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The church is a family

What emotions, events and thoughts come to mind when you think of family? God being us into his family and it changes the way we view what it means to be the church.

Written by Mike Biolsi on .


ASK: define “family” for me. What emotions come to mind? What events/activities come to mind?

Family is defined by relationship.

  • Biological family
  • Legal family (in-laws, adoption)

Regardless of whether they are legal or biological they are family. Nowadays we have a lot of “blended” families where blood relatives share one common parent but may have a different second parent and also may have several legal siblings. This is still a family.

Family is still family, even if:

  • they don’t get along
  • move away
  • annoy us to tears

They are family until they leave this world and return to the dust. You cannot get rid of them.

We often refer to “our church family”, but I would venture to say that the modern church in American, and even NCF, is not truly experiencing what it means to be a family.

ASK: What is the difference between a house and a family?

A house is a structure that can be full or empty but has no soul or relationships, just memories. It provides for a basic survival need for shelter. A family is about relationships that transcend the walls of a home. A house is made of materials, a family is made of relationships. A house is a single location but a family has no geographical bounds it is a family wherever it goes

Many modern churches are simply organizations for meeting basic or emergency needs. They are more like a house than a household.

Now, the early church met in people’s houses.

15 Give my greetings to the brothers and sisters in Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her home. // Colossians 4:15 CSB

Just because they met in homes, that did not make them a household or a family. That was just the place they met, much like this building we are in is a church building, but that does not make it a church.

The church is a family

5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. // Ephesians 1:5 NLT

The church IS God’s household – HIS FAMILY. We become part of God’s family through Jesus

Our brokenness separates us from God. It started in the garden with Adam and Eve and continues to this day. However, God has been pursuing us for that long as well, and it has been his plan from the beginning to redeem us and adopt us.

God WANTS to restore our relationship with Him. God WANTS to adopt us into his family. God does this through Jesus. When we accept Jesus as our Rescuer we become a part of God’s family. NOT because God is obligated to accept us, nor because we deserve to be adopted, but because HE WANTS to, and it makes him HAPPY.

4 When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba, Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then God has made you an heir. // Galatians 4:4–7 CSB

19 So then you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints, and members of God’s household, // Ephesians 2:19 CSB

If you have accepted Jesus as your Savior, your Rescuer, you are a child of God.  Say that with me, “I am a child of God” Now say it again. And say it again and again until the reality of that sinks in:

  • I am a child of the God of Creation
  • I am a child of the King of Kings
  • I am a child of the Sustainer of the universe
  • I am a child of the God who provides
  • I am a child of the God who loves me and gave up his Son for me
  • I am a child of God

You see, part of being a Jesus-follower is that you get a new identity as part of God’s family. (Feels like a whole new sermon series coming on ? But that will be in September.)

Being a part of God’s family changes things. A lot. The brokenness of this world is redeemed because of God, and as his family we begin to see the way that He redeems and restores things:

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! // 2 Corinthians 5:17 CSB

The implications of being a part of God’s family are astounding! It changes things. It restores things. It transforms relationship, hearts, minds and mission.

Being in God’s family changes my relationships

First, we know Jesus is the Son of God. So if he is the Son and we are the children, that means that you and I are actually the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Does that sounds bizarre to you? Well, let’s see what Jesus said:

46 While he was still speaking with the crowds, his mother and brothers were standing outside wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to the one who was speaking to him, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” 49 Stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” // Matthew 12:46–50 CSB

Being members of God’s family means that you and I are related. We have the same Father. If you are a Jesus-follower we are brother and sister. You and I are brothers and sisters. Family.

Paul refers to the saints (you and me) as his brothers and sisters.

1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by God’s will, and Timothy our brother: 2 To the saints in Christ at Colossae, who are faithful brothers and sisters. Grace to you and peace from God our Father. // Colossians 1:1–2 CSB

The CSB uses the phrase “brothers and sisters” 154 times in 153 verses in the NT.

“You can choose your friends but you sho' can't choose your family, an' they're still kin to you no matter whether you acknowledge 'em or not, and it makes you look right silly when you don't.” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

So, like it or not, you and I are related. We should probably act like it and acknowledge it, eh?

Being in God’s family changes my leadership

ASK: What do you look for in a Pastor/Elder? [wisdom, experience, degree, big beard, etc]

We sometimes call each other brother and sister. I personally prefer that over pastor or elder. Pastor has too much negative baggage and too many unbiblical or extrabiblical expectations. Elder just makes we sound old.

Titles mean very little. In God’s eyes I might be called an “under shepherd” or “overseer” but as far as how you and I are connected, we are brothers and sisters.  That means we have the same Father. We come from the same blood line – the blood of Jesus.

7 As an overseer of God’s household, he must be blameless: not arrogant, not hot-tempered, not an excessive drinker, not a bully, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, // Titus 1:7–8 CSB

The biblical qualifications for an elder have very little to do with theology degree and a LOT to do with relationship: with God and others in “God’s household”.

As an elder, I need to be able to manage my household/family well as proof that I am able to manage God’s household/family well.

4 He must manage his own household competently and have his children under control with all dignity. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of God’s church?) // 1 Timothy 3:4–5 CSB

Why did God use family here? Because that is what we are! It doesn’t say elders need to manage their business well, or their property well, but their household. Even when you read the rest of the qualifications for elders, how many of them “fit” the modern qualifications of a elder? How many of them are purely relational?

Understanding this verse in light of being a family has very much changed my perspective on what it means to lead the church… it is like leading a family: messy, involved, fun, and a life-on-life experience. We do not run our families like board meetings, nor do we schedule times once a week to catch up with our family for 10 minutes (though that might be helpful at times).

Church leadership needs to be relational. If the church is people who are a part of God’s family, and elders are called to lead God’s household well, then the elders’ leadership must be that of doing life with the family.

Being in God’s family changes our ministry.

I don’t want to dive too much into this today because we are going to look at this more next week. But I want us to consider what James says is the definition of pure religion and allow it to start reshaping our vision of ministry.

James defines PURE religion as this:

27 Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world. // James 1:27 CSB

Why widows? They have no family. Why orphans? They have no family. We are called to be a family. Religion is meant to promote family – to be an earthly model of the family that God has given us through Jesus.

What if we really believed that? What if we believed that spending time with those who have no family is one of the best ways to do ministry. What types of ministries does a typical church have? We place a lot of weight on Bible study, and we should! But do we see eating a meal with someone who has lost a spouse as valid of a ministry?

We need to figure out how to transition our thinking from programs to people, from religion to relationships, from to-dos to spending time together and from meetings to meals. [that might need to be unpacked a bit more]

In God’s family, there is:

  • Biological family (Jesus)
  • Legal family (you and me)

We are family, even if we don’t get along, move away or annoy each other to tears. This relationship is so strong that not even death will stop us from being family.

Last week I asked you to pray that God would show you what part of the body of Christ you are and how you might live that out at home, work and in your community.

Being a part of the body means living in connected community. It means being a family. We use our giftedness through relationships. We serve, love and grow as we live life together as a family.

This week, I want to encourage you to try to get together with at least 2 people from church over the next two weeks. Find someone near you right now and swap numbers with them. Have dinner, play games, ask questions, get to know each other.

The church is a family