The Body of Christ as Family

The Body of Christ as Family | eventuallycomplete.com

{This post is something I’ve had rolling around in my heart for awhile…and while it’s something I’ve observed in the past couple of years as we’ve moved around, it’s something I wish I would have noticed years ago. So while I’m writing from the current perspective of someone who lives far away from blood-relative-family, please know that I was on the other side for most of my life and now looking back, I wish I knew then what I know now.}

The Body of Christ, when it is full of the Spirit, functioning well together, and seeking God’s Will and Glory is a wonderful thing. An unstoppable force. The gates of hell cannot prevail over it. (Matt 16:18) When God is behind something and working through something, nothing can stand against it.

But then, we are sinful, flawed, broken people. The Church, as my pastor put it in a sermon awhile ago, often functions as a car with a flat tire. When your car has a flat tire, you’re kinda stuck and not super useful. Not beyond repair of course, but not exactly able to do your thing. And there are many areas the Church has a “flat tire”: addressing global poverty, human trafficking, orphans, sick and lonely elderly, racial tension, respect for authority, gossip,…the list goes on. It can seem daunting. So much brokenness. And I’m not writing this to rip apart the Church. I’m part of the Church, I love the Church…and I also know I am part of the sin problem in the Church.

The Body of Christ as Family| eventuallycomplete.com

We’ve visited a lot of churches in the past three years. (None since finding our church family here in KC…but after moving from Washington, we had an almost 2 year period of feeling “homeless” as far as Church goes.) Every church is different, but we all have one purpose: make disciples, enjoy and glorify God. It is cool that no matter where we go we will find brothers and sisters in Christ. But what I’ve found is we don’t often treat each other as brothers and sisters. We are buddies. We are girlfriends. We are groupies. We are friends. Occasionally there will be those few small groups that function like a family. They love each other with the love of Jesus. They get into each others lives and dig deep. They love each others kids. They are not willing to let each other slip….even if it costs them their friendship. They function as Christ meant the Church to function. Maybe you’ve been part of one of those groups. Maybe your group has those moments or is getting to that point. Maybe you long for that group. Maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about.

When I read about the early Church in Acts it looks a lot different than Church looks today. Of course this is 2000 years later, a different country and culture…but I think there are elements that could remain if we really took the time and effort to cultivate the family culture that is supposed to be prevalent in the Church. What I read about/see, is the early Church caring for each other, within the Body…and then once the Body is cared for by the Body,…they then go out and serve, and preach, and teach, and reach the lost. I think that in a way, we’ve lost the sense of family in the Church. Do we see Church as a bunch of family units that come together to pitch in and do their part? Or are we seeing the Church as brothers and sisters who come together to do good to one another, build up one another and serve together?

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.com

I would equate it to something similar in a family unit…I wouldn’t expect my husband to do well at work if he didn’t feel accepted or cared for at home. Home/family is his recharge place. This is where he should be able to let his guard down, but still do his part an active member of our family. I also can’t expect my children to go to school/sports/events and be looking out for others or even doing their part if they aren’t being filled up at home…physically, emotionally, spiritually. I think same goes for us in the Church. These are the people who should have our backs, but want what God wants at the same time.We should be getting into each others lives out of genuine love for Christ and one another. Intentional community and connection and plain old just living our lives together no matter your age, marital status, job, family situation, or season of life. Do you see that happening around you?

And I own my part of this problem. Most of my life I lived with family 10-15 minutes away. As an adult if I needed something, I called them. If I had a question, problem, doubt, fear, if I was lonely…they weren’t far away. If we had something to celebrate, the people who cheered us on in life were never hard to find. Yet I lived in an area where there were always new families around me. There is a nuclear reactor site not far from our town that provided many jobs and people relocate to the area from all over the world all the time. We were constantly surrounded by people who were without biological family nearby…and I was ignorant of their needs. Partly because I had no clue what it was like to live far away from the familiar. Partly because I wasn’t looking out for the brothers and sisters around me. Partly because becoming “like” family to others is messy work. The six of us in our house create enough drama, chaos, and literal mess…it seems like an awful lot of work to add more people to my list of those who need my care and support.

But friends…no matter your season in life, you are so valuable to the Body of Christ around you. (And I’m telling myself this as much as I’m telling you.) Because even in my long days as a SAHM, I do have ways I can encourage, care for, support, and do life with my brothers and sisters in Christ. And on top of that, I often don’t feel I have the margin or capacity emotionally to do it,…but we often forget that we have the Holy Spirit on our side. Tap into Him…He will give us what we need to pour into one another!

