“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure” – Eph. 1:5
“He pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:49-50
One of major themes of the New Testament is family. Jesus’ redefinition of what it meant to be the people of God was a radical departure from traditional Jewish ideas of family. Paul’s recognition of our adoption into God’s family, for both Jew and Gentile, took this a step further. All of the barriers between race, sex, economic status, and religious identity were torn down. Under Jesus, a new humanity had been created.
I believe that this revelation of family can fundamentally change our understanding of the nature of church and mission. Grasping God’s kingdom is a necessary first step. But often we put the kingdom at odds with the church. Family bridges the gap and provides a natural container for acts of the kingdom. Instead of strategizing how to make existing church structures more missional, we need to grasp how the family of God is the greatest missionary strategy in history.
I’ve wrestled over the years on how to help our community become more focused on what God is doing “out there”. But then some hopeless, broken, or lonely person comes in contact with one of us and gets adopted. I love watching the process. Generally, Amber and I have very little involvement. The tractor-beam of the Holy Spirit takes over and they become a member of the family. I have seen nothing more effective, lasting, and transformative than this process.
The problem, of course, is that you can’t manufacture family. What has developed in our community has taken years. Leadership has been important, but only to brush aside the distractions so the real thing could grow unhindered. In some cases, the less you do as a leader, the better. But there is a critical function that will never disappear: families need Moms and Dads. Paul understood this function well. It can be extremely frustrating at times, especially when the kids start to grow up and forget that they wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for you. Read 1 Corinthians sometime with the eyes of Papa Paul. Painful…but also beautiful.
So we are learning how to birth spiritual families, help them grow into maturity, teach them how to honor each other, and release them to adopt many more brothers and sisters. This is the foundation of missional church. Everything we do is built on this foundation or it will crumble under the weight of our own innovation.