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?


  1. Family is what you make it. In your mind. In your heart. In practice.

    Like our human capicity to love, you may never get out what you put in. On ocassion you my receive what you don't deserve. But if you do not make installments you don't have a chance in (insert four letter word) of experiencing what could have been.

  2. slw, I totally agree with you on the family issue. This is one reason our family would like to be geographically closer to each other...we're spread across Kansas, PA., and NY. Though we talk often, it is not like being "right there" whenever the supportive need of family arises. And the church should reflect a healthy family. Doesn't always happen but that's why we need Jesus' daily guidance. None of this negates the principle that we are "co-laborers" and "joint heirs." These biblical truths only add to the concept that we are family and together we are stronger, happier and more effective...than, say, left out there on our own.

    On the latter subject, "people perish without a vision," and "greater works will you do," I think are challenges for us as believers to "press towards the mark of the high calling." Each of us plays a part/role whether the little finger, foot, or arm in the body of Christ. And that role should promote a sense of family in the body.

    I am thankful for some people's big, "grandiose" visions that have built orphanages and hospitals in India. I am also thankful for someone's vision in our local church to have a "Fall Festival" for our children that drew over 2000 children and their families this year...a "small" vision in the beginning. I'm also thankful for someone's vision that rallies my brother and sisters in the Lord on Saturdays to take sack lunches to our inner city for the homeless and provide coats and blankets in the winter. This promotes bonding of the church family like nothing else and teaches us how to care for each other in a practical, loving way.

  3. One sided,
    I like the idea of investing in family. Like so many things that pay rich dividends back over time, if one doesn't have the vision to see the value of sacrificing (risking) to invest they never reap the rewards.

  4. Amerikan,
    Nice to hear from you again. The visions you mentioned don't seem gradiose at all to me. When you said (concerning each one's role in pursuing the vision God has given him or her), "that role should promote a sense of family in the body," I think you hit the nail on the head. Perhaps the demarcation between the grandiose and grand lies in where, and how narrowly, and upon whom the spotlight falls. Thanks for a great comment.

  5. i think it is good to treat everyone as if they are realated. brothers sisters dauthters sons dads moms grand moms and dads. it is good to include everyone as loved.

  6. nancy,
    I like your sentiment!

  7. Lots of Love to you, sweet brother!

  8. I see you haven't written anything for over a week. I hope it's because of holiday "busyness", not your mother's health problems. How is she? She is in my prayers.

  9. Rita,
    Yes, I have not posted because of taking care of some of my mom's needs. I think things are just about squared away though, at least for a little while. She is doing remarkably well, an answer to many prayers from many folks (like you), but she has the medical community a bit stumped (or maybe God does!). :-)


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