Marks of a Biblical Church Family
Intro: We like to refer to ourselves as a family here at CLC. That certainly isn’t unique, seeing that many groups with similar interests refer to themselves as a family. There are all kinds of families (small, large, mixed, nuclear, dysfunctional, balanced, and more). The Bible uses the idea of family to describe believers in Jesus Christ (Bro., Sis., sometimes comparisons of mother or father are made).
-Some of the basic elements required to hold a family together are love, respect, commitment, authenticity (being real), grace to overlook faults, healthy conflict resolution (how to value another family member when you disagree with them), communication, encouragement, humility (the willingness to admit you were wrong and apologize for your offenses), and certainly forgiveness when another family member hurts you with words, attitudes, or actions. Kind of sounds like another of Paul’s writings to the Colossian Christians: Colossians 3:12-17 12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
-These are the things that make a healthy church family and they go a long ways in removing human obstructions that keep people from seeing who Jesus really is!
-I’ve identified 5 marks of a Biblical Church family in the last half of Romans 15. I don’t think Paul was necessarily thinking about these as Church family characteristics when he wrote, but they certainly reveal some of His expectations of a church family working together for the sake of God’s kingdom. Let’s go ahead and take a look at these identifying characteristics of believers who are doing life together as God intended.
1. Church Families thrive on loving interaction
Romans 15:23-24; 28-29 23 But now that there is no more place for me to work in these regions, and since I have been longing for many years to see you, 24 I plan to do so when I go to Spain. I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there, after I have enjoyed your company for a while….
28 So after I have completed this task and have made sure that they have received this fruit, I will go to Spain and visit you on the way. 29 I know that when I come to you, I will come in the full measure of the blessing of Christ.
-Paul wanted to come see them and enjoy their company for awhile. Jumping down to v.32, Paul’s expectation is that when he comes and visits them, both he and they will experience joy and be refreshed. And that should be the result of our coming together, whether here at church or when we get together with other believers in other locations.
2. Church Families assist those in ministry
Romans 15:24b I hope to visit you while passing through and to have you assist me on my journey there…
-I think first of all about missionaries. While we are to show hospitality and generosity to all, there is something special about helping out those who are taking the good news about Jesus and sharing it with others who have not heard. The apostles were sent ones who were doing this effectively. But there were also prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers who were faithfully ministering for Christ.
-While Paul himself often refused to accept money or gifts, he also wrote that the laborer is worthy of his hire. He wasn’t asking for money here either, but certainly wanted to receive encouragement and general support for his ministry.
-I rarely, if ever, say no to a missionary when they want to come to Elgin. We may not be able to support them on a regular basis, but they have something to offer us, part of God’s family here in NE Oregon, and we will do what we can to encourage and strengthen them as they pursue God’s calling.
-We currently support 8 missionaries
Darrell & Sandy Blatchley - ministering to families in the Philippines
John & Carolyn Stewart - winning the lost in Ghana
Mark & Jeannine Powers - meeting critical needs in Africa
Robert - equipping believers in Uganda
Tamara Henkes - helping the children of Romania
Jim Book - discipling believers worldwide through Global University
Jamie & Alisha DeWees - transforming the OSU campus through Chi Alpha
Daren & Heidi Walker - reaching out in Mexico
-I’m glad we are able to be involved in their ministry and assist them in some small way. Of course, I’d like to do more, including more prayer support for each of them. In addition to these, we’ve had dozens of other missionaries come to Elgin during our tenure here. I wish we could support all of them.
-But God has called us to do what we can, not what we can’t! Our missions pledges always exceed the income from missions giving. Without inflicting any guilt on anybody here today, let me just say that it is the Biblical expectation that the church family will assist those who minister for the Lord. And if you do not give to missions or pray for missionaries, then please ask the Lord what you should do about it. I can already tell you the answer, at least in general. God would say, “Do what you can!” He might also say, “Do what I ask you to do and have faith that I’ll come through for you.” 2 Corinthians 9 has several principles of giving that might prove helpful to you as you seek to honor the Lord with His money that He allows you to be a steward over.
