Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Blessing of Family

My mother is going through some health difficulties at the moment. It looked like cancer for a while, but that has now been eliminated as a cause. That leaves us with a bit of a mystery as far as diagnosis goes, but I'm trusting that God heard the prayers lifted up for her and cursed that thing. During this difficulty, I have become acutely aware of what a blessing family is. My three sisters, my brothers-in-law, nephews and nieces and my wife have all rallied as we've circled the wagons and prepared for a fight. How would we manage without each other at a time like this?

As a pastor, my philosophy of ministry has always seen the church not as an organization, not as an institution, but as a family. We are brothers and sisters, we have one Father, and one dynamite big brother. We are not co-consumers or clientele of a religious supermarket, we're not lemmings following a spiritual guru, we're not activists pursuing a cause, nor even a social club of Jesus aficionados. Those viewpoints of the church are held by some either overtly or tacitly, and always end up reflected, practically, in the way they "do church". The problem with those ideas is not that they are necessarily intrinsically evil, but that they are not scriptural and therefore cannot produce church life that is reflective of the scripture. They can only serve to boost the ego of shameless self-promoters or to salve the guilty consciences of religiously minded minions.

There are problems with my viewpoint, especially in regard to marketing and corporate nimbleness. If one has a desire to do this church thing "big time" my viewpoint is a disaster, but I'll stick with it. Christ has not called me to "win the world", or to "take my city", or to "launch a movement". I don't see one single scriptural reason to believe he would call anyone to such grandiose visions-- human ego will have to get the credit for that! He has adopted me into his family, to love my brothers and sisters and to be loved by them, like we were blood, and by word and deed, to persuade others to join this family of love.

Giving breath to that reality is what church life is about. If that idea doesn't appeal to you, the next time your life is in desperate turmoil, call a church shopper (who probably won't know you from Adam) and see how likely she is to lay down her life for a fellow shopper. Would you go to bat for another Wal-mart shopper just because she's a Wal-mart patron too?