Looking for Family . . . Finding What?

MP900289918Imagine being a member of a loving and healthy extended family. Every Christmas time, the extended family gathers at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Gifts are exchanged. Carols are sung. A meal is taken together. Love is renewed. Hearts are touched. Generations are connected. History is shared, Stories are told.  A good time is had by all. Even crazy Uncle Eddie, who annoys everyone and never shuts up, finds a few moments of love and tolerance through others learning to . . . grow in love and tolerance!

Would you call that gathering a “meeting?” Of course not. Why not?

Because when a family gathers, it is not a “meeting.”

(Geek alert!) Imagine trying to run a Windows only specific application on a MAC OS 10 operating system. What would be the outcome?  Without some helpful “mediating software,” it wouldn’t run. It’s no different in “church world.” Many of the frustrations and dysfunctions experienced within “Christianity” are due to trying to get God’s kingdom to operate on a platform that He will never allow it to run on. In fact, He resists (James 4:6 KJV “resists”- dresses himself in battle array against)  “successful implementation” because He is interested in raising up a family, not franchising an organization. He wars against all efforts that hinder His family from coming forth, even the well-intended efforts of the innocently ignorant.

Organizations have “meetings,” families are attracted to each other because they are . . . family. The bond of relationship and love compels them to gather. Now, every family gathering by stark definition might technically be a meeting, but not every meeting is necessarily a family gathering.  The bond of familial affection is what makes the difference. “Let’s go kids, it’s time to go to church, it’s meeting time” is not a kingdom bond of family. It is not God’s ekklesia.

In organizational/institutional and in so-called “organic” Christianity, the “meeting” has fatally substituted for family. God’s kingdom operates on heart-driven, love-equity in a family, not by meeting-driven associations, pulpits, projects, and programs. 

God’s ekklesia is constituted of family members: brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins, grandparents, etc., not “office holders” (Where in scripture is the word “office” even used?) CEO’s, administrators, facilitators, authorities, governors, clergy, etc. Those things are necessary to run an organization, not a family. God’s family is ordered, but it is ordered through gift-recognition and the freewill gift-exchange of love, honor, and service not mandates and policy. Many of our woes are self-inflicted by the paradigm we willingly choose to live in, a captivity of our own making.

It could be said, “We are all family in Christ.” In an ultimate spiritual and metaphysical sense, that’s true. I am not talking about that.

The problem is, a family without real affection for each other (what the Greeks called storgé -familial love) is not a real family. It is not authentic. There is a “legal bond” that comes from a legal identity, but there is no real affection. So in a forensic sense, it is a family, but in an emotive sense, it is anything but that. Since everything in the kingdom operates relationally through love (in all it’s forms agapé, philéo, storgé), if love is absent, by definition, it’s not authentically God’s kingdom. Shaking somebody’s hand in the middle or the end of a “meeting,”  at “greeting time,” and saying “how are you?” is not familial love. It’s the best that can be done when there is an agenda and a time limit to the meeting.

So much of Christian religion, especially within Protestantism, is “forensic and legal,” rather than familial and relational. There is no genuine bond of affection. We are bound together by theories–“convictions about doctrine from the Bible”–rather than by a bond of love by the Spirit. We think of ourselves, and others, criminally rather than as family. We may all respond to the warden to come out in the yard on a regular basis at the mandatory hour for calisthenics—I have to be next to you, because it is “time” to be next to you—but that is not the relational infrastructure of family.

This is not about the form of our meetings: institutional or organic. Changing forms without changing hearts is like putting arsenic in a new bottle and expecting a different outcome other than death if it is partaken. This is about what is in our hearts. At the end of the day, that is all that matters, and all that ever will.


Copyright 2013,  Dr. Stephen R. Crosby, www.swordofthekingdom.com. Permission is granted to copy, forward, or distribute this article for non-commercial use only, as long as this copyright byline, in totality, is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.  For reprint permission for any commercial use, in any form of media, please contact stephrcrosby@gmail.com.

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22 comments on “Looking for Family . . . Finding What?

