Drive time is our best time to have conversations. Lately we’ve been listening to Seeds Family Worship after attending the God’s Awesome Word tour a few weeks ago. At first I wasn’t sure how my children, ages 6 and 3 would respond to the often complicated Word of God set directly to music. But they won’t let me turn it off. They boldly sing every word, sometimes stopping to ask what it means when they say “sword” or “discern.”
While I love our church and their children’s program, the past few years have revealed to me that I cannot rely on them to build my child’s faith. My pastor once said, a child’s faith should be influenced 20% by the church and 80% by parents in their homes. I would never have accepted this idea years ago. But now, in the trenches of motherhood and faith-building, I could not agree more.
The church is a wonderful, God-ordained tool to offer support and supportive programs for individuals and families. It provides community and accountability – all things we need to grow and thrive in our relationship with Jesus. But church was never meant to define our faith or drag us along the path of righteousness. Jesus never intended for his church body to become the be all, end all of our personal relationship with him. Just as the work he did on the cross in his physical body is the beginning of our relationship with him, the gift of his church body can be the beginning of our walk with him. We may meet him there for the first time. Our children may be introduced to him there for the first time. But it is outside those walls and within the walls of our homes where faith is truly built.
We hear staggering statistics and read passionate articles about why young people are leaving the church. But it all boils down to this…people are leaving the church because the church has misrepresented it’s place in a person’s life of faith and people have given the church an inappropriate place of leadership in their faith.
I absolutely, positively, without a doubt believe in community. I think church is Biblical and necessary and can be wonderful. Despite my own, personal, bad church experiences I still love and believe in the practical, brick and mortar covered body of Christ. I’ve had my share of bad pastors and inaccurate, man-made theology thrown at me but I’ve also experienced great leaders and wonderful groups of people who love and serve the way Christ intended.
And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. Ephesians 1:22-23
I will not believe the lie that my family can grow without the church. But I will also not allow my family to put church on a pedestal, looking to it to fulfill our every spiritual need. Though we see physical groups of people gathering and forming within the Bible, God’s intention was for the church to first and foremost be the body of Christ, as a whole, not as individualized organizations.
We will always be a part of the Body of Christ. And we will always connect ourselves to a local body. But we will never find the perfect church for us. It simply doesn’t exist. We will go where God calls us…sometimes long-term, sometimes seasonally…to grow and serve and live in community, but we must establish our family faith culture at home that will remain consistent and steady, even when our surrounding community shifts.
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with him own blood. Acts 20:28
Why the church cannot define our faith. . .
. . .because it is filled with imperfect people. Although God will use people – even despite our imperfections, for his glory – when we put too much emphasis on man-made programs and establishments, we often hand over the reigns of our relationship with Christ to another.
. . .because when it does, our faith can only grow within the walls of that church – both literal and figurative. We are often led to believe that we must adopt a way of thinking or a vision or a set of standards that are man-made in order to identify with a group or denomination. But such thinking is limiting. While we cannot carry a free-for-all way of thinking that denies solid truth and scripture, our doctrine should be developed through intense Biblical study and conversation within our family. This is not to say we won’t identify with and adopt vision and doctrine by those we are led to partner with in a church. We simply need to know what we stand for as a family aside from identifying with what others present.
. . .because our children need to see our faith develop on its own, within our homes. They need to watch us wrestle and seek and find what God is saying through his Word and through prayer. We are following a generation of believers who simply swallowed what was being fed to them without chewing on and tasting the truth. Our kids need to see us come alive as we find revelation of truth for ourselves. Their faith will be deeper having observed our process. Their relationship with Jesus will be more real having watched the reality and tension of our faith built within our home.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. Ephesians 5:25-27
. . .because the church is constantly evolving. New ways of thinking. . .sometimes spirit-led, sometimes man-made, can leave us feeling lost and confused. Best-selling books and hot, new mega-churches offer shiny, new ideas that seem to bring life and freshness to faith, but often abandon timeless truths. I want my children to understand that while faith does grow and stretch, it cannot be based on the latest trends of thought or programs. Deep faith is rooted in truth and tradition. It is my job as a parent to establish that culture within our homes and together with my family, to carry it out within our sphere.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meetings together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. . .Hebrews 10:24-25
When church is given its appropriate place, it can be so powerful in the life of a family. It is our desire at Gather & Grow to provide faith-building resources that will enhance what is already going on in your home and within your church community. We by no means think anything we provide or recommend could replace the value of the local church. But when families give the local church its proper place within the process of faith-building, they become empowered to create a spiritual culture in their home that reflects their unique story and the story God is writing for their family. This is our passion. To see families thrive within their story and bring others into the kingdom through its telling.
What place has the local church had in the life of your family? Do you need to connect yourselves more or deepen your faith within your home in this next season?