The relationship between the family and the Church is the last, but maybe the most important, of the four components that make up family discipleship. We will start by explaining the family God provides in Christ Jesus and end with how we all play a part in the discipleship of people in our community, including individual families and their kids.
Here are six things Scripture tells us about family.
1. Jesus speaks of a forever family not built or sustained by flesh but by faith. When asked about his biological mother and brothers in Mark 3:34-35 Jesus said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” In Matthew 19:29 after Peter said they had left everything to follow him (including many family members, their homes, and careers) Jesus gave his disciples hope by promising an everlasting spiritual kinship with those who had and would soon follow Christ as they had. Jesus also placed the relationship with him and his kingdom above family relationship since there will be families divided by the faith offered in Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 14:26).
2. God established the wider faith family dynamic when he established the Israelite people. Though God’s law separated Israel from other nations its design was to bring people in, not keep them out. God’s people showed the world His power and covenantal promises as God’s people were faithful to follow him. When Israel followed God’s commands the glory of God was on display, which brought people to know God (Matt. 5:16-17, 1 Peter. 2:12). Think of those God brought into relationship with him in the Old Testament like Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Dan. 4:37), or, more explicitly, how beautiful it is to see Rahab, a prostitute who lived in Jericho, and Ruth, a Moabite in the lineage of Jesus (Matt. 1: 5). These were not born Israelites, but they became family through faith (Romans 4:16-17)!
3. Paul continued to speak of a family built of faith. In Romans 9:8 Paul said, “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Paul wanted to show those gentiles coming to faith that they would not lose the promises of God mentioned in Romans 1-8. Paul is reminding those who saw the historical Israel fall that God did not fail his spiritual family then and He won’t do it now with us. Paul tells us God’s family (his people) will be judged according to the heart, not the flesh (1 Sam. 16:7).
In heaven, the picture (marriage) will be superseded by the reality- Focus on the Family
4. Paul, throughout his letter, uses the language of brothers and sisters when talking about the Church (Romans 1:13, 1 Cor. 1:10, Gal. 1:11, Phil. 1:12). In the Church the idea of family is seen in relation to God as our Father, Christ our brother and King, and the Holy Spirit as our seal and helper. We are no longer individual families but, in Christ, are baptized into a spiritual family- mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters in Christ. Bringing us into a faith family does not diminished marriage or blood relationship; a physical family has a great purpose. Blood family and marriage are meant to be beautiful illustrations of a greater picture of promise- a forever family in Christ!
5. The Bible speaks of the promise that one day there will be no sin, separation, favoritism, or pain. God will be King and we will worship in fullness without any hindrance. During that time we will be fulfilled and earthly marriage or parenting will not be needed (Luke 20:34-36). Why? Because God has restored all things and we are complete in him. He is Father and Husband. We are his bride and children.
6. Paul tells us we still have responsibilities to our individual families. Our biological families matter to God. Paul when defining what a widow is states that if the woman has children or grandchildren she is not to be considered a widow in the church community and be provided for, but to be provided for by her children (1 Tim. 5:3-5).
With these six truths in mind we can see that God’s plan for the numeric number of growth to his kingdom is not limited only to a biological impression one can make with the help of another in the context of marriage. Discipleship goes beyond the capacity of parents and parenting. God sends singles into the mission field (men and women) to be disciples who make disciples. God has provided us with the church and the church with us to make disciples! Our ultimate role then as disciples is about pursuing God’s will by the power of the Spirit with the gifts he has provided as a means to be making disciples of all nations trusting the Lord is providing a forever family all for his glory (Eph. 1:16)! We are to be actively pursuing outside of our homes the discipleship of adults and children believing in the promises God made to those in Acts, “for I have many in this city who are my people.” (Acts 18:10).
Now that we can see a broader view of family we can see the need of teaching and training one another to become a true community of believers who make disciples in and out of the home while looking for other believers to teach and influence our biological children in the gospel of Jesus!
The church is a real family. We are a family in which Christ is the head (Col 1:18). We place our head, heart, and hands to his work together.
So what is the work? Ultimately it is to make disciples of Jesus (Matt. 28:18-20). This means WE, as families, unified by baptism in Christ Jesus, are disciples who pursue evangelism and discipleship of all nations/people and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (into the faith family) and teach them all that Christ has commanded.
When the elders, deacons, and partners of our church come together on Sunday mornings we worship through song, testimonies, catechisms, communion, tithes and offering. We call each other to repentance, faith and action in settings most effective for the people of God. The church is then not limited to one teacher using their gifts but a multitude of teachers and musicians and stories can be expressed and shared throughout the morning (and week) together.
God has given his church a leadership structure so she can grown and thrive for his glory. The servant leaders (the Elders) are to shepherd, oversee, and teach the church. The leading servants (the Deacons) are to take on the daily needs of the church. The Partners - His Serving Saints are to saturate the world in the gospel of Jesus. There is no greater force than the Church and there is no Plan B. Though she (the church) is not completely perfect yet, God sees her as holy and being sanctified by and through the work of the cross (Heb. 10:14). We work together to disciple those in our groups or communities. We need each other.
SETTINGS FOR FAMILY DISCIPLESHIP that YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN
Like I said at the beginning I want to finish by sharing how we can practically live life together by creating rhythms with one another. In these rhythms we are working to make disciples because with children discipleship is taking place as they are brought into these rhythms. These rhythms are not meant for us to sit and watch others serve us but times where we too are willing and ready to give and serve with our spiritual gifts and physical energy to see discipleship take place for others.
- We Gather for worship in music, testimony, preaching, communion, and offering each Sunday
- During these times we ask Partners and deacons to set up environments that our children can hear the gospel in an age appropriate setting with those we know are growing in their faith.
- We Gather for Partner meetings
- During these times we meet as Partners to fellowship, celebrate, and deal with Church matters together as family.
- We Gather for training each Sunday in the Academy and Partnership Experience
- We Scatter into groups for community and mission each week
- We incorporate our children into our family meal and project times. We desire that our children see a group of people who love Jesus, love the church, love their city, and love them.
- We Scatter into our work-place and market-place for daily missions
If you were to participate in weekly group times and Sunday corporate gatherings, you and your family would be in community 104 times each year (about 208 hours). If you add family meals or community efforts twice a month it would be 128 times a year (about 256 hours). These hours are not hours for us to consume but hours to serve and live life together.