Particularly the last week or so, as people I know have been going off on mission, and with my home group coming to a crossroads, I have found myself very much thinking about the family side of Church. I am realising more and more the importance and value of this family, and this is what I am going to talk about in this blog. This is how Jesus talks about the Christian family...
Mark 3:31-35 (New Living Translation)
The True Family of Jesus31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.”
33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
As Christians we are all part of the family of Christ. We are all brothers and sisters. Statistics say that there are 2.8 Billion people on this planet who call themselves Christians. There are approximately 6-7 billion people on this planet. This makes almost half the population of the planet Christian. This is a massive family! This number of Christians is growing, by the way – not shrinking.
In Christ, we have family all over the word; I saw earlier this week on a friends Facebook status that although China has one of the worst records in the world for persecuting Christians, there is currently a bigger increase in people going to church THERE than in all of the western world put together! Not only that, but other members of the family around the world are risking their lives to get Bibles to their Brothers and Sisters in China! That is how strong and full of God’s love this family is! This family that God has given us through his son, Jesus Christ, is so strong that it is able to not only survive persecution, but GROW through it! Forgetting about ‘spiritual gifts’, this is an amazing gift itself! THIS is a ‘miracle’ of God that we should be thankful for, and we should treat it as a gift which God wants us to hone, to grow, and to use for good, to further Glorify him.
From an evangelical point of view, often one of the things which draws people towards Christianity is the community spirit that they see within it. I was talking to one of my teachers the other day about my experiences, and how the having that support network of church family had really helped me in the last year, and she said “I used to hang around with Cliff Richards and his wife, who were both Christians, and one of the things that I saw through them was that the Church was a real community – a family, a support network”.
One of the things that I take comfort in, when things are tough at Uni, or in any other area of my life, is that I always have my Church family there to support me, and that God will always support me through them.
I remember last week, when one of my friends, Will, went of to Rwhanda. When we were praying for him, it became very clear how much everyone in the family supported him, and what he was doing. It was the same with another friend, Hannah, who is leaving this week. f course, they are also blessed with the knowledge, that such is the extent of this Christian Family, that they will be able to go out to these countries, knowing that however tough things might get for them, they will have christian family out there as well, who will love and support them. As mentioned before, in Christ, we have family all over the world. That is one massive pile of love!
On another note, I remember leading up to my baptism, just the sheer power of having 25 cluster members singing worship songs whilst praying for me. Some of the most powerful connections between Christians happens during prayer. I also remember, at my baptism, the sheer levels of noise from screams of support from both my C.U Friends, and my Cluster friends. I am so greatfull for the relationships that god has given me within this family of his, and we are so truly blessed for having this family.
In my cluster, as mentioned previously, one of our leaders is leaving in a few days, and we have had two meetings this week, to discuss how we can move forward as a group. One of the fantastic things has been to see how we have developed as a group up to this point, since that first ever meeting last September, to now planning where we are going to take it in future. It is a group of people that is really starting to make that transition into a family. There are some really strong bonds growing.
As a slight dovetail, what was interesting was that there were only a few of us at the first meeting this week, and many more of us at the second meeting this week, and when we all prayed on the future of the cluster, the guys who weren’t there at the first one were getting pretty much the same answers to prayer that us who were there at the first meeting got. I guess God is shouting loud and clear, and this will further help us build a sense of purpose and unity.
How can we further strengthen our Church Family?
I have been writing this blog since last Sunday, because, as stated before, God has really put Christian Family on my heart this week. I think that it is no coincidence, what with God’s perfect timing, that our C.U small group leader, Lizzie, decided that we were going to talk about Unity in the Church this week. We did this through the study of Ephesians 4
Unity and Maturity in the Body of Christ1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8 This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he took many captives
and gave gifts to his people.”
9 (What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
There are of course, many things which come out of these passages, but without going into a complete biblical analysis, the first thing that stands out to me about what Paul is saying here, is that we build unity through love for each other, the father, and the holy spirit.
There are things that get in the way of this…
We Sometimes fall into the trap of becoming judgemental. One of the things we were talking about at this meeting, was how sometimes we, in different church denominations, and even Churches, can think that we are better than other churches – we become ‘holyer than thou’. But when we were reading, in Ephesians 4 “11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” it made me and a number of others in the group think that although it says ‘prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, maybe this applies to branches of church as well – that none are ‘better’, but rather each serves a different purpose in the church body.
We would all do well to remember that actually most churches have very little difficulty agreeing on the main teachings of the bible. Any differences tend to arise from the application of the teachings. Not many churches are going to have difficulty agreeing with basic teachings that God created man in his image, with free choice, man rebelled against God, which brought sin into the world. God became flesh in the form of his son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save us from our sin, and that any person can have his or her relationship restored with God by having faith in Jesus. We are all united by this faith in Jesus.
One of the great things about the Christian Union, is that it doesn’t belong to any particular church denomination, in the sense that it is a complete melting pot of many of them! Baptists, Evangelists, Orthodox, Anglican, etc. You would hardly notice that we are all coming from different churches. The great thing about this system, is that it is building a generation of Christians who are less likely to have these visions, and will be able to hopefully further remove these psychological, false boundries within the church.
When we were praying at the end of our C.U session, there was palpable movement from the spirit in the room. I got a strong sense of the Lord working on Uniting us as a small group, and wanting us to actively unite. He was telling me that we need to work on becoming more united at a small group level, and that this will help the international church to become more united, because as ground level Christians, we make up the foundations of the international Church, so the less cracks there are at local level, the more stable at international level. This is something we should all be thinking about. How do we do this, by loving our father with all of our hearts, minds and soul, and loving each other as ourselves.
We also have to watch that our accountability doesn’t become condemning judgement towards other Christians and none-Christians; It saddens me to see gay men and woman leaving the church, because they have been told that they are ‘going to hell’ for being gay. When Paul talks about homosexuality, it seems to me that it is usually in a context with other forms of adultery. Are we not all adulterers? Jesus tells us that you commit adultery by even looking and thinking about it. Did Jesus not die to save us from our sins? Why then single out one issue and make it different? Didn’t he teach us to ‘Judge not lest ye be judged?’
How do we achieve this? By loving our father with all of our hearts, minds and soul, and loving each other as ourselves.
We are truly blessed to have been given this amazing family by God, and it seems to me, that these two commandments that god has given us, are both the reason for the strength of the Church family, and also the roadmap for growing even stronger in future. As a friend of mine, Charlie, put it at the end of the second cluster meeting, to grow as a church family ‘we’ve got to keep loving each other’.