Transitioning to a Family-Oriented Church Model

One of the books I am currently reading is When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community by Joseph H. Hellerman.  This is one of those books that holds the potential of being life transforming, so I will be posting a book review in the near future.  I’m sharing an excerpt from a section titled, ” Transitioning to a Family-Orient Church Model.”  Many are reflecting on what community is and what it might mean in our contemporary context.  These words are worth some consideration and thought.

Much has been written in recent years about creating community in the local church.  The good news is that we do not need to create community.  Indeed, we could not do so even if we wanted to.  God has already created His community by saving us into His eternal family.  We already are, for better or worse, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Our problem is that we do not often enjoy the kind of community that we sense we should as people who are family in God’s eyes.  To reframe the issue in theological terms, our relational reality falls far short of our positional reality, where the horizontal aspect of the Christian life is concerned.  Indeed, given the present state of some of our churches, recapturing Jesus’ vision for authentic Christian community may seem like a nearly insurmountable challenge.

I find it immensely encouraging to remember that this is God’s project, not ours, and to remind myself that the Holy Spirit truly longs to knit us together in community as God intends it.  God is more than ready to come alongside those who are willing to do the hard work of living life as the new covenant family of God.  More often than not,  we simply need to figure out how to get out of God’s way in order to let Him do His community-creating work in our lives.

A Statement Worth Living and Dying For

THE APOSTLES’ CREED

I believe in God, the Father Amighty,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord:

Who was conceived of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.

He descended into hell.

The third day he arose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven
and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty,
whence he shall judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiving of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.

Amen.

At this particular time in my pilgrimage I find these words clarifying, inspiring and wonderfully encouraging.  My prayer is that you will as well.

Graced New World

Behold! A graced new world has come upon us. We are in it.  We are also clothed with it. Those in Christ are now clothed with the Spirit from heaven.  Jesus promised us that he would not leave us alone, but that the Spirit would be with us. And so now we are wearing the raiment of a new world — a world soaked through with the presence and character of God.

We live simultaneously in a “brave new world” as well. It is the world of Adam, a world still deeply and profoundly shaped and scarred by the militant occupation of sin and death. This brave new world is that place where the humans and their societies are caving in on themselves.

Oppression , tyranny, poverty, racism, environmental degradation, conspicuous consumption, and many other ailments are disturbing expressions of the world of Adam.  Scripture testifies that sin and death entered into the world through one man’s disobedience.  Scripture also testifies that one man’s faithfulness, that of Jesus of Nazareth, has led to the emergence of a new world.

The Spirit clothes us with the power to live faithful and sacrificial lives that sing of a coming new world. It is a world that reflects the love, mercy, and justice of God. In the book of Acts we are given a snapshot of a community of friends clothed with the power of heaven.  What happens is quite startling. They share their lives, food, shelter, songs, and the different worlds they inhabit.

In our world, what does it mean to be clothed with the raiment of heaven? We still live in the world of Adam, a world characterized by violent and oppressive relations between people representing different worldviews.  In such a world, the hope of Easter and the promise of the Spirit bring us to a stance of resistance to these things.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit we are adorned with the raiment of a graced new world.  ANTHONY SMITH, page 157, The Mosaic Bible