My heart is heavy HEAVY today for the Christian family. It is not because of headline news or media hype. We have heard enough of that lately. Today, more than normal, my heart is so heavy for what I consider to be the silent killer of Christian families. I am almost in tears. I pray my words today are received the way they are intended……as encouragement.
Whether you are a family of one or a family of twenty, I have to tell you there is one common thread that I am seeing as families invite me and Ridley in to get a glimpse of “life” as they know it. I have heard stories of marriage trouble, parenting issues, concern for a loved one in trouble, pornography struggles, affairs, depression and plain weariness. Just this week, most of those stories have come from the inside of the church walls. What I mean by that is those stories are from people/families who love Jesus. A life of Christ does not exempt us from real life stuff and it by no means makes us perfect at living out this life. If anything, the attacks are and will be greater and more intense on our families.
BUT, (and it is a big but) the common thread I am hearing and seeing is families whose priorities are out of whack. I don’t say that as if my family does it right all the time and I don’t say that with a judgmental tone. It truly does come from a place of love and deep concern for FAMILY. Most of the time when I present the question of where church is on a families list of priorities, it has been pushed aside, been put on a back burner or is in a season of separation. Believe me, I have woken up many Sundays and wanted Pastor Barron to do a little home church while we all stay comfortable in our p.j.’s
I also do not believe that walking into a church building makes you a Christian. I have heard the analogy that being in a garage doesn’t make you a car. However, I do believe that being in church is for the health of every person in the body of believers. It is not to simply justify filling the space, counting the numbers or paying the utility bills. God was spot on when He encouraged us “to not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing…..” (Hebrews 10:25) By all means, if you have a fever and cooties, I want you to stay home. If you get to pile in a car together with your family and take an annual vacation, go for it! I am not talking about the occasional “miss” on a Sunday.
I think what is happening is that we get on fire for Jesus, get some bible studies under our belt, serve in church for a while and then after years of being a part of a church family, we take it upon ourselves to decide that we can handle our relationship with Christ better outside of church than we can inside church. There are numerous verses about our responsibility to go out and share Jesus and to be missionaries in our work, home and communities. However, God never intended for us to go out and never come back to His church…..the family of believers. Why is this so important?
1. We will never fully arrive at knowing all we can know about God. Surrounding ourselves with others invites in teaching, training, wisdom and equipping. It makes us better teachers to those we are going out to.
2. You feel more encouraged and normal when you share conversations, prayers and dialogue with like minded people.
3. You have a responsibility to give back to others for all the times you have had people in your life pour into you. Anytime I get tired of serving, I think about the generation before me that never got too tired to show up at church and teach me. I am who I am today because of some of those people.
4. You get to celebrate some good stuff going on. This world is full of enough heartache and just down right ugly, evil stuff. Staying in church allows you to measure God’s goodness and hear about/celebrate some of the really good stuff.
5. Your children (and teenagers) need to have good habits modeled for them. You can not sit at home and expect your children to learn the importance of discipline in their lives if we, as parents, don’t DO it ourselves.
6. The family needs to stay united and strong together. With Christ at the center, it doesn’t get any stronger than that. Scripture doesn’t say to stay comfortable. We see words like, “be rooted”, “stay strong”, “press on”, “stand firm”, etc. It never indicates that we should only do what fits in our schedule or feels comfortable. Accountability keeps us more in line with how we are to live day to day.
I promise you that for lots of the stories I have heard, the family has confessed that they have stepped away from church. I don’t even believe it is because they meant to at first. In their own words, work got in the way, their kids were busy with travel sports, they were in between churches, or they just got out of the habit.
I can’t promise that going to church will help avoid every heartache, but I have to believe that Christian families would stay a little stronger while going through the tough stuff. We must stay strong on the inside of our families so that we can stay strong in the church and in turn stay strong out in a world that needs us.
This is my prayer for our families: (straight from God’s Word)
“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have POWER, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the LOVE of Christ, and to KNOW this love surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the FULLNESS of God. Now to Him who is ABLE to do immeasurably MORE than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work WITHIN us, to Him be glory IN the church and in Christ Jesus throughout ALL GENERATIONS, for EVER and EVER! Amen” (Ephesians 3:17-21)