What Do Siblings, Denominations, and Church Membership Have To Do with Each Other?
Do you ever have a moment when you “connect the dots” on different experiences you have recently had, seeing how these seemingly unrelated moments are all linked together and perhaps teaching or showing you something bigger? That happened to me this week; let me recount what these things are:
The Church as Family
A few weeks ago I preached a message on Mark 3:31-35 in which Jesus points to the fact that those who obey God’s Word are His family. Something this passage emphasizes is that Christians are family, and we should view each other as brothers and sisters. This was a point I hope was conveyed as I preached.
Last week I was part of a discussion regarding denominations and what to think about them. I explained how I often connect denominations to families - the denominations I have been a part of have been tied to the local church community that I connected with, with their denomination considered my “extended family.” When I teach on the differences between denominations, I often compare them to how families have different traditions but yet have commonality (e.g., families celebrate Christmas differently, but they celebrate Christmas!). While this detail did not come up in that particular conversation, in other situations I will often emphasize that one of the things I most value about denominations is that they help keep pastors and churches accountable to make sure we are being faithful to the Word and our covenants. It reminds us that we are part of something bigger and that we have responsibility-- not just to our local community but to others as well. I get involved in denominational work as a “family commitment.”
This past weekend Faith Church had a “Celebration Weekend” in which we celebrated the sacrament of baptism and welcomed new members. When I am asked why we have church membership, I typically explain that church membership is proclaiming that you are following Jesus and want a church community to come alongside of you in this journey. Joining a church is a way of recognizing that Jesus did not die just for you, but for the church, for a community of people (which includes you). Church membership thus highlights that you are not on your own but part of something bigger, and it makes that commitment real. We like to say that membership is not like joining the gym, but entering into a family, where you make promises to help each other and not just consume when convenient for you.
Christians as Siblings, Brothers and Sisters
This week I started reading the book Why Can’t We Be Friends: Avoidance is Not Purity by Aimee Byrd. This book deals with the topic of relationships between men and women and what they should look like in the church, calling for the church to model what healthy interaction could be in the midst of the #MeToo world. While I haven’t finished the book yet, I have read enough of it to see the overall thrust of the book, which is that the paradigm of being “Sacred Siblings” (that Christian men and women are brothers and sisters in Christ) is a key element in understanding these relationships and can help us think about our interactions. I can’t find the exact quote, but there is a spot in which Byrd states something to the effect that many Christians seek to live like “only children” in God’s family. This is nothing inherently wrong in being an only child, but there is something wrong if you act like an only child when you are not, as you both devalue your siblings that God has given you and also miss what God can teach you through these relationships. When we are not part of a church, we are acting like only children, and when we don’t recognize what we can learn from brothers and sisters, we miss out on a gift from God. While we often interact with men and women based on stereotypes, we don’t do so with our siblings or family - we recognize them as unique people whose gender is part of who they are as a person and appreciate them. I am still processing the book, but overall it touches on topics and ideas I have long thought about but never seen in print before (especially this idea about siblings), so I am looking forward to finishing it soon.
The Link: Church is a Family and We Need Each Other
The common link in these moments has been recognizing the need for other Christians and to think about the church as a family. The church is not an organization or a business (though we need to be organized and need structures), but it is a community of people who care for each other for the benefit of the wider world. Recognizing this truth can help think through a whole variety of issues and can offer hope in a world in which families are often broken.
Encouragement and Challenge
My encouragement this week would be either to think more deeply about what it means that the church is a family and Christians are siblings, or to look at conversations and experiences you have recently had and see what God might be teaching you and impressing on your heart.
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