the weblog of Alan Knox

If the family were a church

Posted by on Nov 25, 2008 in definition, discipleship | 14 comments

One of the most common scriptural metaphors for the church is “family”. In fact, the “metaphor” is so prevalent that it probably isn’t a metaphor at all. In other words, we truly are brothers and sisters in Christ. However, the church rarely acts like a family.

But, what would happen if we turned the picture around? Instead of encouraging the church to act like a family, what would happen if the family acted like a church?

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Two young men walked in the den where grandma was watching her “stories”. They shuffled their feet, made small talk, but finally got down to business.

“Grandma, we’ve all talked about it, and we don’t think you’re doing your job the way you once did – the way we need you to,” the first man started.

“What do you mean, son?” the older lady asked, trying to see the TV around the two men.

“Well, you can’t cook or clean anymore. You don’t tell us stories of the old days. We haven’t heard any wisdom from you in a long time. You usually just watch television and sleep. We’re going to have to let you go,” the second man said.

Grandma hung her head. “I realize that I’m getting older and can’t carry out my duties that I once did. Will you at least give me a few weeks to find a new family?”

“We’ll give you two weeks and a good recommendation. I’m sure that God is calling you to a good older family out there somewhere,” her son said.

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“Hey, Sis!” the lady said as she walked through the open door.

“Hi, to what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?” her older sister asked as she closed the front door behind her.

The younger lady found a place on an overstuffed sofa and replied, “Well, we heard that you gave birth, and we wanted to see the new baby.”

As the older sister brought in coffee, she looked around the room. “I don’t think the baby is here.”

“What do you mean?” her sister asked as she sipped her coffee.

“Well, I’m not very good at raising kids. I just give birth to them and let someone else raise them. In fact, that baby is probably still at the hospital.”

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The parents brought dinner into the dining room for the family. The dining room was immaculate, with heavy drapes, carved furniture, silver place settings, and a crystal chandelier hanging over the middle of the table.

Father prayed an elaborate prayer and set the food down for each family member: a small piece of bread and a sip of juice.

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“This is very difficult for me to say,” Father began with tears filling his eyes. “Do you all remember the people that visited us a few weeks ago?”

The family members nodded as the looked around, trying to discern what Father’s important announcement might be about.

“Well, those visitors were actually a Father Search Committee from another family. They believe that God is calling me to be their Father. After much tearful prayer, I agree. So, in two weeks I’ll be leaving this family to become the Father of their family. Don’t worry. I know that this is all in God’s plan, and I’m certain that God will provide another Father for this family.”

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I suppose I could go on, but I think you get my point. If the church is really a family, then the church would not act like it does towards one another.

So, we should ask ourselves, “Are we not living according to our nature? Or, are we living according to our nature?”


14 Comments

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  1. 11-25-2008

    Alan,

    These are very powerful examples of the half-heartedness and hypocracy that goes on in the institutional church.

    It’s amazing how the “church” can do all sorts of mental gymnastics and at the same time, be convinced that it is living as a family.

    I know that all fall short somewhere. But, traditions such as these have replaced scriptural mandate. They ultimately keep the Church of Jesus Christ from becoming the cohesive body that it is suppose to become.

    But the institutional church does not want to know where it is falling short. If you try to speak the truth on such matters, you are given the cold shoulder or subtley shown the door.

    Gary

  2. 11-25-2008

    Dude, the Grandmother one is priceless! How often do we see the older guy (meaning full of wisdom) get kicked to the side for a younger dreamer!

  3. 11-25-2008

    Huh, this is interesting. I find your examples of how church is that makes it not like family actually very much examples of how families are operating these days.

    Grandma is sent off to a community of fellow senior citizens, where we are sure she will be more comfortable and happy as we certainly will be, to be visited at our convenience.

    Our meticulously planned for babies are actually being raised by others who operate day cares, schools, colleges, Sunday nurseries, locally famous youth groups, young married groups, the list is ever expanding as to the places other than family where we gain nurturing, godly understanding and hear wisdom.

    Many families buy homes, safe cars, family vacations to impress others with when actually their families eat poorly even if they eat quantity.

