This is our new series on becoming like family. There are five main characteristics of the kind of community we’re forming. The first one:
Discipleship – what we’re learning together as a community. Here’s our guidance from the Bible on this characteristic. Comes from Paul, one of the first to start new church communities in the cities around the Mediteranean., reflecting here on what it means to be a church made up of different kinds of leaders and people, all learning the same thing.
The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ. We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ (Ephesians 4:11-15
Yesterday, I told you about having attended homecoming at the university where I studied engineering. Naturally enough, first year engineering students tend to think they will all end up in engineering careers. My experience, however, was that after graduating we end up in all sorts of professions. My own class includes actual engineers, but also those in business, consulting, full-time parenting, doctors, lawyers, rock climbing gym owners, urban planners, even running mobile apps for commuters.
But some common threads emerge – we have learned to think analytically to solve complex and diverse problems that might not have been anticipated.
We have a similar aim in discipleship. The point is not that all followers of Jesus will become automatons with no discernible differences. They are simply to have the same aim, purpose in mind, to learn to follower Jesus Christ and apply that to the many challenges of life. The idea is not to memorize rules, but learn maturity in Christ.
We can see this diversity in the five types of work in the church listed here. There are other lists, as well, but we’ll just use this example.
Teacher – Helps others study the Bible and learn to follow Jesus.
Shepherd – Helps others live as a follower of Jesus, through close relationships.
Evangelist – Tells the story of the good news of Jesus Christ in compelling ways.
Apostle – Develops and leads new church communities that reach new people and places.
Prophet – Tells it like it is, speaks for God’s interests when there is injustice and sin.
Question: Which of these five do you understand the least? Why might it be necessary?
Coffee Hours this Week:
Have questions about the challenges, do you want to meet others exploring the same content, or connect with Ryan?
Join us for our coffee shop drop-in tomorrow night, Wednesay, October 30th from 7:30pm-9:00pm at the Starbucks in the Ajax Chapters. Look for Ryan Sim in the drink line, or a Redeem the Commute postcard on a table.
We asked yesterday if you could list of what comes to mind when you hear the word “church”. Our lists probably included buildings, events and services. It may have included organ and choir music, stained glass windows, dusty books, bake sales and more. It may evoke good experiences, or bad ones.
But not how the Bible usually sees “church”. Church is described in several cases as a family. This is why our vision is to become a church made up of many groups who are “like family” with one another.
But you might immediately think this means something strange and cultish, usually because our ideas of family today is pretty narrow. We think of family as the nuclear, immediate family in isolation.
But in Jesus’ culture, in some cultures today, and not so long ago in Western culture, the family was the word used more naturally to describe an extended network of relations, often living in the same area.
That was the context for family in Jesus’ day, and Jesus had plans to develop a new kind of extended family. Here’s a striking moment when he described his plans to create an alternate family:
Matthew 12:46-50 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
On the one hand, it seems Jesus just put down his mother. I just saw “Guilt Trip” where Barbra Streisand plays Seth Rogen’s overbearing mother. She calls several times a day, tries to get him to drink water constantly, and so on. In the middle of their road trip, he finally snaps, and tells her off.
It seems like that might be what Jesus is doing to his mother here. Is he putting her down, in his plans to join another family? Look at it another way. Jesus is actually elevating his disciples to family status. His followers, fellow practitioners of his kingdom, are his family.
She’s not excluded. Later in the story of Jesus’ life and death, we see Mary his mother appearing as a devoted member of this extended family, and Jesus even assigns one of the disciples to look after her after his death, saying he’s her new son, and vice versa.
Jesus isn’t narrowing his definition of family to exclude blood relatives. He’s broadening it, to include his extended family of followers as if they are blood relatives.
Question: Imagine your immediate family suddenly adopting a dozen new members. How would it change your way of life? What would be the pros and cons?
This series looks at becoming “like family” with others learning to follow Jesus. We're exploring how the church is not a building, institution or event, but a community of people. It's important that explore what church means as we prepare to launch a new church in Ajax in 2014.