This morning Luke and I were talking about when boy Jesus was lost from his parents. We discussed how he and his parents had gone to Jerusalem with a group of family and friends for Passover (Luke 2:41-50). Luke’s immediate response was, “like Life Group?!” (what we call our small group we worship with). The more I thought about it, the clearer a picture came to me of what their lives must have been like. They went to Jerusalem with Jesus’s village. They went with people they worked and lived in community with to help raise each other’s children. God trusted Mary to raise his Son and Mary trusted her village. I stopped in awe at the insight my 4-year-old son had brought to this story.
We see another community formed in the name of Jesus in Acts 2:41-47. The first Christians worshipped, evangelized, took care of each other, ate together, rejoiced together, and had all things in common. The result of that was that (vs 47) “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” It is so easy in our busy lives to compartmentalize family, “church,” work, entertainment—but what would our lives look like if we meshed all of those together? What if our church was our family, and what if those bonds were woven through all aspects of our life?
If we mixed family and church together, the church would look a lot more like family. We do call each other brothers and sisters but do we really have a relationship close enough to really be analogous to that of brothers and sisters? I would say the first century church did. We can only achieve that through engagement with one another. We need to know each other well enough to know our spiritual and physical struggles, not just by sharing them during confession or a prayer request time but because we are living the struggles together, discussing them, supporting one another through them via prayer and spiritual discipleship. When Jesus taught people and discipled them, he took time to break bread with them. Meals are a time of fellowship and conversation when we learn what is going on in each other’s lives. We all need to eat so we might as well do that together, in restaurants or in each other’s homes like family. Today people often live far from their biological families so what a blessing it is that we can raise our children with spiritual aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc., wherever we might be!
What if we mixed church and work? It might look like putting in a few extra hours of work so we have more to share with a family in our group who is struggling financially (Ephesians 4:28); taking care of a sister’s children so she can work; discipling co-workers and introducing them to the rest of our community to show them Jesus’s love abiding in all of us; hiring a brother or sister to do some extra work to provide for our own. We are not told to work so that we can have enough to build bigger barns or store more in our storage shed. We’re told to work so that we can have enough to give to him who has a need. If that is our motive, our occupation should not be what defines who we are. In our community, we all have a variety of spiritual gifts but the nature of a group also offers a variety of physical skills we can offer one another, whether that be fixing an air conditioner, treating a pet, teaching a child, etc. We are more complete and provided for because we have each other.
God lays the foundation for rest in the Old Testament at creation. He institutes the Sabbath as a time to stop working and rest in Him. He set aside feast days for his people to rejoice and celebrate their lives and who they were in Him. Likewise, today we all need a rest. We need time to clear our minds from the stresses and trials of life. We need to rejoice together in our successes and rejuvenate one another to continue. We need to celebrate our unity by gathering frequently and participating in it. We all have hobbies or things we do for entertainment. Do them together! Take a night to gather to eat dinner to celebrate a graduation, promotion, or a new Christian. Make spontaneous invitations to lunch! The technology and communication of the day makes this easy for us. Every time we gather, for whatever purpose, we have the opportunity to keep or place our minds on spiritual things, to encourage one another, to find out a need, to pray together. It allows our children to be around other children who are being taught to follow the same God and to view other godly role models. Playing a game together, sitting around a fire, or drinking a cup of coffee together fosters the perfect environment for us to invite those outside of Christ to experience the love of our Savior through our kindness, gentleness, and goodness to all men (John 13:35). Jesus’s village even went on a trip together! (Luke 2:42)
Paul tells the Christians at Colossae to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is… Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3). We can surround ourselves and our children with a people who strive to “put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:14). We have already been granted the Kingdom of God here on this earth and our Christian villages are a reflection of what we anxiously await (Philippians 3:20). What better way could there be to prepare our children to be disciples for our King?!
(If you missed Part 1, read it HERE.)