Thursday, December 17, 2009

Church = Family; Family ≠ Church

The Bible uses many metaphors to describe the Church. It is the body of Christ, the bride of Christ and the family of God among others. Each of these pictures clarifies the way the Church universal and churches everywhere should behave and function.

The idea that a church should be like a family is pretty clear. They should stick together, help each other out, love each other and share life. That means that church should happen not just on Sunday morning in a programmatic worship event, but throughout the week in homes, around tables and ordinary life events. (It also has implications for evangelism. Do people belong to a family first, and then learn who they are and how to behave? Or do they belong first and learn after they belong? That is a topic for another post, though.)

That being said, a family does not a church make.

Many families, who decide to start churches in the house-church vein, begin by holding “church” in their home. After all, they are trying to start house churches, right? The problem is many of them never get beyond this point. They invite person after person to their “church” which is really simply their family devotion. Some people even come; some of these groups may blossom into a true house church. Most do not.

Family devotions are great. Every Christian family should have one regularly. However, they do not take the place of church. Until a church is started, these families should find ways to connect to others, if possible families with similar ideas about church, but regardless they need to connect somewhere.

To make matters more complicated, in the cross-cultural situation that many of these church planters find themselves, they need the connection to be with people from the target culture. A bunch of missionary families on a team getting together to do church is better than a family devotion, and could constitute a church, but it gets them nowhere on their way towards starting an indigenous house church.

So, if you are in cross-cultural ministry, how are you connected to believers in your target culture? Do you know any? Do you meet with them regularly? If you do not have a church started yet, do you have a church family? Or do you just have a family devotion?

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