Being part of the body of Christ can oftentimes feel like being part of a family. The Bible even uses family language when talking about fellow believers. The apostle Paul often used family terms when he wrote to churches and individuals about being the body of Christ.
“So, then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).
Believers, therefore, are members of God’s household, or God’s family. The phrase “church family” captures the depth of life that people share when they attend the same church. Believers who go to the same church do not just sit in the same building on Sunday mornings; church members go through life together much like a family. They experience joys and sorrows together, have the same desire to live as Jesus lived, and through the ups and downs of it all, become a family.
We say “church family” because it conveys how important our relationships are with other believers, and that a congregation is supposed to provide support and connection similar to that of a family.
What Is a Church Family?
A church family is a community of people that attend church together. More than that, a church family shares in the fullness of faith and life together. A church family provides support during the hardships of life, like when someone faces the loss of a loved one or losses their job. A church family celebrates life’s greatest milestones, too, such as a new baby, or marriage, or baptism.
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:24).
A church family also disciples and shepherds one another, inviting deeper faith and closeness to God. This unique and special community helps spur each other toward Christlike love and good deeds that reflect the work of the Spirit in a believer’s life. One’s church family shows the compassion, kindness, and love that followers of Jesus are called to demonstrate.
Does the Bible Describe the Church as a Family?
There are many places in the Bible where believers are described using family language. This is exactly how early Christians acted as they spent a lot of time dwelling together and living out their faith like a family. They ate together, they worshipped together, and they spent time with one another in fellowship.
“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10).
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).
“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity” (1 Timothy 5:1-2).
Scripture provides guidance on how to treat other believers. We should treat them like our family – showing love and honor, doing good toward one another, and inspiring each other in faith. These verses about church family are just a few of the references which communicate that believers are more than just friends or people who go to the same church. There is a deep bond and connection between Christians. We are united by Christ as a family. We are to consider and treat one another like mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters, because we are all part of the family of God.
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Why Is the Church Like Our Family?
The Bible teaches that being a disciple of Jesus Christ makes all believers part of Abraham’s offspring, and therefore, part of the family of God. We are connected to one another not physically, but through God’s fulfilled promise to Abraham.
“And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:49-50).
Jesus conveyed a powerful teaching that His disciples are a family. The familial bond of believers goes beyond blood relation. Jesus taught that anyone who does the will of the Father is His family. The Apostle Paul continued teaching the same concept that Christians are all offspring of Abraham and part of God’s household.
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:29).
The same is true for believers today. Christians are family through Jesus. God established believers to be connected in a powerful way as a family. To say that we are a church family implies the significant spiritual bond between believers, and the way we walk with one another through life, encouraging, supporting, and loving each other.
What Should We Do When our Church Feels Like a Dysfunctional Family?
At one point or another, most Christians will feel let down by their church family. They may be hurt, disappointed, or confused about situations that happen. Sometimes, churches can be dysfunctional. One’s church may not seem much like a family at all. Scripture gives guidance on how these common problems can be remedied.
The reason churches face these issues is because people are sinful and broken, but God has given wisdom on how to navigate difficult situations within the church family.
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:13).
When issues arise, Christians can speak the truth in love (see Ephesians 4:15) to their church family and forgive because God has forgiven them. The enemy tries to divide the body of Christ, but with forgiveness and love, Christians can begin to feel like a family and be rid of any dysfunction within.
“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
To create a healthy church family, believers are to encourage each other, build each other up and not tear each other down, and be there for each other, just as a family should be. Scripture gives helpful direction on how to treat fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
“Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
Ultimately, when a church family does not feel quite like family, or is struggling through difficult circumstances and seasons, Christians can aim for restoration among themselves. Believers can seek peace with each other through the power of the Holy Spirit. Through prayer, loving steps of reconciliation, and God’s help, a church family can find their way to healthy functioning and peace.
How Can I Help My Church Body Feel More Like a Family?
When it comes to helping a congregation to feel more like a family, we can look to the command that Jesus gave as an important foundation, which is to love one another just as Jesus loves.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:14-15).
With love for one another comes mutual respect, giving one another the benefit of the doubt, trust, and seeing one another as God sees. The power of love binds the body of Christ together. Scripture also emphasizes an important task that Christians have in being the body of Christ, which is to help other believers live in a way marked by love and good works.
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24).
A church family will feel more like a church family when they keep God at the center of it all. Christians are to help one another love better and to do good works for the kingdom of God. When those values are kept at the center, the church family will feel closer to each other on mission for God’s kingdom.
A wonderful advantage of being a Christian is that we get to be part of a church family when we commit to a congregation through the ups and downs of life. The body of Christ is there to show love, compassion, and support to one another. Scripture not only refers to believers as a family and the household of God, but we should view one another in that way, too. Together, we can encourage righteousness, love, and furthering God’s kingdom as a church family. The term “church family” is used because it captures the fullness of fellowship and relationship between Christians.
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Pamela Palmer is a writer, chaplain, and the founder of upheldlife.com, the platform on which she produces weekly devotionals and faith resource articles to inspire keeping faith at the center of it all. She lives and thrives on Jesus, coffee, and music. She is in pastoral ministry and gets to share in the emotional and spiritual lives of many people, being a small piece of each journey. Pamela married the perfect man for her and they have two beautiful kiddos. She has been published on herviewfromhome.com and you can follow her at upheldlife.com, or on Facebook.com/upheldlife.