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25 & 26 June 2022 (Pastoral Page) THE CHURCH AS FAMILY

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

By Ps Lim Wei-en

“Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)

Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. (1 Timothy 5:1-2)


Last weekend at the main services and this weekend at Campference, we explored and will be exploring the subject of “discipling the generations”. Integral to this idea of intergenerational discipleship is the New Testament teaching on church as family.

In the passages listed above, Jesus says that his disciples, those who do the will of God the Father, are his “brother and sister and mother”. He also says that those who have experienced rejection or abandonment by their families of origin because they have followed him would not fail to be blessed abundantly “in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children…” From these, we can infer that Jesus expects the church community to be family to one another, and that the relationships shared among disciples should be as close as (if not closer than) those experienced in a nuclear family. Paul’s instruction in 1 Timothy 5 echoes Jesus’ teachings.

What are the implications of church-as-family on our idea of family and our experience of the church community?

Idolatry. While marriage is ordained by God (Gen. 2:21-24) and children are a blessing from God (Ps. 127:3-5), to get married and have children is not the ultimate goal of life. Loving God and becoming more like Jesus is. Therefore, to consider being married and having children as the way to find completeness in life or singleness as a less ideal state is to make an idol out of the good gift of marriage and children. (Jesus himself was never married and yet he was the most complete person to ever walk the face of the earth. And his promise of life to the full (John 10:10) is available to all, whether single or married.)

This does not mean that the church does not value nuclear family units. We do, as evidenced by the fact that we have a family life ministry dedicated to helping couples preparing for marriage, married couples, and families with young children and/or teenagers. However, if we believe that the bond believers share through the blood of Christ is deeper than the bond shared with those from the same bloodline, then we must not put the nuclear family unit on a pedestal. Rather, the care and growth of the church as God’s family must remain the church’s priority (with attention given to nuclear family units as part of that primary call).

Inclusivity. If, as a church, we are called to be “brothers, sisters, mothers, children” to each other, it is important that we become more inclusive of those in our midst who are part of Christ’s body but who may be of a different race, background, life stage etc to us.

In a healthy church-as-family, friendships would not be divided along lines of diversity (e.g. education level, socioeconomic status, season of life). Married couples and singles would extend hospitality to one another and share life over meals with each other. Those with “white collar” and “blue collar” jobs would read the Word, pray and share hobbies with one another. Seniors and young adults would reach out to each other and learn from each other. Believers of different races and family backgrounds would fellowship and serve with one another. By this, not only will the church bear witness to the oneness of Christ’s body (Eph. 4:4-6), believers will better appreciate the unique gifts and perspectives that those in other walks of life bring to the church community.

Intimacy. If the church is to be family to each other, then disciples must seek to grow in intimacy with one another. What would it take for relationships in the church to be built to a level where older men in the church can be treated as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters? It would take:

  • Time – beyond the hour spent each week at worship service, and the couple of hours spent every other week in CG meetings, time must be invested in the lives of others. One way to make time is to have lunch once a week with another church mate who lives/works close to you.

  • Vulnerability – no relationship can deepen if we remain guarded towards others. Take the risk to share something a bit more personal (such as a challenge you are facing) as you text or converse with others. This gives them the opportunity to do likewise with you.

  • A Change in Mindset – above all, we need to change the way we see the church. It is not a place we go to on weekends, an organisation with programmes to meet our spiritual needs, or a religious community that we do religious activities with. The church, according to Jesus, is his chosen family for us, through which he wants us to experience his love. To grow in intimacy with Jesus means, at some level, to also grow in intimacy with members of his body.

Fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters, may our church be a fulfilment of Jesus’ promise in Mark 10:29. May we find in each other a hundredfold blessing of family, united by our shared belief in the gospel and our common love for Jesus.

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