that ironic, considering my first paragraphs?); and (c) I wanted to put my poems to use in one of their other ministries, and my attempts never went anywhere.

    The church was a good twenty minute drive from my house. Hey, you know, if I won’t be allowed to get involved with the church in anything besides ushering and giving money, well, I can do that at a church within walking distance of my house.

  4. Dan,

    Good continuation to your previous post.

    I love Ephesians 4:1-6

    Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.

    In America we are so quick to find reasons to not fellowship with each other. I believe in baptism by immersion, but my brother believes in baptism by sprinkling. We place so much importance on this issue that he starts his own church and I start mine. This sounds petty, and is, but the point holds. We have myriads of churches and denominations, with slight variations in the overall belief system, and we separate ourselves based on these things. We have the body of Christ fractured into a million organizations we call churches, each with their own “pastor”, differing worship styles, different agendas, etc.
    From my reading of scripture I believe there is only one basis in the NT for distinguishing between bodies of believers: geography. This means that in any given location there is ONE church, and that church would have a group of elders, leading by example, with the overall goal to bring maturity to the body. As the body matures, there are issues that arise. This person rubs wrong against that person, and over time, “iron sharpens iron”. We love each other in spite of our differences, and that is what sets us apart from the world. These are the things you have said, Dan, and I agree fully.

    I guess my point is this: is the organized church the only, or even the best, place to pursue the development of community? My argument is that it is not the best place, as the clergy-laiety distinction removes the onus of each individual to seek Christ on their own, and removes the ability of each member to share the life in them with the rest of the body. If we were to erase all pre-conceived ideas, and evaluate scripture afresh to glean information on how our gatherings should occur, would we come up with the organized church as we see it today?

    • Mark,

      I believe that the major thing that separates our churches is the personality types of the people in them and their resulting likes and dislikes. Sadly, that leads to ghetto-ization, which only increases the likelihood that personality-type blinders will result in obvious lacks in the church and subsequent errors and omissions in theology and practice.

    • Thanks, slw. And thank you for being such a long-term, committed reader. A few days ago, I looked at a post from about five years ago and noted that you had commented on it. That means a lot to me!

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