Friday, November 06, 2009

Not a family church

I was recently talking with a couple of pastors who are on staff at a church together. They talked glowingly about their church, and how it is a "family church," and all the things they do to lift up "family," and they're working on making it more "family friendly" and trying to disciple the "whole family" with "family values" and family, family, family, family, family...

However, later on they said one area of concern was their inability to attract students from the college located right next to their church building. They said they wished they could figure out how to connect with them, because they basically had no college-age people in their church.

You know... I might not be real smart, but it seems fairly simple to me. I mean, for one thing, most people that age are still SINGLE. Why would a single person want to be part of a family church? For another thing, most college students are maybe just getting out on their own... Perhaps the LAST THING they want at this time is to be around more family! I dunno. Maybe that's just me though.

At any rate, I have never really liked the "family church" mentality in general. Not that I am against families being a part of the church (I am all for it), but I think when you say you are "family friendly" you automatically alienate a whole lotta people from church. What about those who are single? What about those who aren't in the same place spiritually as their spouse? What if you don't have kids? What if you are a kid? I just think it sends a wrong message. Church should be for anyone and everyone. Sometimes I think we may even need a little separation to sort of "find our own way."

And not only that, but I don't know that Jesus was a "family-church" guy either. I mean, read Matthew 12:46-50. He asks, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers." Then points at his disciples and says it's those who do the will of God. Blood might be thicker than water, but HIS blood is thicker than ours. (Lauren Winner has a nice post: "The Gospels Don't Preach Family Values").

Ultimately I believe a church that just wants to be "family friendly" is missing the point. They make faith out to be nothing more than living a good, moral life - 'cultural drapery' - if you will. There is no interest in seeing lives transformed by the power of the gospel; they mostly just want a nice safe club to raise their family in. And, hey, it's not that I am against niceness, or safety... I just don't think that is what Jesus came to bring us. He came to bring a way out for the prisoner, a way up for the downtrodden, a way home for the lost, and a way to carry on for the weary. I believe he was much more of a revolutionary, and I'm not sure how nice, safe, or "family-friendly" revolutionaries are. To make church nothing more than keeping a set of moral values strips the gospel of its power, and denies a whole bunch of people the chance to find freedom and hope and their true home, in Christ.

So it's not that I am anti-family, but I believe Jesus wants us to look at family differently. We are all related in the human sense... we are all in need. I hope and pray that my church might become more "Jesus friendly"... and that it would be a place where ALL people can feel welcome and accepted in hopes of being a part of his family together.


Whisky Prajer said...

Amen -- to everything.

grace said...

Good post, well said. Reminds me of the book "Consuming Jesus." Metzger addresses issues of consumer preference in the church and at one point talks about the "deification" of family and how that mentality come from a lack of kingdom awareness and leads to exclusion. While it sounds contrary to de-emphasize family, there is an idolotrous slant to the overemphasis.

Larry Geiger said...