Scripture is clear that we serve two kinds of families in this world; biological and spiritual. The Biological family was designed by God to be the instrument of generational discipleship.

“Pay attention, my people, to my instruction! Listen to the words I speak! I will sing a song that imparts wisdom; I will make insightful observations about the past. What we have heard and learned— that which our ancestors have told us— we will not hide from their descendants. We will tell the next generation about the Lord’s praiseworthy acts, about his strength and the amazing things he has done. He established a rule in Jacob; he set up a law in Israel. He commanded our ancestors to make his deeds known to their descendants, so that the next generation, children yet to be born, might know about them. They will grow up and tell their descendants about them. Then they will place their confidence in God. They will not forget the works of God, and they will obey his commands.” (Psalm 78:1-7, NET)

The Church was intended to be the Spirit-Family that strengthens the biological family. Jesus said that His disciples would be His family and would model the life of obedience necessary to follow after God.

“Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside wanting to speak to you.” To the one who had said this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” And pointing 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 12:47-50, NET)

Christianity can not survive, and discipleship can not exist, outside of the context of both the biological and spiritual family. In the book, “Families at the Crossroads”, Rodney Clapp portrays the lifestyle of the modern family as a hydroponic plant; a life that changes and adapts with the shifting tides of culture. [1] In response, the church has developed programs and practices that try to catch the tidal wave of shifting needs and desires, but has not yet been able to root Her people in a solid foundation of Christian maturity. The “consumer church” has diluted Her message, morphed the nature of Her character, undermined the Gospel, and consequently abdicated Her authority.[2]

In many cases, this gross commercialism has become the expectation for consumerist families. We have lived out the Church’s mission by promoting allegiance to individual family needs at the expense of our duty to the covenant of God’s Kingdom. Yet it is really our commitment to God’s Family that forms the proper foundation for blood relationships. We can not meet the needs of the individual family, unless we are able to keep them rooted in the context of Jesus’ spiritual Family. The biological family gains its unique identity only as it is formed within the Family that is God’s Church.[3]

Michael Wilkins was one of my teachers during my DMin studies and he offers this salient observation regarding the role for each kind of family.

We need to clarify the relationship of discipleship in the home and discipleship in the church (or parachurch groups). Both of God’s institutions- the biological family and the spiritual family—have been ordained for the role of providing guidance in growth. We are healthiest and strongest when we learn to balance both.[4]

If we are to truly be a church that makes disciples, then we must find the balance of serving these two Divine institutions. The destiny of these two families is eternally intertwined and the successful Church must be structured so that it reinforces the biblical demand for nurturing the biological family.

FOOTNOTES

[1] Rodney Clapp, Families at the Crossroads: Beyond Traditional & Modern Options (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 50.

[2] Colson and Vaughn, The Body,44-46.

[3] Clapp, Families at the Crossroads,67-68.

[4] Michael J. Wilkins, In His Image: Reflecting Christ in Everyday Life (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 1997), 134.

 

Dr. Joe Miller (aka JR) is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. In addition, he is a church planter and coach for emerging leaders. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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