Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Vision for Christian Community in Church and Home

Community is weak in modern America. People are taught to live for themselves and to adopt a consumerist mentality. The family is fragile. The father’s leadership in the family is tenuous, if not ridiculed. The generations are generally severed.

The church, by adapting to these realities, sometimes makes them worse. It too can become a well-branded commodity, more an activity center than a community, catering to youth culture and neglecting the place of the family in its ministry.

A number of churches and families have realized these problems and have sought to foster an organic, familial, and multi-generational church culture where church and family strengthen each other. Here is how Covenant Family Church, the church I serve, seeks to summarize this vision (as found here on our website):
Our name, Covenant Family, refers to our vision to be a church that is loyally bound to our God and each other in Christ, showing love among this church family and strengthening individual families as part of this whole. This ministry philosophy that views the church like a family and families like miniature churches, while viewing them as different but complementary institutions, has sometimes been called a “family integrated” approach to church. 
Building upon our Presbyterian distinctives, we emphasize that God has bound us together in His covenant as a family (Eph. 2:19-21). Those who have been adopted by God as their Father have each other for siblings. Those who love God will also love their brothers and sisters in Christ (1 John 4:7-8, 19-21). Thus, we seek to avoid church programs that divide and segregate the church by age, class, or special interests – seeking to integrate the various gifts and strengths found in our family (1 Cor. 12:12-26, Eph. 4:1-16, Titus 2:1-10). We also worship together as one covenant family. 
We also value families, believing that God includes in His covenant not only believers, but also their households (Gen. 17:1-14, Acts 16:31-34). We desire to equip and encourage parents to disciple their children in the ways of the Lord (Deut. 6:7, Eph. 6:4), being sensitive to the tendency for church programs to replace or hinder this family discipleship. Despite the opposition of our culture, we value marriage as God created it as a basic institution for our good and His glory (Gen. 2:18-24, Eph. 5:22-33, 1 Cor. 7:2-5) and we value children as a divine blessing to be desired and cherished (Gen. 1:28, Ps. 127:3-5, 128:3-4). 
Yet, there is a place in our church for the single, the fatherless, the orphan, and the childless. We do realize that some Christians have a gift of celibacy, and others are single or childless due to tragic and complicated circumstances, and this is where the church as an integrated covenant family is especially important. God is the “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” and He “settles the solitary in a home” (Psalm 68:5–6) as He brings them into His household. We are unified in Christ, whether “Jews or Greeks, slaves or free,” rich or poor, married or unmarried, whether you have numerous children or none (1 Cor. 12:13). 
It has been a blessing for me to grow up in, and now pastor, a church with this desire for a more relational model of church ministry. This effort has not been without difficulties and shortcomings, and it is prone to lose momentum since it pushes against the pressures of modern culture. Consequently, this Saturday, our church is holding our annual Men’s Advance with the theme of "building community." Kevin Swanson and Scott Brown will be joining us to speak on the challenges and lessons learned in trying to implement a more relational model of local church life, as well as articulating and reviving this vision for Christian community. If you are free this Saturday, consider joining us. You can find more information about the event at this link.

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