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.comIf you’re like me you think, “Well yes there is a problem and I know I should do more, but no one wants me inviting myself in their lives/I don’t have the time/I have my on problems to deal with/not a big enough house/don’t cook very well/don’t know any kids in the church/don’t like people.” On and on the thoughts and excuses go. But over the past few years I’ve kind of logged away a few thoughts on each season of life and family role and how it can be applied to the Church Body. In fact I just love how God uses the physical family to model how the Church can function. No matter your age or season of life, there is a place for you! Whether you have no biological family surrounding you, or you are up to your ears in relatives, we can all care for one another within the Church. So here’s my thoughts on how different life seasons can”do good to one another” within the Body of Christ:

The baby-toddler stage can feel crazy and often mundane…but there are people in your church who either miss that stage of life or long for it. If you have little ones, don’t be stingy with their time spent around people within the Church. They learn early on that other adults love and care for them and that Church in an important part of what we do. When the older lady in your church who has no grandkids around offers to hold your baby through half the service, let her. (And if you know me at all, that would be a hard thing for me…my kids are my responsibility. If they cry, I should deal with it. Pride.issue.) But are we robbing someone else of doing good to us by not swollowing our own pride and just letting go of what’s comfortable? Little kids can be tiring…mostly to their parents. But they can also be a great source of joy to those who miss the little years. Don’t be so quick to refuse help with your babies, especially from those who have none.

I’m fairly certain no kids read my blog…so I can’t speak specifically to children…but I think we as parents need to train our kids to look for those who need a smile, a high five…a friend. I always tell my older two to look for the new kids in the church, or the kids that are sitting alone. And they don’t have to be their bff, just be a friend. Say something kind, ask questions about their favorite activities…do or say something that will help them to leave feeling encouraged and that Church is a place to find friends. I think if we raise kids who are the ones who walk in a room and have a heart attitude that says “I’m glad you’re here!” instead of “Here I am.”, the next generation of Church and small groups will look a lot different. Also teaching our kids to smile and chat with the elderly within the Church is so important. When we are around our kids all the time, we quickly forget that children really do bring joy to those whose children are grown and gone. Raising kids who see people with Christ’s eyes feels like a daunting task, but remember who’s on our side 🙂

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.com

Teens, and College-age kids…what an impact they have on young kids! We have friends who live in North Platte and they have 3 teenage sons who my kids think are IT. The time they spend building Legos, running around the backyard, reading books, playing games with them…it just makes me smile. I know young kids can be annoying to teens, but their role in kids lives is invaluable. I’m sure we as adults can remember those moments as a young kid when an “older kid” paid attention to us and you felt amazing because of it. Often we as parents use this age-group as babysitters, which is great, and I absolutely think this season of life makes wonderful babysitters and they should be compensated well for their time spent with our young ones. But there’s something about seeing this age group serving in the kids area on a Sunday morning. Something about watching a 16 year old boy play with my 2 year old son and they both are laughing. I do think we should also install in our kids that they are a part of the Church just like any adult is and their role of service is a blessing and a joy. Recently a 12 (maybe 13?) year old girl in a our church painted my oldest daughters nails while she babysat my kids. First of all, that’s amazing patience to watch 3 other kids while painting nails. I’m amazed. Second of all, what a gift she gave to my daughter. I don’t know if she knew what an impact that made on her, or me. But what a simple act of caring!

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.com

Young adults, young marrieds, couples without kids…personally I see you guys as the aunts and uncles of the church. I love being an aunt. I wish I could spend more time with my niece and nephew who live in Portland. My perspective on an aunt/uncle is I am like a young grandparent. I get to do things for those kids their parents can’t/won’t do but I have more energy (maybe!) than a grandparent. I also still get somewhat annoyed by children and might discipline more than a grandparent would 😉 Just because I give my niece or nephew a cookie when I told my own kids “no” (shhhh! Don’t tell) doesn’t mean I also won’t tell them they need go sit in time-out for a couple minutes. If I lived closer to them I would go to their sporting events, school plays, birthday parties, and give them the impractical toys they asked for…along with a book or something useful 😉 When we lived in Ohio there were 2 couples we hung around quite a bit and they fit into these roles so well for our kids. They played with our kids and I’m pretty sure they did things like sneak them treats when we weren’t looking 🙂 But there were times I also heard them tell my kids “I think your mom and dad said you shouldn’t do that, you need to obey.” They loved on our kids by engaging with them but also spurring them on to love and good deeds. And really, any adults in the Church can fit into the aunt/uncle role. I kind of see myself as “aunt” to my kids friends/my friends kids. And yes mom friends who are reading this…that means when your kids are at my house, I will probably give your kids an extra helping of ice cream when I told my own “no more” 😉 My house. My rules. 😀

