by Kevin Peck
Every one of us is a part of a family. If your family is anything like mine it is a great family, but far from perfect. My family is much like so many others. We love each other, care about each other and contribute to one another, and yet, if you hang around us long enough, you’ll see our weaknesses– in the way we work together and even particular weaknesses in each of my family members. You wouldn’t be the only one to see those weaknesses; I see all of them and many more, as well. But you know what? I am still crazy about my family… It may be a awed group of people, but they are mine.
Our church family is no different. Every true church family has great strengths, areas that need to improve, and yes, even glaring weaknesses. Sometimes it is difficult not to see the things that need to improve in our local church. Maybe the children’s ministry needs work, or maybe the preaching could be better. There are so many things that could draw our criticism, but our view toward our church must be familial, not commercial. The church is our family, not a service provider. If you don’t like the food or the service at a local restaurant, by all means, leave a comment card and if they don’t address it, stop giving them your business! But a church is a different kind of thing altogether. The language of the church in the Bible is the language of family. The church is the bride of Christ; the church is the family of God; the saints are brothers and sisters; older men in the church are fathers and younger men are sons; older women are mothers and younger women are daughters. This is a language of family: a significant and unalterable relationship. You don’t see family as a means to an end. You don’t stay in your family because they do everything right and never disappoint you. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. You love your family because of their strengths and despite their weakness. You just love them…because they are yours.
When Jesus saved us, He did not just save us out of sin, death and judgment. More than that, He saved us into His family and into His Kingdom. When Jesus saved you and me, He saved us into His family and saved us forlife in His family. The church God has brought you to is now, through His blood, your family. You belong to your church like you belong to your earthly family. Our earthly families are bound by blood, by marriage and by adoption. Our spiritual families are bound by the same realities! Only, in Christ, we are bound together by a more precious blood, united through a more perfect union, and brought near by His glorious adoption.
Consider your earthly family for a moment. How does God wants you to think and feel about them – through the lens of love, optimism, encouragement and faith? Or, should we focus on the weakness, the failures, and the ways our own needs are being left unfulfilled? God wants us to fight to LOVE the families He has given us, both our physical family and our spiritual family (the church). I’m not saying there isn’t a time for correction or for challenge. Even in our earthly families, correction and challenge must occur in order for the family to be healthy, but the secret to a great family is having a tone of encouragement and optimism, even through those instances of failure and correction.
There are different kinds of weakness that move us toward different kinds of action. If a church is teaching contrary to Scripture, or acting in a way that is perverse or unholy, the LOVING thing to do is share concern and move toward correction, but those are NOT the kind of weaknesses I have in mind now. Most of our challenges to LOVE our churches come from weaknesses in process, execution, or even capacity. If we operate our families like service providers, they simply don’t work because that just isn’t their design. We don’t see families for what they give, but for who they are. In the church family we don’t just see what services or needs we can have met, we see a family that needs our love, sacrifice, and commitment to be an accurate picture of the One who bought us. In Christ, we see the church for WHOSE we are and to WHOM we belong. The church is “we” not “they.” One of the most profound truths in all of Scripture is that in Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit, we are one family. We love Christ, because He loved us first. We love each other, because we love Christ. Let’s continue to love our God by loving our church family.
What words would you use to describe your posture towards your church family? When you think about your church family do you see your posture as hopeful, sacrificial, and encouraging? Or do you more often see a posture of cynicism, critique, and disappointment?
Is it a struggle for you to value the family of God in the same way we see Christ value it in the Scriptures? How can you imitate Christ in the ways He moves toward the family of God, even when it was a great cost to Him? Today, look for ways that can help you love your church family. Then put them into practice. You’ll be glad you did!
[Kevin Peck is the lead pastor of The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, TX. Kevin works to bring strategic leadership, strong teams and a passion for developing leaders to the local church. Kevin also serves as the Acts 29 Network Director for Emerging Regions, helping to recruit and train church planters throughout Africa and Asia. Kevin received his doctorate in leadership from Southern Seminary. He co-wrote a book with Eric Geiger called, Designed to Lead: The Church and Leadership Development. He is married to Leslie, and together they have 3 beautiful girls: Ellie, Halle, and Ivey. ]