Lesson 9: Church is Not a Family of Families

A Gathered FamilyLast week I used the model of family for Church. After all Jesus did speak of God as father and others as our brothers and sisters. And the early Church did live in a lifestyle we associate with the family.

However, when I spoke of extending the family, I came mighty close to falling into one of the Church’s present traps. It hardly goes with Jesus saying his message will bust up families, setting parents against children.

It also lets out all those people who live alone. I was reminded of that last week when TIME magazine listed “LIVING ALONE IS THE NEW NORM” as the first of its “10 IDEAS THAT ARE CHANGING YOUR LIFE.” That caused me to reflect on how many of our participants live alone. For instance, when I recently promoted taking time to eat with your family, many responded they do not live with family.

Yet the Church regularly speaks of herself as the family of families and acts as if her primary calling is to champion family values. The result is she constantly teaches about things associated with the biological family, such as contraception, abortion, sexuality, and gender; and seldom about what Jesus said about society, such as peace and justice.

The Church is not an extension of the nuclear family but rather a community where anyone can share food, words, celebrations, failures, and anything else we usually associate with families. It is a group in which we forget titles, give according to our means, offer to others according to their needs, and co-operate rather than compete. That has always been important and is even more now when some studies report as many as 40% of American society have no one with whom they can share these things. Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone reports the Church is one of the last places this happens.

I don’t know about you, but a great part of my worship is watching and participating in just these things: watching parents hug children, young adults assist the elderly, widows share pictures of their grandchildren’s marriages, friends kiss at the Peace; and participating by hugging those in trouble, offering instruction to those needing guidance, asking for advice, and listening as people report what they have been doing and intend to do. Church is a place where we can all eat together. I’ll get back to that next week.

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  1. Anne Crawford says:

    “The Church is not an extension of the nuclear family but rather a community where anyone can share food, words, celebrations, failures, and anything else we usually associate with families.”

    This may be the ideal, but in many churches, attempts to do this fall along lines of creating separate groups to attend to individual demographics – the seniors group, the young adult group, the young families group, etc. Not that it’s wrong to assemble along common interests and life stages, but the church has to be more than a collection of interest groups. It has to be a place where, as this sentence would seem to indicate, we share – we commune – across generational, economic, and other groupings to truly be one body. My husband and I don’t have children and so I look forward to opportunities in my church to be part of a ‘family’ with children that I can be a part, however small, of their lives. That’s on the celebrate side of things; I’m not sure we do that well on the ‘failure’ side of things. We look for quick fixes rather than walking alongside one another in our trials.

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