Posted by: gillianbarratt | 24 March, 2010

The Priority of Community – The Church as an Extended Family

We started the last sub-section of « The Gospel-Centred Church » on March 22nd. Emma was back with us, and Amelia was introduced to the group. We only managed the first chapter, which had for principle that the church is an extended family.

The bible base was a passage from Paul’s first letter to Timothy (here). We noted that Paul said that « the household of God is the church » rather than « the church is the household of God ».

Our experiences of our own extended families were quite varied and we decided that an ideal family, rather than any particular one, should be a model for the church. In a family you can truly be yourself, but there is also the memory of what you have been (to your Mum you are still a little boy/girl). Families may have disputes (often over money or belongings) but the members’ love for one another is unconditional – the Prodigal remains a part of the family whatever he/she has done. The family is God’s revelation of what relationships should be like, a place where everyone is valued.

Back to Paul’s letter to Timothy, the key word for relationships in the family/church seems to be “respect” (here) – between generations and between masters and slaves. The family hierarchy is “flatter” than that of a typical church set-up; most decisions are taken by consensus after discussion, although sometimes the head of the family has to decide. Importantly, a family is made up of several generations and each is important. Teaching goes in both directions – parents often learn from their children. We noted that we are often more exacting with the younger generation than we are with ourselves: we expect children to apologise when they do something wrong, but rarely say “sorry” to them. The same comment could be made about many church communities.

We talked around the comment that for some people families can become an idol; by putting their family first they avoid their duty to God. However, biblical teaching describes the family as something special and the relationship to a husband or wife the closest one after the relationship with God. In the same letter of Paul to Timothy, it is taught that Christians have a duty to care for their relatives (here) and Jesus made provision for His mother from the Cross (here). A Christian family is a base from which to go out to others (read the last two paragraphs of Little Dorrit for an example).

As ideas for action we came up with hospitality – informal invitations to Sunday lunch for example, and volunteering for types of service in the church that you would not normally do, to meet other parts of the family (like me going to the crèche).

Family matters were obviously very much in our prayers as well. We thank God for our families and hold their needs before Him, confident that He will comfort and sustain them and us.

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