With all the things happening and shaking around the world, it is so important to have the strength and importance of the family unit in our homes. So many people are living their lives isolated from those around them and not having relationship in their lives. When we have the close-knit relationships that is found in healthy family, we find that it is much easier to walk it out and be victorious in times of crisis and difficulty.
When we choose not to have family, to have fathers in our lives, we find ourselves having to reach out to law enforcement, or government entities to step into roles that the family is supposed to be. Can the church rise up and support those who decide to walk out family. Truth of the matter is that, communities are made of many different small groups of people, families, who decided to have relationships together. This is the very model that Jesus walked out with His disciples: relationship. The Bible fits our lives when we read it from the context of family. The question is, is what we call the church in America, the Church that Jesus walked out and demonstrated in His life? When you look at the words of John Fenn, you may be shocked to realize the reality. “Christianity started as a relationship in Israel when God came to man. It went to Greece to become a Philosophy; to Rome to become a Religion; to Europe to become a tradition and part of the culture; and then to America to become an Enterprise”. What is so wild to ponder is to ask has the Church become a corporation while corporations are focusing on relationships and family?
Today, when someone says the word ‘church’, one may consider the large structure that has separated the ministry of women, the ministry of men, and the ministry of children, all in separate areas of the structure. While all of this is happening, no one is seeing each other in context of family relationship. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see a stark contrast to what the present demonstration of church seems. Jesus focused His life on pouring into His twelve disciples. Twelve. There is a mindset that says value is size, and if all you focused on was three, you’re not important or valuable. Imagine the impact if we have the focus that Jesus has, focus on relationship, not the “big”. Remember too, family is not our idea, family is God’s idea.
Years ago, Promise Keepers was an organization that reached tens of thousands of men with the Gospel of Jesus Christ to lead their lives, lead their homes, and impact their environments. What resulted with tens of thousands of men filling the Superdome in New Orleans, LA, and the Stand in the Gap huge million man gathering in the Washington D.C. Mall, started with small groups of men. Without the small relationships, there would never have been the large impact years later. One man shares the powerful testimony of how the Lord touched his heart so mightily upon seeing the reality of thousands of men worshipping the Lord. In that instant the Lord turned this man towards his son, and he knew instantly he needed to be more intentional in his son’s life. That is the very essence of Malachi 4:5-6,“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” This is what God does. God cares about relationship! Imagine the reality of being able to fill the National Mall because of a whole bunch of healthy small families.
This is the very essence of what Margaret Heffernan talked about in a TED Talk during a women’s conference of business leaders. She talks about a study of chickens that was conducted with two groups of chickens over six generations. One group was monitored, and the highest producing chicken, whoever produced the most eggs, was removed from that group and labeled as the “Super Chicken”. The “Super Chickens” were put into their own group and productivity was continually monitored. It’s really easy to study productivity with chickens. All you have to do is count the eggs. After six generations, the original group was still interacting and producing as they normally were. The interesting feedback was the outcome of the group of six Super Chickens. There were only three Super Chickens remaining as the others had been pecked to death.
Heffernan talks about how relationships between each other is the “Social Capital” that helps us in times of difficulty and stress. As Heffernan explains, it is this ‘Social Capital’ that benefits relationships: “Now, this isn’t about chumminess, and it’s no charter for slackers, because people who work this way tend to be kind of scratchy, impatient, absolutely determined to think for themselves because that’s what their contribution is. Conflict is frequent because candor is safe, and that’s how good ideas turn into great ideas. Because no idea is born fully formed. It emerges a little bit as a child is born, kind of messy and confused, but full of possibilities. And, its only through the generous contribution of faith and challenge that they achieve their potential, and that is what social capital supports.” When you have family, you can go through difficult times. You care about people when they care about you. You want their feedback. You can’t have authentic relationships with strangers.
Look at the reality of each of our bodies. If somebody is sick, what does the doctor look at? Our cells in our body? Its amazing that when we have a sickness, like the common cold or the flu, its because our cells have become sick and the doctor gives us medicine to strengthen our cells. The only reason our bodies are able to be healthy is because of the cells being healthy. If we tell ourselves that our cells don’t matter, it’s only a matter of time that the body becomes sick. It’s interesting to realize that of all the words that the New Testament uses to describe the Church, is the “Body of Christ”. How powerful is that!
