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Community and/or family

Most of the last few blog posts (and the insightful comments everyone has posted) have been about community and mission.  Here's a question:  we talk about Jesus creating community.  Is family the same thing?

There is extensive Biblical support for the notion of church as family.  (John 1:12; Ephesians 1:5; 2:19; Galatians 6:10).  Community is described, e.g. in Acts 2, but the word community is not used per se.

In the context of this discussion, is there a difference?  What implications does it have?

Crayon drawing of family


9 replies on “Community and/or family”

Is Family community? Interesting question.
In one case Jesus says let the dead bury their dead and in another do not look back, no one who puts their hand to the plow.. Implying the abandonment of family. Jesus also says the evil take care of their own, so what credit is it to us to do similar?
So clearly we should be missional for the kingdom first and foremost.
Paul says better it’s best to stay single… but if not, do not abandon your responsibilities.
Paul also says to be kind to all ESPECIALLY towards the Family of believers.
Mama says charity begins at home.
Community begins at home. Believers and non, alike, will look at the interaction/relationships within our family structure and want to see the same harmony or be turned away.
Family and Community is a state of mind of being one with every thing in creation.

Community is sort of the latest buzz word to describe what people are craving and I think it has a lot to do with the deconstruction of the family and compartmentalization / isolation of our lives in our culture. So, when i hear people say they are craving community I tend to think they are after what our culture has starved them of, namely meaningful relationships.
Jesus totally redefined family. I know the bible does not expressly use the word “community” but it often refers to communion which shares the same root. When i see communion I think of “common union” in Christ, the head of the family.
I don’t want to get lost in the semantics so I have been trying to look past the jargon. I’m trying to always center on my love of Jesus and let “community” or “family” evolve naturally as a by-product rather than centering on my search for community.
Thanks for the thought provoking questions Felicity.

I’ve been thinking more and more lately that the Great Commission begins in the home and that the family is the picture for how the church should operate. As Ephesians 5 points out, the father is the first pastor, the husband and wife are a picture of Christ and the Church, and the children are “arrows in the hand of a warrior” (Psalm 127:4) — for what battle? In structure and in their central role in the two Testaments, Matt. 28:19-20 appears to be a parallel to the Shema, or Deut. 6:4-10.

“Family” is the central metaphor for church in the NT. “Community” is just a descriptive term for a group of people having something in common (the root meaning of “community”). So, a family is a community but a community is not necessarily a family.
The book that has most shaped my thinking on church as family is “House Church and Mission” by Roger Gehring. Here are a couple of quotes from the book…
“Of fundamental importance is Elliott’s insight that ‘households thus constituted the focus, locus and nucleus of the ministry and mission of the Christian movement.’” P. 6
“For Verner this concept of church as the ‘household of God’ (1 Tim. 3:15) incorporates two aspects: (a) the house or family is the fundamental unit of the church, and (b) the church is a social structure patterned after the household.” P. 7

maybe that’s not really the topic here, but we ought to know that the family ties (natural family ties) are to be submitted to the Kingdom of God. That’s why Jesus said that the one who want to follow Him should hate his mother and father, and children, and so on…
I think that at some point, the church in the west have so much insisted on the family, that it could really become an obstacle to the kingdom of God some time.

I think Jesus said that because the family had become an idol. Like the church, the family should be focused on mission. A parallel is in Numbers where the people refused to go into the promised land and take it and used their children as an excuse to hide behind. So God made the adults wander around in the desert until they died out and then used the children to take it. In the same way, God is perhaps using a new generation unfettered by their elders’ traditions to advance the Kingdom like never before. If the family isn’t mobilized to accomplish the Great Commission, then it is an idol.

Another excellent question! I would say yes, in the context of this discussion there is a difference. And the implications are huge. I think the statement that John White made “a family is a community but a community is not necessarily a family.” is very relevant. This distinction is at the heart of what should set the church apart from every other community. The fact that, what we have in common, is being part of a family where the blood we share is holy, eternal, and belonging to God himself is a fact that should distinguish Christian community from every other cult, club, and community the world has to offer. This is a fact we are called together by God to realize, not a fact that we by human endeavor cause to happen. By engaging in evangelism or helping the poor we do not add to the finished work that Jesus has done. We are part of God’s family by God’s grace. This seems to go against the grain of contemporary church thought which teaches a more man centered experience where you make family happen by doing the right things. Where if you don’t like the educational background, skin color, or financial situation of a brother or sister you are encouraged to go find a community of believers that better suits you. I think what is shown in the bible is something quite different. It is a family fathered by God and we don’t choose it any more than we chose our natural families. What I’ve often experienced are believers that treat God’s family as if it is a family less real than their natural families. Or a community less important than the ones they have chosen and built themselves. I think this is why I sometimes resist people that stress mission and doing over family and being. Because I think you can have lots of religious activity without any relationship to Jesus or other members of his family. Just look at how busy and “missional” many of the cults are. But I think it is much more difficult to focus on Jesus and our relationship to him and not become passionate about what he is passionate about. I’ve seen it echoed throughout several post that mission and community are facets of the same gem. I’d say that gem is the body of Christ of which he is the head. And I’d say it is a gem of which he is also the author and perfecter.

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