At this point in my life, my kids are almost grown up.
They are forging into their unique life paths, testing, experimenting and learning on their own the faithfulness of God in new ways as adults with adult issues.
I see the fruit of their dad and my labors on their behalf, to form a family, these past 24 years. And labor it was!
From learning how to live as a couple, birthing and raising children, struggling with our selfishness as we strove to die to ourselves. Laying down our own agendas for the sake of the health of our family. The trial of figuring out parenting while doing it (and making lots of mistakes you pray won't wreck them). Seeking God continually for wisdom, guidance, patience, forgiveness, mercy, grace, and asking Him continually for more than what we, as husband and wife, as parents, had to give each day. A complete labor of love, and not without cost and trials. It's a lot of work to have a family!
What formed, unfolding slowly, was a family of five. A family committed in love to each other, seeing the good, the bad and the often really ugly stuff in each other. A family who nurtured, equipped and built character in each member. A family that is outwardly focused in launching three young persons uniquely into their destinies and hopefully starting new families of their own! A family filling the hearts of the parents with gratitude and awe. If I've participated in anything of any value in my life, my family is it. No ministry can compare, no achievement more valuable. No fruit as sweet.
Sound like church to you? Probably not.
Do you instead, think of a large building, with all the latest technology, modern and awe inspiring, filled with hundreds of people every Sunday?
Or do you think of the charismatic, dynamic, thought provoking preaching platform that you take pride in when telling others of "where you go to church"?
Possibly your one that goes to church every Sunday simply out of guilt and worry about what everyone else will think if your not there with a smile on your face and your weekly check in; "Hi, how are you?", before moving to your regular seating position.
Maybe you meet in a cool "third place", where the coffee is good and the atmosphere trendy.
Or possibly, your one of the most recent 7% polled that claim they have church in their home.
If you do, I want to challenge you that your still seeing church as a place to go, some place to attend for a specific time, to give or receive something that makes you feel it was worthwhile. Now, that could be a business, a community event, a project of value, a job, college, a mission, but that's not what I believe Christ refers to as His Church, His Bride, His Body.
Whatever the venue for how you find fellowship, intimacy, accountability, maturity and ultimately fruit in your life as a Christian, do you think it is a good representation of the word "family"? You see, because I believe that family is exactly how God wants us to view our fellowship together. He even went to all the trouble to create the first one with Adam and Eve, and THEN even had the humility to set Jesus into the most humble and nondescript kind!
Why? Simply to raise children in the most healthy way? Or is it to give us the blueprint for forming strong, meaningful, intimate, lasting, and fruitful relationships for eternity?
Why would God continually use the word Father, to describe Himself in relationship to us, and Jesus as His Son, and our brother (as well as Saviour, Lord, King).
If God sees us as a family, joined as a living Body, relationally intimate and nurturing, why do we keep taking it to institutional, organizational and superficial levels of intimacy?
Maybe because most of us come from unhealthy, dysfunctional examples of family. We have not experienced an example of what healthy families look and act like. We may even be fearful or uncomfortable with those kind of relationships because we've learned "families are not safe, good places", and we protect ourselves now from further hurt and disappointment.
Whatever your reason, it does not change the fact that the ultimate way for us to experience God, Jesus and the life of The Body of Christ together, should be experienced in the context of families.
Families where the leaders (the parents) invest in each other with mutual support and encouragement. Without competition, power struggles, selfishness, or ambition obeying the scriptures in; "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4
Families where everyone lives within the natural rhythms of life together. Sharing the normal, every day experiences that make up the essence of our lives, not just the super highs like a wedding, or the super lows as in illness or death, but everyday life issues. The good, the difficult, the joyous, the defeats, all shared together. Life, not snippets of life moments.
Families where forgiveness, understanding and long suffering flows. Restoration is valued. Commitment; a given.
Families where love and relationships to one another are forever! Not until you move to another state or "church". That is our western "here today, gone tomorrow" mentality of relationships, not family.
I think God, as The Father, set us in natural families to give us the model for His Divine Families. We mess up the model with all our imperfections and wounds, of course.
But the model still stands there for us to learn how to love, serve, relate, multiply, train and all the rest.
The scriptures are filled with good and poor examples of families - the basic unit of relationship for us to learn from, for a reason. They are not just bedtime stories we've read to our children, or areas of Scripture that we skim over.
We are living epistles to it ourselves.
To think of families as the basic model of "church" and the living out of our faith in Christ may be something you need to rethink and evaluate. You may think it's way too simple a concept and your brain may baulk at the idea. After all.....
..... as the saying goes...it's not rocket science.