So many people don’t want family because family takes time. In order to have family, we must deny ourselves. We must give up ourselves, compromise and slow down. When we want to share the Love of God, we have to make that decision on purpose, with intentionality. When you are with another believer, living life together, growing together, crying together, God really moves in that. In those small relationships, God is able to do things that some people would think to be so impossible. In one scenario, two family sized churches came together to meet the needs of the inner-city by starting a school. This can only happen when there is unity. If you are walking with intentionality towards Jesus, you want to have relationships with other people that love Jesus and are walking with Jesus. It’s hard to have relationships if you don’t love people.
This is why Jesus said plainly in Mark 3:24-25 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” This is the words of Jesus. Unity and agreement is so important, without it destruction is inevitable. A Church is not going to survive without agreement. The agreement that we are walking in is not with each other, but with Jesus Himself. When you get down to a family, you must get serious. It is in these relationships within the context of family that we see each other’s frailties and imperfections. Paul calls this our “clay” in his words in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11 , “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” This is normal. Jesus laid down His life, not for our clay, but for our souls. Since Christ cares about people’s souls, why don’t we?
It is the love of Christ in our lives that empowers us to love those around us. It is this very love that causes and compels us to love one another. In her TED Talk, Heffernan calls this ‘Social Capital’. “Now, we’re not really used to talking about this, talking about talent, about creativity in this way. We’re used to talking about stars. So, I started to wonder, if we start working this way, does that mean no more stars? So I went in and I sat in on the auditions of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and what I saw there really surprised me, because the teachers weren’t looking for individual pyrotechnics. They were looking for what happened between the students, because that’s where the drama is.” This caused Heffernan to go to other industries to find out if this same model was also being experienced. “And, when I talk to producers of hit albums, they say, “oh sure, we have lots of superstars in music. Its just, they don’t last very long. It’s the outstanding collaborators who enjoy the long careers because bringing out the best in others is how they found the best in themselves.” This is where we define success, when we focus on helping others succeed. This is what Jesus looks for. He sees all the intricate ways that we stop to help those around us. Hebrews 6:10 reveals, “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.” Your success is our success. Our success is your success. Our success together is Kingdom success. As the saying goes, in a rising tide all boats rise. If you want to be a superstar in the Kingdom of God, lay your life down for others. It’s hard to focus on others when you are only living for yourself. Did you know that the Bible talks about “one another” 59 times in the New Testament! That is powerful! Jesus said these words plainly in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
In today’s culture, value is size and numbers. But, is that really what Jesus was looking for? Or was Jesus focused on relationships? When we understand how powerful individual relationships are, Kris Vallotton, with Bethel Redding, highlights the opposite effect of our labors if all we focus on is the size of the numbers. “The cities that had the greatest Christian church going population in America, have the worst social statistics, with the exception of five cities.” Did you get that? In other words, the larger the gathering, the smaller the impact on the surrounding area of that gathering. Simply put, Vallotton says it this way, “gathering people and transforming cities are not synonymous. Putting butts in seats does not transform cities”. Vallotton emphasizes his point recalling a horrific tragedy when a woman was murdered in her neighborhood in broad daylight while nearly three dozen witnesses saw what happened. They were watching her murdered, but not one of them did anything to help her, not even call for law enforcement for help. “The more people that view a crime, the less likely they are to actually do something about it. Crowds become murky waters of inaction, and everyone is waiting for someone else to do something.” It’s no different in a large Super C. (Church), most watch what happens thinking and to be frank, hoping someone else will do it.
Greg recalls a time when his pastor, who pastored a 1,200 member church would call for help on a Sunday for someone to raise their hand to help with something that was needed at the church. The church had put up this mountainous Christmas Tree at the local mall to impact the community with with songs of Christ’s birth. The pastor asked for volunteers and it was like pulling teeth. The pastor would call a prayer meeting and 2-3 men would show up. It proved true what Vallotton shared. Think about it, if you are sitting in your house with a family of five and someone asked for help, at least someone would feel it’s the right thing to do! Healthy families always do.
This isn’t the life that Jesus called us to live, just part of a crowd. Jesus calls us to be an actual doer of the Word, not just a hearer. We are called to transform our communities. This is why God led us to create the Vine Seminar to learn “how to BE THE CHURCH” instead of just going to church, to help others learn how to walk out family in Christ. Family isn’t easy, but it is worth it. If you want to be connected to the family of God through His Church, and knowing your call is being related and connected in family, find out more at VineSeminars.org.