“Church” or Family?

church-house-hiI can see it on their faces when they come in. That look of surprise, bewilderment, and fear. “Oh, no! This isn’t a ‘church’. It’s a family!”

People visiting our Sunday morning worship gathering are often looking for and expecting a ‘church’.  You know: some worship music, a place for the kids and/or youth, and a practical sermon that helps people know how to follow God.  Perhaps they are just visiting some friends in the area, or they just moving in.  But I can always tell when they were looking for a ‘church’, and find a family instead.

This last Sunday about 20 minutes of our worship service, right at the beginning, was given over to family stuff, not typical ‘churchy’ stuff.  One family is moving away after journeying with us for four year.  So we hear their story of God’s call on their lives, and we all go up and laid hands on them.  But before that a mother updated us on the health of a child that had tripped into the family fire pit and been rushed to the hospital the night before. You know, normal stuff. (Oh, and I forgot, all the men and boys are hanging out this Saturday night, but I can’t tell you about it ’cause it’s a secret).

You see, instead of an anonymous ‘church’ centered on activities we are a family.  We strive to be a family where we can be known.  And all this sharing, and praying, and updating, this is what families do.  The whole point of being the church is really to enter into the family of God, right?

Now, of course, families can be quirky and annoying, certainly intimidating.  And it is hard to break into a family (insert all those awkward dating situations of meeting the parents or coming over for Thanksgiving for the first time).  So if people are visiting then we need to make them feel welcome and up-to-speed (of course, that is much easier if we already know them.  And of course the best way of bringing someone into a family is by inviting them in, rather than hoping they will just randomly show up on a Sunday.

So, when people think of your church, when they visit or are invited, do they find a churchy institution or a family relationship? Do they find primarily a “church building” or a “family bond”?

How have your cultivated the sense of being a family? How have you hindered the sense of being a family?