Randy Stinson's "reThink Conference" presentation
(audio download from blog sidebar):
There are some, in their effort to help this problem, some are defining the church in such a way so that the family will be prioritized. Some are defining the church as made up of a family of families. And while it may be just a subtle shift, a subtle move, this kind of definition, frankly, leads to certain expressions of ministry in local churches that can lead to and can be exclusive, that can be isolationist, it has a tendency to homogenize the congregation and produce sameness..
You see, I would argue that it’s not that the church is a family of families. I would just stop at the family part. The church is a family. In fact, if you look at Romans 8, it’s your real family. I mean, what Romans 8 is teaching us is this:
Paul says, “You didn’t receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, ‘Abba Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. And if children then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ provided we suffer with Him in order that we may be also glorified with Him.” .....
Outside of Christ and outside the family of God, you don’t buy yourself in, you’re not born into it, you’re adopted. Adoption is central to the Gospel. Because you’re outside and then you’re in. You’re adopted in. And so, while three of my daughters were born into other families, they’re in their real one right now. This is their real family. And when you come to Christ, those fellow believers around you are your real family. Now you may have some people in the real family that are biologically related to you, and that is an added blessing. But when it’s all said and done, what Paul is saying here is that the family of God is your real family.
So it’s not that the church is a family of families, it is a family – it’s your real family. I mean, Jesus said – just think about this. Jesus said almost just the opposite. Don’t expect everybody to come, you know, with a mother, father, sister, brother lined up. He said, “If you’re not willing to forsake mother, father, sister, brother, you’re not worthy of Me.” What’s He saying? There are going to be people that are coming who have had to forsake families. There are going to be husbands whose wives have rejected the Gospel. There are going to be wives whose husbands have rejected the Gospel. Teenagers whose parents have rejected the Gospel. I mean, that’s where this is an unbelievable picture of the Gospel -- when the church is truly operating as a family, like a family.
We went to Taiwan, we had three kids already. We went to Taiwan and brought two home, dropped them in and told everybody, “Love them. Deal with it. They look different than you and don’t even talk your same language. Love them”...
I mean, that’s exactly what’s happening every time somebody comes to Christ, God’s bringing some into the local church whenever somebody comes to Christ, and He’s saying. “You’ve got to love them. Here’s another one. Deal with it.” They’re not going to talk like you, they’re not going to have the same socioeconomic background. It’s every tribe, every tongue and every nation – it’s not just people like you. It’s not just people that talk like you. It’s not just people who look like you – who have the perfect family like you, who have the same socioeconomic background as you with the same hobbies. We’ve got church for cowboys, church for sky divers, church for homeschoolers. So, wow. You can get a bunch of people that look like you, think like you, and talk like you and love each other. Where’s the exhaltation of the Gospel in that? Big deal. That’s not what the Gospel says. The Gospel says that everybody’s going to be different. Now see what you’ve got. Now let’s love them and see what you’ve got...
So if we believe that the church should be understood in this way, then I think we should structure the ministries in our church to cultivate this, to encourage this, to promote it. What we’re talking about here is such a – it’s not a radical shift. It is a trajectory shift which means that we’re saying that we’re going to re-tool this thing. We need to make it a shift, but it’s not radical, but it’s enough that it puts you in a different trajectory. You are going to end up somewhere other than where you were going to end up before. I mean, it’s family focus, it’s an intergenerational approach, that treats all believers as part of the family. This is where I think so many people are missing it.