by Brandy Webb
Does your congregation stay in touch with each other outside of church? Do you call people during the week to see how they are doing? When was the last time you had someone from your fellowship over for dinner? How many of us know each other’s phone numbers, let alone where each of us live? Do you bother to call a member if you haven’t seen them at church in a while to make sure they are okay?
If you do all the above things, that is awesome. Please teach others to do it, also, because this is what families do for each other. We are supposed to be the family of God, but in my experience, we really don’t act like it. Families get together when they can. They may fight, but they forgive. They call each other and help each other out. Do we act like a family? Or do we just go to church and think that is enough?
I am asking a lot of questions because I realize that I am just as guilty of not really treating my fellow brethren like family. We are to confess our sins to each other and pray for each other (James 5:16). I don’t see any of us really going that deep. I know that not all of us are going to get along. Different personalities can rub each other raw, but that doesn’t mean we can’t agree to disagree and still respect each other.
Picture this: you are a new convert to Christianity. You are excited to realize that you have a Heavenly Father and Savior that loves you, and you are going to go to church for the first time. You go to services, and as soon as you enter, a member greets you with a warm smile, shakes your hand, and welcomes you. They then introduce you to other members. People ask you how you found Christ. They ask you if you don’t mind giving them your contact information, and they share theirs. They also let you know that you can call them anytime if you have any questions about the Bible or if you want to study together. In other words, they are interested in getting to know you, and are just as excited as you for your new found faith.
Now, picture this: you are a new convert, and you go to church for the first time. You are greeted with a warm smile; some people say hi, and ask your name, but then they go off to talk to the people they know. You stand there looking around at the various members. People are grouped up visiting with each other, but you are alone. A few people pass you and smile and say hi. A couple asks your name, but the questions don’t go any further than nice formalities. No one asks if they can get in touch with you outside of church. No one offers to Bible study with you outside of church. In fact, no one gives you their phone number nor asks you for yours. To you, it seems that the only person excited about your new faith is yourself.
My question is, which scenario would you prefer? Which church is your congregation like? I am not trying to criticize us, but I am wondering how much of a family are we to each other? We are supposed to be a family of believers. God “makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters” (Heb 2:11). He is called the firstborn Son among many brothers and sisters (Rom 8:29). How many of us have phone numbers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we can contact each other outside of church? I’m sure you have your physical family members’ numbers. In fact, I’m sure you talk to them between family gatherings. I doubt that the only time you talk to your family members is at holidays, reunions, weddings, and funerals. However, is the only time you talk to your spiritual family at services, Holy Days, weddings, and funerals?
The New Testament Church is a good description of a spiritual family. They were so excited about their new faith that “they sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need” and “everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts” (Acts 2:45-46). Okay, don’t worry, I am not advocating that we all sell our properties and live together. This doesn’t work well in our time, but it worked in their time. My point is, though, that they knew each other intimately, not just passively. They weren’t acquaintances; they were family, which is what we are supposed to be.
I will be honest—I do not have some points on how to implement this change in congregations that need to change. I know that there are probably congregations that do act like families, and maybe they can share their experiences and wisdom. I do know that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors (Prov 11:14; 15:22). Therefore, if we put our thinking heads together maybe we can start implementing change within our family of believers that leads us to learn how to live in unity. By the way, the family of believers is not restricted to within the confines of a particular acronym COG. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psa 133:1).