“OK. It’s time to turn off the TV, Xbox, and other gadgets. Leave your smart phone and iPod/iPad in your room. This is family time. It’s important that we all have some things that we do together, to help us stay connected with each other, to know what’s happening in one another’s lives, and to share the joys or trials of your brothers and sisters. No excuses. Don’t be late. Come with a good attitude, and be prepared to share with the family.”
That sounds like a speech for teenagers just before a family meal.
Or an invitation to church.
Actually, those two occasions are very similar. That’s not surprising, since God places each of us in a family, and wants us to be in a church. And for all the same reasons.
We all need nurture and nourishment. We all need guidance and role models. We all need community and fellowship. We all need training and structure, accountability, encouragement, and challenge. And we all need to provide for those same needs for those who are younger, less mature, or more needy than ourselves.
We don’t spend all our time – or even most of our time – with our family. But the family is the support base, those we can count on “no matter what.” And the church, our spiritual family, fills a similar need.
Sure, there are some strange folks there. People with weird opinions and strange habits. Some, perhaps, whom you aren’t sure you want to claim as family. Almost like that gathering around the kitchen table with fried chicken and mashed potatoes with those misfits who share our last name. But it’s through lasting and growing relationships with people who share common goals, beliefs, and values that we grow. And that’s where we help others grow.
The entire New Testament assumes the individual’s participation with a group – or a body – of other believers. We are given specific instruction about how to relate with others, how to conduct ourselves in our gatherings, and how to structure these spiritual “families.” We are taught when and how to listen, when and how to lead and teach; we learn how to care for one another, and how to speak to one another. Most of all, we learn that we are not alone in our desires and our struggles as we grow in our walk with the Lord and in our responsibilities in the culture in which we live.
We need others. We need long-term relationships with a specific group of people. We need the strengths and the weaknesses of others; the one to teach and encourage us, the other to challenge and need us.
Turn off the TV preacher. Put down the Christian magazine. Tear yourself away from those comfortable but selfish and lonely self-help spiritual guidebooks. We need to gather as a family. It’s important that we do some things together, that we actually rub shoulders with others, to learn what’s happening in their lives, and share what’s happening in our life. There will be joys to share, and trials where you can help.
No excuses. Don’t be late. Come with a good attitude, and be prepared to share with the family.”
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1Thessalonians 5:14