Not too long ago, God put some thoughts in my heart about the idea of family. I am so grateful that family is His idea, and that He has spent the last five years of my life restoring me to my natural family. I have grown to love and honour my father and mother like never before, even to desire harmony and relationship with my grandmother, my sister, cousins, uncles and aunts. And this has blessed our family tremendously.
But recently He asked me to think about a different family – my church. “What does it mean to see your church as your family?” He asked. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised how crucial it was for me to understand this. How I view my church ultimately directs the way I regard its people.
For instance, I could view it as an organisation that is responsible for feeding me spiritually, and all I need to do is receive? Or, I could view it as an institution that I come to and ‘pay my dues’ so that I can have a safe and good afterlife? Thirdly, I could view it as a business, where operations must run smoothly and efficiently in order to please and wow the members so that they will keep coming back?
As we wrapped up the English sermon series It Runs In The Family, I reflected on the five important qualities of family as per God’s original design. They are so applicable to growing and strengthening the church body as a family, too. Here are some suggestions as to how can we apply this in a church context and I hope this will start you thinking about how we can build our church community further.
1. Love (Part 1)
“I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” ~ John 13:34-35 (AMP)
Have we actively shown love to each other in the church? Every week, ministries work together to plan and run weekend services. As we serve alongside each other, do we treat our areas of serving as tasks to be completed, or do we use these moments to build relationships with each other and bless each other in love? Have we spent time and effort to identify the love languages of our church friends and ministry teams, so that we can best make them feel loved? Serving truly transcends the task itself. If we pull off great services but do not grow in love towards one another, perhaps we are missing the point.
2. Communication (Part 2)
The beauty of our church is its diversity. In FGA, there are four different language campuses, and we are home to people from many nations and walks of life. The diverse cultures paint a lovely image of the Kingdom, and at the same time, this provides us with the beautiful opportunity to learn to accept people who are different from us. Communication is not just about conversation and getting our points across. In the sermon, Angie mentioned that “healthy communication = active listening + life-giving words”.
James 1 reminds us to ‘be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger’. We have no knowledge of someone else’s story unless we seek to listen and understand without judgment!
I also feel like we can never have enough of life-giving words. Each individual being is created with the likeness of God, so of course, you can always find something amazing about that person to call out. Praise in public, speak life into people and encourage individually and corporately. I believe that this will build up people to be more confident that they are walking according to their calling when they serve one another.
3. Trust (Part 3)
This may be just my opinion, but at times, I feel that we don’t give each other enough credit and trust to do outstanding and great things for the Kingdom. We sometimes seem hesitant to trust people to get a job done ‘well’, because they haven’t met the standards that we’ve unknowingly placed over them. Rhordan spoke about how trust is usually earned, but if we tried giving trust, we may be surprised by the outcome.
Remember that Jesus entrusted Peter to feed his sheep and lambs (John 21:15-17). This was after Peter denied him three times. Jesus didn’t wait for Peter to get ‘up to standard’ to give him the task of building the very first church in history. He simply trusted Peter to do it. If you read the book of Acts, you will see what eventually happens. In fact, you and I are here because of the efforts of Peter and the other apostles.
All because a simple fisherman with a glib tongue and rash behaviour was trusted and empowered to do great work for the expansion of the Kingdom.
4. Faith (Part 4)
In this sermon, Angie stressed upon the importance of demonstrating and passing our faith on to the next generation. The primary space for this is within your family. This month, we also prayed to become a church that constantly teaches the next generation about God, and how to walk with Him in relationship.
Our church is constantly reminded to be a people who ‘make disciples who make disciples’. Even if we do not have children of our own, we can demonstrate our faith to those we disciple. The way that we walk out our faith will be observed by those we lead. Are we helping them grow in their faith by being a living testimony to the goodness of God? Are we offering them Godly advice when they come to us with their problems? Are we having regular conversations about God with them?
And if you are not discipling, or being discipled, can I gently suggest that you start? Just ask someone if they will walk in discipleship with you and take it from there. You can talk to our pastors and leaders for some resources that will help you get started. We are not all called to be apostles, teachers, prophets or evangelists, but Matthew 28:18-20 does call us all to be disciple-makers.
5. Resolving Conflict (Part 5)
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” ~ Matthew 18:15 (NIV)
In the Singaporean culture, we tend to shy away from conflict. Based on the Menti survey we took as a congregation over the last weekend, most of us prefer to stay away from confrontation. We would prefer to keep the peace rather than rock the boat.
But I believe that we can learn to be a church family that communicates differences and manages conflict well. Pastor Rhordan broke down conflict management in a few steps:
#1: Address the matter as soon as possible #2: Decide to take initiative
#3: Own your part of the issue
#4: Check your motives
#5: Speak the truth
#6: Speak it in private!
I have to confess that I used to hate dealing with conflict. I was one of those who would prefer to keep the peace, stew inside, but I found myself drifting away from the people who hurt me because I ended up judging them rather than clarifying the matter with them. Things changed when I realised that God’s design is for the church to be united as one, and it is the enemy’s grand scheme to try and divide us – first by creating the fear of confrontation the opinions of others, and then using that fear to create distances between each other, usually culminating in a whole lot of unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness.
So, let’s aim to be bold, loving and honest in our relationships within our church family. Let’s chase relationships with each other. Let’s make it our priority to close the distance and become one. “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another.” (John 13:34 AMP) When we treat each other like family, we will be an unstoppable force, and we will reflect God in His full glory to the world.