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.
Reblogged this on That Tiny Pea.
I think the entire concept of family, as churches understand it today, is pagan. The very word “family” is only mentioned in the New Testament one time where Paul referred to the “whole family in heaven” in Ephesians 3:15. The idea of a closed, exclusive, entitled nuclear family is nowhere mentioned in the Bible. However, most all denominations exclude unmarried people from leadership positions, including being a pastor. As a matter of fact, the largest denomination in North America, the Southern Baptist Convention, specifically excludes unmarried people from their church membership as they believe the only wave to salvation is through marriage. From the SBC 2000 Faith and Message Statement, which is what they operate under today: “God has ordained the family as the foundational institution of human society. It is composed of persons related to one another by marriage, blood, or adoption” God never ordained any group as a “foundational institution of human society.” I have tried to get them to change that many times over the last 17 years, to no avail. I agree that there is nothing sinful about the nuclear family as long as it’s kept in perspective. But I would say that there is nothing inherently Christian about the nuclear family either. That’s why I think any word that is written or spoken by the church in regards to parents or children that does not have a concomitant word of affirmation for those unmarried is one step backwards into paganism. As it is today, I’m not aware of a church that would welcome Christ himself if he knocked on their doors.
“As a matter of fact, the largest denomination in North America, the Southern Baptist Convention, specifically excludes unmarried people from their church membership as they believe the only wave to salvation is through marriage.”
Not sure I can agree with this statement. My adult daughter is unmarried and is a member of an SBC affiliated church.
How does one answer this….just throwing it out there……
Single mom in church. She has a fifteen year old daughter. Daughter gets pregnant. Church family throws a baby shower, AT THE CHURCH , and everyone is so excited about a new baby in the church! Everyone talks about the baby being a “remarkable gift from God”
I mentioned openly, plainly over coffee before Sunday school “Why is she pregnant at 15?”
Gasps! Shocked looks from fellow members! Looks of “how-dare-I-bring-that-up”
I said “Hold up. It’s a legitimate question. No hate, but a question.”
The ensuring replies done with hands on hips, and waving fingers at me…..
*Jesus loves little babies
*Who’s to say your idea of a family is right?
*In the Bible Jesus told us to not judge, ever!
*Mary was a single mother!
*She might raise the pastor who will bring revival!!!
*It may not be in God’s plan, but if it wasn’t in God’s plan, she would not have gotten pregnant
*We’re being tested to see if our love for Jesus is real by the way we treat her
*Babies are a precious gift from God. You wouldn’t know that!
*We’re a church family, we stick by our own no matter what!
*Figures a man with a past drug addiction would make a comment like this
*Jesus said to love one another brother, and looks like you need to so some serious reflection
I notice when the words ‘church family’ is thrown about, it usually depends on “who” is deciding what church family is and it usually being said by someone who never had to worry about their status in that family.
I said “okay, all true statements, but why was she having sex at 15?”
*If she made a mistake, that’s between her and God. Not you!
*What difference does it make, Jesus said to “take that plank out of your own eye”
*Kids today are different, and your sins are no worse than hers
*She’ll find a husband after she finishes high school and college
*She made a mistake, and you want to be the one who will put her in the public square and shame her. This isn’t the 1600’s!!!
So much for church family discussions……….
Very interesting point about the local church – I never thought about it like that before.
There just needs to be churches for Singles. My church and denomination and pastors all worship and idolize marriage and the nuclear family. Singles are made to feel like trash. We’re excluded, there’s no groups for us, no teaching about Singleness, the pastors claim to support the authority of Scripture yet refuse to address Biblical celibacy, the family of all believers, etc. I’ve noticed more and more Singles leaving the church. They make it pretty clear they don’t want us. I feel like leaving the Church all together. There’s just no place that cares about Singles. It’s just all marriage all the time. Struggling with SSA I’m told I have to be Celibate but gee how about offering support? How about encouraging those of us who must be celibate rather than making us feel like w’re being sent off to prison for life.