I spent this past weekend (and then some) with my extended family. Some of them have known me since I was born. Some are recent acquisitions that have come through marriage or birth. Most of it was enjoyable and full of laughter and celebration.
But a curious thing happened when I was at my extended family’s Christmas. I was part of several conversations where people who had known me forever made small, (to them) insignificant comments about their perception of me. None of them were bad, they were mostly complimentary, but they were surprising.
They were surprising because they identified things about me that I didn’t and at times still don’t see in myself. But as I grow, I’m finally able to trust that people see me better than I see myself, especially my family who has shown love to me more times than I deserve.
And this got me thinking about the benefit of family. Family knows you: They know your weaknesses, your awkward times, and your mistakes. Having seen you at your worst and your best, they are able to know the true you, not the you everyone else identifies you with. Many times they know you better than your perception of yourself.
But family also loves you: They’ve come to commit themselves to you beyond all of the negative things. They’ve seen your value and stuck around, not abandoning you because of your weakness. It’s what makes them still your family.
Family fulfills a dual role of knowing and loving, something that is hard to do in our world.
This is why it’s so incredibly crucial for the church to be a family. We were designed to need people who could see us as we truly are–who both know us and love us. Being known and loved keeps us from deception. They keep us from thinking too highly of ourselves and too lowly of ourselves. Spiritual families who both know and love the people in their midst can speak to a person’s potential, knowing full well where they are weak and where they excel.
And this is why your church, no matter how it meets or functions, needs to act like a family, not a meeting place, a club, a branch of the military, or a corporate business. Because only families can produce the kind of transforming love that our society is desperately craving and simultaneously rebelling against. And only the church as a family can weather the hardship of this hour to speak to us and transform us more fully into sons and daughters of God.
The world needs the church to be a family again. Because family can see what only family can see.
God gives us spiritual parents.
One of the things that I love about God is how incredibly practical He is. Even though He is willing to give us Himself as a father, he knows that we were designed to live in relationship with other beings with skin. God stoops down to our level, changes us with His fathering heart, and even goes one step farther: He sends spiritual parents in our lives.
A spiritual parent is a human being who knows Christ as their Lord and is tasked with bringing you as an individual into your full sonship in God. Paul said to the Corinthians that though they had many teachers in Christ, they had one father—himself (1 Corinthians 4:15). He had become a father to the whole Corinthian church through being the first to bring the Gospel to Corinth. Paul had a special relationship because of that act that always gave him permission to speak into their messy situations. In an ideal setting, the person who led you to Jesus should be one of your primary spiritual parents. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
When a person comes to Christ, if the person that lead them to Jesus is either absent or non-existent (meaning the person came to know Jesus by simply reading the Bible, finding a tract, etc.) then a spiritual adoption must occur. When this happens, spiritually mature, well-fathered believers can and should reach out to new believers and assume the fathering role in their Christian walk. While this is not the best scenario for spiritual parenting, it will work in a pinch.
The goal of these spiritual parents is to raise these spiritual sons and daughters into their new Kingdom identity. The spiritual parent is tasked with loving with the Father’s love and being a physical representative of the Heavenly Father in the new believer’s life. Spiritual parents also will become channels of wisdom passed down from other believers (2 Timothy 2:1-2). They will also bring discipline and correction to those areas that are in need of it. Most who think they are spiritual parents believe it is done primarily through teaching. In reality, sonship is taught through life lived together, love shared, and wisdom passed on in life as situations arise. Spiritual parents are constantly “re-presenting” God as Father, so that the lies we naturally believe about God are dispelled.
It’s through this process of mirroring God the Father, teaching new sons how to experience sonship, and being a tangible fathering force that these spiritual parents reproduce spiritual sons. In the end the sons and daughters they raise will raise spiritual children of their own, because they’ve been well fathered. This process, continued for many generations of disciples, would pass on and expand the circle of family and sonship that God designed to rest on all of humanity.
God raises sons and daughters through natural parents, Himself, and spiritual parents. And now that we understand how God raises His children, we have to turn our attention to combatting the orphan mentality in us and in others. We’ll begin looking at that next week….
Every week here at Pursuing Glory I try to bring together the best posts I’ve found that will equip the end-times church to operate in her God-ordained destiny. These are the best blogs, articles, books and other resources related to our purpose here at this site. Feel free to visit, comment, and make use of the resources found at each site.
I never knew that blogging every day could be so difficult. The people who do this regularly must have no other job or commitments (or they lack small children). Despite my complaining, this has actually been a good process and I’ve learned a lot about Jesus, listening, blogging, and writing. And now, on with the links.
New Generations International Newspaper Check out this excellent story at David Watson’s blog, Touchpoint, which tells the story of a miracle happening in their church planting network in Southeast Asia.
What is Organic Church This is an in-depth article between Neil Cole and Frank Viola. Each call what they are doing organic church but the result is very different. I think this interview by Keith Giles at Subversive1 is incredibly helpful. We have a lot to learn from both men.
Spiritual Family This blog looks at the shirt that has taken place as a movement-oriented house church network begins to operate as a spiritual family. House churches will never work if we don’t do both. Find more at A Holy Discontent’s Weblog.
Emerging Doubt This post is by Steve over at Movements.net. Steve brings us up to date on why much of the “Emergent Church” conversation didn’t help bring the Gospel to others like they said it would.
Thirty Days To Greater Fruitfulness, Week Two And finally, my little contribution to the internets. Check out the exploits of a man committed to listening to Jesus and obeying what he hears for 30 days.