The Church is a Family
By Shawn Kennedy
Charles Haddon Spurgeon pastored the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, England during the 1800s. It was his writings and messages that inspired and influenced this short, but powerful paragraph concerning the church.
“The church is not an institution for perfect people. It is a sanctuary for sinners saved by the grace of God. A nursery for God’s weak children to be nurtured and grow strong. It is the fold for Christ sheep, the home for Christ family. The church is the dearest place on earth.”
I love that statement. The church is the dearest place on earth. It is a rich and profound statement dripping with meaning and substance. Yet, unfortunately for many of us this statement does not capture our thoughts and experiences when we think of the church.
For many of us, the church is not the DEAREST place on earth. Instead, it has been one of the most DISAPPOINTING places on earth for us.
It has been a place of hurt and pain. A place of frustration and abuse. A place of legalism and confusion. A place that was more concerned with investing into building campaigns, than investing into people. A place that focused more on the outward appearance than on the inward heart condition.
It was inauthentic, toxic and tiring.
It was many things, but one thing it was not. It was not what Jesus intended when He envisioned the church.
IT’S TIME TO STOP GOING TO CHURCH
In our day and age, we have the tendency to think of going to church as an activity that we do on Sunday mornings. In fact, it is not that uncommon for someone to ask another person, “Do you go to church, and if so where do you go to church?”
There are all types of churches out there. There is the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, the Alliance church, the Church of Christ, the Lutheran church and the list goes on and on.
Yet, when you come to the concept of the church in the Bible, it is not a concept that refers to something you GO and DO. It is a concept that refers to something you BECOME and BE.
Surprisingly, the word church in the New Testament is not associated with buildings or a piece of music or a specific type of program or even a denomination. Instead, it refers to a group of people who are saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Jesus alone.
The church is not a building, the church is not a billboard, the church is a gathering of believers in Jesus Christ.
The church is not a place, it’s a people. It is not a monument, it is a movement. It is not built on a pastor, it’s built by and on a person. The person of Jesus Christ.
In fact it was Jesus who said this in response to Peter’s confession of faith in MATTHEW 16:18.
“And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
Jesus says, “I will build my church?” It belongs to me. It is my idea and my vision. It is a called out people who come and put their faith, hope and trust in me.
WHAT DID JESUS ENVISION
If this is true, then it raises the question, what did Jesus envision this church to look like, act like and be like? I think you could use several words to capture the vision Jesus had for the church, but none of them in my opinion is better suited and more descriptive than the word family.
1 TIMOTHY 3:14-15
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household (family), which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.”
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household (family), built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”
The church according to God’s Word is a family who is centered and held together by a relationship to and with Jesus Christ.
WE ALL HAVE THIS IN COMMON
We may all come from different races and ethnic backgrounds. Some of us are tall and some of us are short. Some of us have dark hair and some of us have almost no hair. Some of us are outgoing and some of us are reserved. Some of us are extremely emotional and some of us are extremely intellectual. Yet, if we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, we all have this in common. We are all adopted into God’s family. He is our Heavenly Father and we are brothers and sisters in Christ.
The church is a family! And like any family, when we are healthy there is no greater joy to be found than in each others presence.
I believe there is not a greater picture of the church as a family than what is found in the book of Acts. The book of Acts is the story of the early church. It is here that we find for a brief moment family at it’s best.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Let me share with you four words that describe this family and should by God’s grace and empowerment describe our church families as well.
>THEY WERE A FAMILY THAT WAS DEVOTED
This family is marked by their devotion. They were the type of people that stuck with each other through thick and thin, through hard times and happy times, through sickness and in health. They were devoted!
>THEY WERE A FAMILY THAT WAS UNITED
I think it is important to know that this passage is not saying that they all liked the same color, they all dressed the same, they all read the same books and enjoyed the same hobbies.
Not not all.
If the word devotion spoke to their actions then the word united speaks to their attitude.
As one person commented on this early church…
“There was a refusal to tolerate unresolved conflict, a refusal to say that bitterness or resentment festering day after day or year after year was acceptable. They did not let their differences divide them, but through forgiveness and grace they were united.”
>THEY WERE A FAMILY THAT WAS GENEROUS
They knew what it meant to share. They were generous with their resources and time. They weren’t stingy and they didn’t hold back. They realized all they had was a gift from God. We know that they were not unwise in their generosity. People didn’t sell everything they owned, it says they sold some things they owned.
>THEY WERE A FAMILY THAT WAS GROWING
A healthy church is always a church that is being used by God to make a difference!
The church was never meant to be a gated community. The church was meant to be the container for the hope of the world bringing God’s Kingdom on earth.
IT’S TIME TO START BEING THE CHURCH
I am convinced to my core, when the church is a healthy family that is devoted, united, generous, and growing it is the dearest place on earth.
Shawn Kennedy is a part of the Lead Pastoral Team at Existence Church. He is the co-author of Kingdom Come: A Gospel-Centered Guide to Discipleship. You can follow him on twitter or facebook. Shawn has a passion for helping people love God, love others and make disciples to the glory of God.