More Reflections On The Role Of Family Within The Kingdom Of God: Part 4

In my previous blog I talked about the fact that for many friendships have taken the place of family. However these friendships are not meeting everyone’s expectations. Before going on it is worth considering the nature of friendship.

There are 3 different types of friendship.

  1. Circumstantial Friends. The people we say hi to at work, the fellow jogger at the gym, the checkout person at the grocery store, the dry-cleaning guy—these are all very nice people. They’re friendly to us, and we’re friendly to them. But are they true friends? Or are they friends only because of the circumstances in our lives?

Don’t spread yourself too thin with circumstantial friendships. Don’t have unrealistic expectations of circumstantial frieds, they are unlikely to attend your funeral!

  1. True Friends—for a Season.

This is an area of even greater misunderstanding and confusion. I now see that in the past my vision was naive and perhaps caused unnecessary pain for those who moved out of the circle. The high bar of expectation I had set was not realistic for how long our friendships could last in the real world.

Many of our closest friends are only meant to last for a season; people move on, most friendships don’t survive a physical move. Many don’t survive a change in circumstances, e.g. a new marriage or a failed a marriage.

We need to recognise and value true friends for a season.

  1. Lifelong Friends.

For obvious reasons, we cannot force or manufacture lifelong friendships. They are forged in the trenches of everyday life—and, by definition; they take a lifetime to develop.

I’m not minimizing how deep and how loving seasonal friendships can be. They can be transforming. They can be life-giving and fun.

Now the important bit. When we say that church is family it can raise people’s expectations. People are longing for family, for friendship.

However it’s not your church’s job to provide you with a new set of really wise, cool friends who live near you, enjoy all the same interests, and have kids the same age as yours. The church may provide an environment where you can find these friends, but it’s your job to take the initiative.




Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.


More Reflections On The Role Of Family Within The Kingdom Of God: Part 3

My previous blogs have suggested that the concept of church as family has an important part to play in helping us understand what church is meant to be like, as long as we use Jesus and his disciples as our model rather than our own poor experience of family.

Family is in crisis in our society, and is also being redefined!

Family means different things in different contexts. For many it is the cause of much hurt and disappointment. This surfaces when we start talking about church and family and can cloud the issue.

Today many are not living close or even on the same continent of their birth family. For people from cultures where the wider family is very important, e.g. African and Asian cultures this is particularly difficult. However it is true for everyone living away from “family”. In such circumstance “family” has been redefined.

The result is ethnic communities taking the place of family. E.g. my sons live in India and Hong Kong respectively. They each predominantly hang out with other local Brits, these communities have to a certain extent taken the place of family.  This also explains the  predominance of “tribal churches”, people worshipping together with others from the same background. In Luton we have many churches like this. Across the world there are many churches full of Brits wanting to worship together, to be family together.

I don’t think this is the same picture of family that we find in the New Testament! I don’t think his is what Jesus and Paul meant when he talked about the church being family.

Western nuclear family is breaking down. Families include many step children and kids have multiple grandparents. There seems no such thing as a normal family! The TV programme Friends didn’t try to repair the nuclear family; it re-created an extended family out of the rubble of the broken-down nuclear family.

For many in the west friendships have taken the place of family, or at least challenge the historical role that family played. Many have “Friends” as the ideal they are striving for in “family”. However it causes confusion and disappointment. Friendships are entered into with high expectations that aren’t often realised. The relationships modelled in the Friends TV programme are rarely reproduced is real life.

This too isn’t what the New Testament pictures as family life.




Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

More Reflections On The Role Of Family Within The Kingdom Of God: Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous blog Jesus and his disciples functioned as a family. However this wasn’t the dominant way that it would have been understand at the time, or the primary way it is described in the gospels. The dominant cultural model was of a Rabbi or teacher, and his disciples. That was commonly found in the ancient Jewish world and would have been how the Jews would have understood Jesus and his followers. It is the way it is mostly described in the gospels.

However, following the spread of Christianity from its Jewish roots into Gentile communities how things were understood and communicated changed.

Corinth was similar to the majority of pagan cities in the ancient world. The people there had no understanding of what the word “disciple” meant or what it might mean to follow a rabbi because they didn’t have rabbis and disciples. These people had no idea what a rabbi was or what a disciple looked like. But the process of investment called “discipleship” still needed to be taught and modelled, so Paul looked for a comparison.

The New Testament essentially replaces the rabbi-disciple relationship of the Gospels with the parent-child relationship of the epistles as it moves outside of Jewish context.

Most of us, we don’t have a tradition or relevant modern examples of Rabbi’s, teachers and disciples. However we do have traditions of families. Describing discipleship as modelled by Jesus as a family can therefore be very helpful, as long as we understand that we are meant to be following Jesus’ model of family rather than our increasingly dysfunctional experience of family life.




Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.

More Reflections On The Role Of Family Within The Kingdom Of God

For a long while now I found myself continually reflecting on family. I’ve blogged about preached about honouring parents and sought to put it into practise. However I am very aware that the Bible has much more to say about the importance and even definition of family than just honouring parents.

I’m aware that family means different things to different people, often but not always depending on our cultural background. Also describing church as a family, as the Bible does, doesn’t communicate the same thing to everyone. For some it can even be very unhelpful, or even hurtful.

My reflections have led me to conclude that despite the difficulties associated with the picture of the church as a family it is not one to jettison quickly.

Many have an individualistic methodology and understanding of mission. We think through the lens of individuals being sent on mission because we envision God as an individual on mission.

The revelation at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry is that he is not operating independently, but he is coming from a family to represent a family.

I first saw this when someone preached on Jesus calling us to be fishers of men, he mentioned that people in the west assume Jesus is talking about angling. However Jesus had never seen an angler in his life, his contemporaries always fished in teams. He was calling us to do the same, but I understand Jesus through my own cultural lense.

Jesus has a team of disciples, not just individuals. His disciples weren’t just his roadies or work associates — they are his family. For Jesus, making disciples is about building a family.

We desperately need to rediscover the corporate nature of church life, rather the culturally imposed view of the priority of the individual. The picture of family can be a great help to achieve this.




Tony is the leader of Hope Church Luton.  He works full time for the church and is married to Anne and they have 2 sons.