    And truly fathers, even lovely “christian” fathers are leaving their families, with tear streamed faces, to start another family somewhere else, because God called them, they are just sure of it (some lovely christian moms are doing the same and believing it to be God’s will).

    The question sounds like “which came first”; the church not acting like what a family is supposed to act like, or the family not acting like what the church is called to be? Are we learning to be family by watching the leaders of the church? Or do we have a poor understanding of what real families are like? HMMMMMM

  4. 11-25-2008

    Gary,

    I’ve known some who didn’t want to know where they were falling short, and others who knew they were falling short but didn’t want to (or didn’t think they could) change. I think either attitude is dangerous and unhealthy for a child of God.

    Lionel,

    I know someone (a pastor) who was kicked to the curb by the church – so to speak – simply because he was getting older. Of course, this was just when he needed a family to take care of him.

    Lanny,

    I was wondering if anyone was going to notice that many times our families do act like this. It still seems that we can more easily recognize that our families are dysfunctional than we can recognize that the church is dysfunctional.

    -Alan

  5. 11-25-2008

    Alan,

    Those should shake any church member / leader to their core. Very powerful stuff. Isn’t it amazing just how loose our supposed bonds are to our brothers and sisters in Christ?

  6. 11-26-2008

    These scenarios are too true to form, I am speechless. My heart was rent with each one. The Church is painful, sadly, and it breaks my heart.

  7. 11-26-2008

    Truly this was an eye opening reading. This is really goo thought and it is so true.

  8. 11-26-2008

    Mark,

    It shook me when I started thinking about it a few years ago. But, the more that I treat church as family – a healthy family – I realize just as rare it is.

    Paul,

    It’s good to hear from you! Yes, the scenarios sound all too real, and some of them are based on reality. I hope others read them and choose to begin treating the church differently.

    Wade,

    Thanks for the comment and the kind words. Of course, the question of the day is: Are we going to do anything about it?

    -Alan

  9. 7-6-2011

    Wow. Well written Allen. Thanks.

  10. 4-23-2012

    Spot on! Loved it!

  11. 10-25-2012

    Soooo… good. These examples truly illustrate the divide created in a church ‘family’ by the infiltration of corporate business tactics and leadership, in the institutional church, without the need for extensive theological wrangling. Well Played! ;-)

  12. 10-25-2012

    Over the years, I have experienced the church family dynamic working great in some bodies, but similarly, not great at all in others.
    Currently, we are in visitation mode,(a big part is due to traveling away from home for my husbands employ). It has given us the opportunity to visit many churches/fellowships, while still attending/serving the LORD where He gives opportunity.
    More recently, I noticed the lack of true fellowship in my life, w/brothers & sisters within the church body & the dynamic that comes into play when it is truly there, it is missed, and should be healthy in any Christian place of worship…
    The lack really came to light while our son was visiting us about a year ago…he had recently joined a close-knit church fellowship, finding a strong need for that sense of family/accountability, while away from us @ school…my first thoughts, about his new found family were based out of judgement/fear, feeling that the fellowship was somewhat too legalistic, draining of him, what were they all about? I learned through watching/hearing my son w/interactions, also by visiting w/the body, that they are very much a church family, whose desire is to truly serve, learn and grow, while helping one another along the way~they really get honest w/one another that results in having quality fellowship, discipleship training and accountability…refreshing, it was a joy to find this out since it was a mothers answer to prayer, and, TY LORD, for showing me this important thing that can be so lacking in our lives as a Christian~I PRAISE GOD for the provision of Christ’s true body of believers…it is something we ALL lack if we are not participating in.
    Thank God for those working arms & limbs, when ‘put together’ rightly, it is a good nurturing thing to our spiritual walk~it is up to us to PARTICIPATE!

  13. 10-25-2012

    Brilliant and profound.

    I think Jim Rutz wrote something like this years ago, in OPEN CHURCH.

    Thanks for the great blog

  14. 10-25-2012

    Thanks for continuing the discussion on this post. I think the illustrations can help us questions whether we actually treat our brothers/sisters in Christ as family or not.

    -Alan