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.com

Families and moms and dads who are “in the thick of it”…it feels like we don’t have much extra time, energy, grace, money, for our own kids let alone the Church. But if painting a little girls nails can help her feel loved and point her to Jesus…I’m pretty sure there’s more we can do 🙂 I think on of our biggest roles as families in the Church is inviting people into our lives. Feels scary. Feels awkward. But I guarantee it will be worth it. And invite people of all life seasons, not just other adults our age with kids…although that has it’s place too! We really enjoy having couples over who are our parents age. They encourage us and they enjoy being around noisy small children for a short amount of time 🙂 But most often we do tend to have other families over. I think it helps us all realize all our kids have flaws, our houses get messy, and sometimes dinner doesn’t turn out quite right. We also love on each others kids and cheer them on in life. Our son was in t-ball for the first time over the summer and there were two other families from church and one family from Nathan’s work who all had kids on the team. And it was so wonderful to be able to cheer on our kids together. Getting to sporting events/rectitals/plays for other kids might be hard at this season of life…so get your mom friends to sign up their kids on the same league as your kids and cheer on the kids of your friends! (Cheer them all on, but you know what I mean) I promise, you’ll feel a little more like family afterwards. Another simple way is just by being available for your Church family. Nathan has been out of town a lot for work these past few months and those days/nights aren’t super easy for the 5 of us here at home. If there happens to be an emergency or something, I have no grandparents to turn to for help…my Church family “mom friends” are the best at checking in on us and stepping in while Nathan is gone. Even their husbands ask how they can help. A simple text or stop by someones house to offer help is often all it takes to show some love. The other night I took my kids to a church pool party sans Nathan and I left feeling overwhelmed…partly because I was drained at that point from Nathan being gone…but mostly because my friends were asking how they could help, what could they carry, if we got enough to eat, and on and on. I felt so loved by my church family after leaving that place. And to be honest, I had a small twinge of guilt for a fleeting moment that they were all helping me when they had their own kids to attend to. Pretty sure that was the enemy making me feel that way…because the voice of truth said “no. You allowed others to help and that blesses them. And if you were there with Nathan and one of your friends came without her husband, you would be doing the same for her and you’d be glad to help.” True. Loving one another is a two way street…being available to be the helper, and being humble to accept the help.

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.com

I think the final “stage” of life is the empty-nester or at least someone older/wiser with no young children around. The grandparent phase of life. I don’t want to sound like I know anything about this stage because I certainly don’t. I’ve been through all the others…this one is yet to come…so all I can speak to is what I’ve observed and been shown by example. And I know this season of life is tricky because the younger generations for the most part often give off the vibe that we don’t need your advice/help/wisdom/care. Well, as a representative of the Millennial generation I can’t speak for all of us….but I’d say for the most part, we desperately want you involved in our lives and the lives of our children. Whether we have godly parents close to us/close by us or not, we long for close relationships of those who are older than us to point us to Jesus as we parent our kids, work in the marketplace, and weather life’s storms. We want you to tell us what you see us doing right and what you see us doing wrong. We want to know those moments when you blew it but God came through. We want to know you struggled in your marriage and how you wrestled with raising kids in a world that doesn’t value Christ or the family. We want our kids to see older adults caring for them because they love Jesus and He values children. We want you to pray for us. Younger generations have a reputation for not wanting or listening to the advice of the older generations…and I’d say that’s true if you offer your advice to those who you don’t really have relationship with. But if you are living life together, investing in the relationship and loving on them…personally I’d say your advice is welcome. We’ve had the privilege of being close to a few older couples over the years at a few different churches. They’ve had dinner with us, played games with us, read to our kids, counseled us when things get rocky, prayed for our family,…one of our mentor couples even went antiquing with us! Most of these couples don’t live close to us anymore but they are still the people we would turn to when we need prayer, counsel or encouragement. We have at least one couple here in KC that we’ve connected with and they are dear people who love Jesus and we love getting to know them. We parents of young kids know our kids can be challenging. We know working in Sunday school might be where you were for years and years and now it’s not your place anymore. But I would love to remind you of just how important you are…especially to families like ours who have no grandparents close by. You provide a certain kind of love and wisdom that we just cannot, yet. Thank you for still being a part of the Church. Please insert yourselves into the lives of those younger generations. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to an individual/couple/family that you can get close to and love on. I’m pretty certain He would love to show you who needs just what you have to offer 🙂 After all, He is in the business of setting the lonely into families.

The Body of Christ as Family |eventuallycomplete.com

I know not every person you encounter in the Church is going to result in a genuine, deeply connected and committed relationship, and really we can’t even expect to agree with everyone within the Church. We are called to love, serve, and spur one another on in love and good deeds…no matter if you consider them your “framily” or not. I just want to encourage all of us who consider ourselves as part of His Body to look to the needs of others, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t know your church or family situation, but I pray you feel encouraged reading this, and possibly have gained a new perspective and learned from my ignorance.

Sorry for such a long post. I guess when you’ve been writing a post in your head/heart for over a year, it gets kind of long 🙂

I do want to make it clear, this post wasn’t prompted by what our Church family here in KC isn’t doing…but quite the opposite…I feel like I’m finally seeing and experiencing a Church that feels like family when our biological family is far away. There’s even a few families who are part of other churches in the area who feel like family to us. They also help care for us, support us, Loe our kids, and step in when Nathan is away. I am blessed with a list of people to contact when I’m in need physically, emotionally, spiritually. I’m encouraged by this because if we ever do move back to the PNW again where our biological family will be physically present, I feel like we will be better equipped to see those around us who need us to insert ourselves into their lives and become their family because of Jesus. And even now we can be on the lookout for how we can better build-up and serve our brothers and sisters within our local church as well as in KC as a whole.

How about you? Is Church also your family? I’d certainly enjoy hearing your thoughts on this post! And I did a little search on Bible Gateway.com on “brothers & sisters in Christ”, so much good stuff there, I wish I could put every verse in this post, but it’s long enough 😉

Press on, and thanks for reading!

Jaimi S.

 

Comment away, friend!