Thirty-eight years ago, I led a small group of students with very little experience and even less money in planting a church in the cathedral city of Durham in northern England. This week, we are back with the family of God’s people who have carried on and expanded that work far beyond its humble beginnings. Teams going out from Emmanuel Church have been instrumental in planting numerous churches in the United Kingdom and other countries, and thousands of people have been reached for the kingdom. Back at home base, in spite of all the people sent out, the house is full and expansion plans are underway.
But the best thing of all is that it’s still family. At the end of a prayer meeting, the folk gathered around Elaine and me to pray for us. One of the men referred to the account of Paul being let down in a basket from the walls of Damascus. He pointed out the critical role in the story played by the anonymous people who held the ropes that let him down. And then he said something which I found very moving, that there are people here who will hold the ropes for you.
Family in God’s economy is an amazing thing. You can meet people from the other side of the world, and all you have in common is Christ. You can meet someone next door with whom you have many things in common, but not Christ. In the world, people mostly associate with those who are like them, who move in the same business, social or sports circles. It’s only in the kingdom that family consists of people who often have nothing at all in common except a shared faith in Christ, and that is enough. In fact, more than enough.
These days, there is a tendency for people to seek churches on the basis of branding, programmes, buildings, high tech worship and things like that. I think that’s a mistake. We should look for church on the basis of whether we find real family there. The rest is secondary.
Family look after you. They pray for you. They’re there for you.
Church should be the best place on earth to have family. It should be a place where every race, age and personality type are thrown together in the glorious blender of the kingdom of God. And out of that comes something that cannot be found anywhere else on earth.
We live in a broken world. Families that function well are an increasingly rare commodity. We have the answer.
Whatever else we do in church, and whatever we believe doctrinally, all of it should shot through with the fundamental Biblical fact that we are “in Christ,” and therefore in family. Because we are God’s sons and daughters, we are brothers and sisters of each other.
I think it’s our best asset. Let’s use it.