More Than Family
Family is at the heart of God's plan for the world. Family is the building block of society. However, some families are troubled. Some families are not able to provide what is needed. For people from such families, sometimes church is able to give what family cannot.
The potential of church as a kind of substitute family leads us to acknowledge three truths. First, following Jesus means being part of a church. Second, being part of a church means growth. Third, the growth we experience in church is primarily a growth in our capacity for relationships.
Following Jesus means being part of a church. When a person is baptized, the Bible tells us, they are baptized into the body of Christ, the church. John Wesley said there is no such thing as a solitary Christian. There will be times when, for a variety of reasons, a believer might not be actively involved in a particular congregation, but as a rule, if you think you are a Christian, but you aren't in a church, then you're not.
Being part of a church means growth. After salvation comes sanctification. The work of the church is to help men and women become mature, healthy followers of Jesus. Some of that growth will come from simply being around other believers. Some of that growth will come through intentional ministries of the church, such as worship, Bible study, and mission opportunities. If you become part of a church, you don't remain the same. You grow.
The growth we experience in a church is primarily growth in our capacity for relationships. The virtues listed in the New Testament letters are virtues that facilitate getting along with other people. In the church we learn compassion, kindness, meekness, and patience. We learn to forgive as we have been forgiven. We learn love.
The letter to the Colossians calls the church God's chosen, holy and beloved. That's how it should be in a family. Family should make us feel special, unique, and loved not matter what we do. When family does not or cannot, church can. At its best, church can be like a new family.