"Church is a family not an event or location."
One thing that seems to be lost in many contemporary churches is the sense of family. This may be a function of church size in some situations, but even in smaller or mid-sized churches the feeling of truly belonging and being accountable appears to have vanished. This is a tragedy since the New Testament pictures a church as a group of individuals who are intimately connected and accountable to each other.
Often church attendance and even membership are treated on the same level as eating at a restaurant or going to a movie theatre. It is a place you go, but you don't belong. It is a service that can be consumed as an individual apart from any kind of personal relationship with others. This means there is no accountability. You may show up or not, and no one will question you. It also means there is no responsibility for others. You are not expected to serve others. Finally, there is no support provided. If you suddenly become ill or are going through a rough patch there is no expectation that someone from your favorite restaurant is going to bring a meal to your door.
The church is to be different from these examples. It is not a place you go. It is a family to which you belong. Being a family means that there is accountability, responsibility and support.
This is the picture Jesus gave of his followers whom he said would be identified by their love for one another. Love that is so unique it marks people as followers of Jesus cannot be talking about merely attending a weekly service together. It must mean something more. This idea is reinforced throughout the New Testament, too. In letters written by the Apostles to individual churches they instructed the Christians to demonstrate a kind of love that is accountable, responsible and supportive.
These passages have often been referred to as "one another" passages. Here are just a few examples of the things we are commanded to do for one another.
- "Love one another..." (John 13.34)
- "Bear one another's burdens..." (Galatians 6.2)
- "Speak the truth to one another" (Ephesians 4.25)
- "Serve one another" (Galatians 5.13)
- "Be hospitable to one another" (I Peter 4.9)
- "Encourage and build up one another" (I Thessalonians 5.11)
- "Pray for one another" (James 5.16)
- "Stir up one another to love and good works" (Hebrews 10.24)
- "Exhort one another not to be hardened by sin" (Hebrews 3.13)
- "Watch one another and rebuke each other for sin" (Luke 17.3)
Our vision at Union is to be the kind of church where these "one another" passages are a reality. We want church to be a family not an event or location. To that end we have started a community group ministry. The goal of these groups is to cultivate this kind of environment in the church. At each group we share a meal, pray for the needs of those in our group and have a time of fellowship around the Word of God.
Though we are far from the New Testament ideal, in the time since we started these groups we have seen significant growth in this area. Our hope is that more of our members and those just becoming a part of Union will plug into a community group. Everyone is welcome. Whether you have just begun attending or you are a long time member, we want you to be a part of one of our community groups. If you're interested, please contact one of our pastors to find out meeting times and locations.