Monday, October 19, 2009

All in the Family

The name of God in the NT is predominately, Father. In fact, Paul uses this name for God in every single one of his epistles. Herman Bavinck writes, “The theocratic kingdom known in Israel passes into a kingdom of the Father who is in heaven. Its subjects are at the same time children; its citizens are members of the family. Both law and love, the state and the family, are completely realized in the New Testament relation of God to his people.” [Herman Bavinck – Reformed Dogmatics: God and Creation] Add to this fact that those in the church are referred to as brothers to one another in Christ (2 Thess. 3:6). Paul also refers to the church as “those who are of the household of faith.” Paul speaks clearly of the intimate relationship we all have with our Heavenly Father in Romans 8:15 when we says we have received a spirit of adoption and for this reason we can cry out to God, “Abba Father.” James M. Boice says, “The early church fathers, Chrysostom, Theodor of Mopsuestia, and Theodore of Cyrrhus, who came from Antioch, where Aramaic was spoken, and who probably had Aramaic-speaking nurses, unanimously testified that abba was the address of small children to their fathers. So this is what abba really means: daddy.” [James M. Boice: Romans: The Reign of Grace]

It seems quite clear that the New Testament views the members of the body of Christ as members of a family. God is our Father. We are all brothers and sisters to one another. This makes us members of the same spiritual family. As a family we should be relating to one another like a family. In fact, because we are God’s family, we should be setting the example as a church family for our own personal families. But do we do this? Do families come together once or twice a week and then disappear from one another and not communicate to each other for the rest of the week? Do we go weeks, months and years without so much as a simple phone call to see how we, as a family, are doing? Of course we don’t. So why does the family of God do this? Is it because we are too busy. I am a business man when I am not involved in academics, lecturing, and writing. And as a business, my schedule can become quite crowded at times. I remember a discussion I had with my VP years ago as a young business man learning the ropes and feeling overwhelmed. I had failed to give proper attention to an item he deemed important. He listened to my excuse of being very busy and responded with a quote I will never forget. He said, “Ed, people do what they think is important.” Then he proceeded to help me change my thinking about this item and he successfully convinced me to think like him. This item was important and it will be one of those things that will make its way on your completed list every month! This is a truth that applies to every area of life. You do what you think is important.

1 Cor. 14:1 commands us to “Pursue love!” The Greek word pursue is DIOKO and it means “to follow in haste in order to find something.” It is used in 1 Tim. 6:11 where the man of God is told to “pursue righteousness.” It is used in this sense again in Heb. 12:14 where we are told to “pursue peace.” The idea is to run after it until you have apprehended it. In his book, ‘Love or Die,’ Alexander Strauch recalled the story of a friend who had to find a new church because his church closed. He wrote, “All the churches he visited were doctrinally sound churches and some were excellent Bible teaching churches; however, something was missing. The church he chose had both good Bible teaching plus a loving church family of which he could be a part.” [Alexander Strauch: Love or Die] People need to feel like they belong to a body of believers who care about them, who take the time to get to know them, and who are there for them should they need them. This cannot be accomplished by hand-shaking once or twice a week. Strauch goes on to say, “Studying love is exciting, being taught the doctrines of love is enlightening, praying about love is heart moving, and seeing love modeled is motivating, but in the end, we must lovingly obey God and sacrificially serve people. We must be practitioners of love, not theorists. We must be doers of love, not talkers. We must forge a connection between words and actions. What are some things that will help create the right kind of loving, family atmosphere in the church?

 A discipleship program for men and women where more mature believers are drawn close to younger believers, forming strong personal and spiritual bonds.

 Small groups: the church is divided into groups, each with an elder over a group with an assistant or two helping to coordinate

o Contact practices (visitations, emails, calls)

o Bible studies (rotating from house to house by quarter)

o Prayer groups (regular routine for blasting prayer requests within the group)

o Outings (coffee, lunch, dinner, special events)

I realize that we lead busy lives and this may seem like a lot at first glance. And if we are not doing any of the above, perhaps it is quite a drastic change in our routine. There are no rules for how a church should implement such a program. It depends on resources and past routines. It is better to begin with baby steps than it is to try to move things too quickly only to have them fail. In the grand scheme of things, we are the family of God. And as such we are called to love and serve each other selflessly. If we know we are not doing enough, the only solution then is to do more.

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