  1. Awesome word, my brother! This truth skillfully highlights the distinction between a church system modeled after the world and Father’s heart for His people! We’ve been blessed to see glimpses of this reality……..we pray for more! Peace!

  2. Good article. This is so true of modern day religion. We have our formats, our time schedule, our agenda, but we forget that church is not a place we go. Church is a family, those who are saved by God’s grace. The Church is being built by Christ himself out of living stones, not brick and mortar. We don’t meet once a week for a set service, being entertained and taught by one person. Church is a lifestyle, it is something we are in Christ. Love and acceptance of one another, as equals, each of us as kings and priests in the Kingdom of God. Each of us have a part to play and do to help others and show the love of Christ. It is time that we as His Church begin to get out of the organization mindset and start being a living organism, allowing Christ to live through us, loving God with all our heart, loving and accepting others just as they are.

    • Hi Jim, I don’t think it matters too much how and when we gather. It is what we bring in our hearts when we do gather, that matters. Finding each other? Here is a recommended prayer:

      Lord, to whom have you assigned me relationally in love, at this time, for their benefit and mine, at this season in my life?” Cause us to find each other.” Lord, lead me to discover people in whose hearts my life is safe.”

      I think that prayer will get answered eventually, and very often, outside of what we currently understand or are experiencing.

  3. Love this article Stephen! There are a lot of bitter, anti-religous people out there spewing a lot of stuff that may be true but lacks grace and love as its foundation. You on the other hand are steeped in love and grace and therefore your words are effective and damaging to the kingdom of darkness. They bring freedom to the captive and bind up the broken hearted.

  4. Hate to mess with your analogy, but Windows 8 won’t run ‘on’ Mac OS X because it’s an operating system, not an application; operating systems run atop hardware (physical or virtual). Since the advent of Intel-based Macs, both OSes will happily coexist using Boot Camp or Parallels. Perhaps a better analogy might be some Mac-exclusive bit of software. I’m sure Apple has plenty. 🙂

  5. Love this – what a great post, so true, and understanding / revelation needed by so many. Family is right, not an organization or institution.

    The thing about organizations is that they are forever trying to organize :), forever working to defining and then re-defining the purpose. At times it seems so artificial, because there are some groups (organizations) who put more energy, and stress, and even pressure on people to join, and to stay joined. There are organizations I have left (and it has been many) because they are all about hype and trying to come up with purpose and reason to meet – artificial and forced are words I use to describe what happens.

    All of this is what I see happening in what people call church, they are always trying to make it something bigger or better, and if they are entertaining or creative enough then people leave to go other places. Maybe folks need to stop and smell the coffee, and recognize how unnatural this is, and stop trying to create something that requires mans’ efforts. Your presentation about family is so good, so true, and so right – because it works.

    Thanks much for this post.

    BTW – what is wrong about a mutual admiration society? Isn’t that preferring one another in love?

  6. Thank you Stephen for that great article.

    Koinonia does not depend on us agreeing with each other. Koinonia is experience when each member of the body submits him or herself to the Holy Spirit. When we live by the Holy Spirit we experience unity because of the Holy Spirit, not because of our agreements. No amount of organization or statements of faith will bridge the gap of each of our differences so we may experience the unity of God. Koinonia is experience when we die to our self nature and live by Christ’s nature.

  7. Hi Steve,
    I have 3 daughters, 3 sons-in-law, 7 grandchildren, a mother and father in law, a brother, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, 4 nephews, 3 nieces and some of them have kids of their own. I also have 4 cousins who have their offspring.
    Once a week we hire a building so that we can fulfill our obligation to keep in touch with each other -I DON’T THINK SO!
    So how do we meet up? We meet in each other’s homes, we have meals together, we go to a restaurant, we go to a pub, occasionally we may have to gather at a hospital – who knows! Who cares!
    The gatherings are nearly always a subset of the whole family. Different subsets on different occasions. There is no control or jealousies over who each person meets with. When do we meet? When we can, when we want to -there is no timetable or agenda. What is certain, though, is that we will meet. We are family.

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