Many years ago when I was driving through Colorado Springs I saw a bumper sticker directed at Focus on the Family that said, “Focus On Your Own Family”. I thought it was sort of funny but I didn’t really give it a lot of thought. But the phrase sort of stayed with me. Whenever I’d see something from Focus I’d think about that sticker and smile.
But in thinking about it, this might actually be a good idea. Now to be clear, before I start, I like a lot of what Focus the organization does.* I’m not picking on them here. However, the Church’s focus on the nuclear family is a huge problem with far, far reaching implications.
As I’ve stated many times, I’m not against the church teaching on family or how to be a good husband, wife, parent or even child. I’m not against that all. If I’m married and/or have kids, I need to learn how to do that in a Godly way. In other words, if that is my context, I need to follow Jesus and grow in my ability to fulfill that role. Absolutely.
However, if that is the focus of our church or if we lift up the nuclear family as the answer to how the kingdom advances, or as the thing that helps make us holy, or makes us eligible for leadership in the Church or as the model for the church instead of the other way around, we end up on seriously shaky ground. Frankly that is exactly where many churches are today either by intent or by accident.
The kingdom does not advance by the nuclear family. It advances through Jesus and His family. The nuclear family does not make us holy, Jesus does. Being married is not a requirement for leadership in the church – hello Paul and . . . uh . . . Jesus.
I’ve covered all of that before. But what I want to say today is what brings us back to that bumper sticker. What if the Church focused on it’s own family. Because frankly most church families are a mess and that’s not even to speak of the body of Christ as a whole.
Now I get that church is messy. It’s made up of humans and we are all sinners. People sin. Against God, against each other, against non believers. Whole nine yards. That’s not what I’m talking about.
What I’m talking about is are we teaching our churches how to be a family. Is that our focus? From a global level: How do we treat fellow believers that we don’t quite theologically agree with? How do we talk about them behind their backs? How does the “local church”** talk about missional “para church” parts of the body and vice versa? How do church planters talk about the old church that is literally down the street? Protestants and Catholics how we doing? This list could go on and on.
From a particular church level: How welcoming are we to new people that might join our family? Have you gotten to know anyone in your church family? Is our teaching inclusive to those who have a nuclear family and those who don’t? Do we love each other? Is there actual church discipline? Who is accountable to who? Who actually knows anything about the people leading the small group? Could anyone walk in and feel welcome? Not necessarily agreed with, but welcome. Do we hold the Kingdom picture of advancement or the “lets live in the nuclear family bubble” picture? Are the people Jesus welcomed welcome? By each member? Again the list could go on.
Bashing the church is not my point here. The point is this – the church should focus on it’s own family. We should be focused on getting our own stuff in order. We should remember that marriage and the family point to God and His family, not the other way around.
You see God is the creator of the family unit. He really is. This means it’s a good thing. But just like everything else that He created we tend to start to count on it instead of God. We start to elevate it over God’s Kingdom, just like we do many of his other good creations.
Jesus said, Who are my mother and brothers? In other words, who is my family? He answered, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”. At the end of the day, and for sure at the end of days, the Kingdom family will be the one that lasts. It will be the one that is most important and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the nuclear family. The church should focus there.
When we don’t do it, we set up everyone to fail and alienate many. When we do focus on the Kingdom family we set up everyone, including those with nuclear families, to thrive.
* Focus does a lot of great things – especially in regards to children and parenting. For example, if you’re a parent and not looking at Plugged In for movie reviews you’re missing out.
**The idea of the local church is totally misunderstood and mis-taught. First, in the city and suburbs there is almost no such thing as a “local” church. Parishes are long gone. People drive by 50 churches on the way to the one they want to go to. The local church in the bible was all the people in that location, regardless of the place they worshiped in. When God looks at your town, He sees one church, not hundreds. Your church is not the answer. The Church is.