bush-family-photo.jpg OR our-church-1.jpg

On Friday we had a meeting of (most) the people who are going to be in the new church plant which gets planted next Sunday.

During the evening Steve Timmis went through what house-hold church is about, our responsibilities to each other and the realities of doing church in this way. We also used the Belbin test to see what people’s ‘preferred’ way of working was. It was encouraging to see we had quite a range of gifts and personalities, and also it was good to be reminded that the gospel changes and shapes those negative attributes that come with different personality types!

The thing that struck me most, though, was what Steve said about the church as family.

We often talk about marriage being a picture of the true marriage between Christ and his church. Our marriages reflect that marriage and not the other way around.
However we don’t often talk about church as family in that way, or at least not in my experience. We call each other brother and sister, but tend to see the family of the church as a reflection of our earthly families. For instance I have heard one evangelical minister talk about the first family being your immediate family, and the church is your second family.

But surely this can’t be right. As Steve pointed out Paul didn’t look around for an analogy to describe the relationships that people have in church, come across the family and think ‘that fits quite well’. Rather the family on earth is to reflect that ultimate family of God’s people and not the other way around.

Does this mean that we neglect our immediate families for the real ‘first family’?
Of course not! Just as we do not neglect our marriages because we are part of the ultimate marriage so we do not neglect our immediate family for the family of the church. In fact the way we treat our marriage/family shows where our hearts really are in regards to the family of the church (Titus 1).

It seems that some (most) of us do a juggling act with our lives. We have so many commitments, home, school, children, work, entertainment, sport, music, church etc. And we try and keep all of these up in the air in a ‘balanced lifestyle’, with us at the centre as the juggler.

But it strikes me that the Bible’s image of our lives is very different.
We don’t get the picture of a lone juggler with all of these disconnected commitments.
Instead we have an individual in community. This community is not merely one community among many, all battling for time and energy. This community is the primary community. It stands above commitment to the community of Rome (cf. Ephesians and Philippians). It is the first family! (Matthew 12:46-50). All of those other communities (including family) that we still remain connected to now come out of, and are shaped by, that primary community that we are now a part of.

A helpful image is that of a wheel. The hub is the church, the 1st family, the primary community. Out of that come many spokes, family, work, the gym etc. All of them are connected to that primary community. So rather than juggling my commitments as a father here and a gospel worker over there, being part of this community helps me be a better father, husband, friend, son, worker etc. (cf. Ephesians 5-6 and Tim Chester’s lectures on them).

We plant this Sunday… more news and thoughts to follow…