3. Church Families reach out to the poor
Romans 15:25-27 25 Now, however, I am on my way to Jerusalem in the service of the saints there. 26 For Macedonia and Achaia were pleased to make a contribution for the poor among the saints in Jerusalem. 27 They were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have shared in the Jews' spiritual blessings, they owe it to the Jews to share with them their material blessings.
-Contributions, basic needs, care and concern. Paul’s focus is specifically on the believers in Jerusalem. We find a clue in Acts about this need: Acts 11:26-30 …for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. 27 During this time some prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. 28 One of them, named Agabus, stood up and through the Spirit predicted that a severe famine would spread over the entire Roman world. (This happened during the reign of Claudius.) 29 The disciples, each according to his ability, decided to provide help for the brothers living in Judea. 30 This they did, sending their gift to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.
-It is Biblical to help the poor, but especially those who are part of the household of faith, as Paul says in Galatians 6:9-10 9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
-Again, God only asks us to give what we have to give, not what we don’t have. So whether you give to hunger relief, or disaster relief, or something else, find a way to help those in need. (Food bank, EMA benevolence fund, etc.)
4. Church Families struggle together
Romans 15:30 I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle…
-Nobody should struggle alone! You do not have to singlehandedly try to be everyone’s problem-solver or shoulder to lean on, but together we need to reach out and keep people covered with love and care. As your Pastor, there is no way that I can solve everyone’s problems or even provide them the care they need – that is unless you want to keep the church under 50 – and even that is an unrealistic number of people to ask 1 person to take care of. We’re in this together, family! You are an important part of this family! As the Lord puts it on your heart, reach out to your brothers and sisters around you who are hurting and just need to talk and pray with somebody. Sometimes people just need you to listen. They don’t need more advice. They just need to be valued and reassured that God is for them not against them and that together we’ll make it!
-So don’t struggle alone! And don’t let other believers struggle alone.
5. Church Families pray for one another
Romans 15:30-33 …join me in my struggle by praying to God for me. 31 Pray that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea and that my service in Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints there, 32 so that by God's will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed.
-The struggle Paul was talking about involved the challenges he faced while fulfilling what God had called him to do. He knew that he could be facing some hard times in Jerusalem from Jews who refused to believe that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus who had been crucified. The best way other Christians could join him in his struggle was to pray for him – and pray specifically. Several translations of the Bible give the idea of striving in prayer. And sometimes prayer can be a struggle, but it is also key to the victory in the middle of many struggles.
-I don’t know how many of you pray for each member of our church family on a regular basis, but if you don’t, I’d like to ask you to try it. Do it however you like. You could pray for 1 family each day, or 3-5 families a day, or go through the whole list at once. And don’t forget to pray for me. I need all the help I can get! I get discouraged and worn down just like everybody else. Like Paul, please pray that I may be rescued from unbelievers who might wish me harm (and I may even need rescue from some believers). Pray that any service that I’m able to offer will be acceptable to God and to those who receive it. Pray that when we come together, that you and I both would be refreshed by experiencing the love of God that flows through each of us. Pray that I would have wisdom, and fresh vision, and the enthusiasm that comes from doing what God has called me to do!
-That’s what Christians do! They love one another and hang out together. They help those who are preaching the gospel. They reach out to help other Christians who are suffering and poverty-stricken. They struggle together instead of letting anybody struggle alone. And they pray for one another.
-So, Christian family, what are you going to do about it? What will you do about getting together with other believers more often? Once a week may not be enough. If the majority of your interaction is limited to your own family and possibly work associates, you may be shorting yourself and your church family from all the blessings that come from sharing life together. What will you do about supporting missionaries through prayer and finances? Do you know other Christians who are living in poverty whom you could help in some way? Does someone need you to come alongside them and get involved in their struggle? Are you praying for your church family and leaders? Will you start?
-Maybe you need to work on one of these areas and you’d like to ask the Lord to help you know where and how to start. As we close in prayer, just ask the Lord to show you what He wants you to do about what you’ve heard today. Nobody else is going to hound you over it. It’s between you and God. But your response can make a huge difference in this church family! Let’s pray.
-Let me leave you with Paul’s final words from this chapter: The God of peace be with you all. Amen.