Navigating Church Family Relationships Wisely


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Sermon Notes

Family relationships…

               When you think of yours, what emotions well up?  What memories emerge?  What stories do you long to tell, or shudder to think about?  There are fewer themes to consider that stir us as deeply as the theme of family relationships.  

               Much of what we will consider has clear application to our personal families.  Yet, we want to focus on church family relationships.  Why?  Because God created church families for a sacred and practical purpose.  “There was once a community of believers who were so totally devoted to God that their life together was charged with the Spirit’s power…in that band of Christ followers, believers loved each other with a radical kind of love.  They took off their masks and shared their lives with one another…those who had more shared freely with those who had less until socioeconomic barriers melted away…they bridged gender and racial chasms and celebrated cultural differences…the local church ‘comforts the grieving and heals the broken in the context of community.  It builds bridges to seekers and offers truth to the confused.  It provides resources for those in need and opens its arms to the forgotten, the downtrodden, the disillusioned.  It breaks the chains of addiction, frees the oppressed and offers belonging…”  Many of us have experienced these things to be true. 

The hard truth is that cultivating healthy church family relationships is one of the most challenging responsibilities and wonderful privileges each Christ follower has to face up to…and then decide, day to day, ‘Will I step up to the opportunity before me, or not?’  There are fewer relational realities more satisfying and inspiring to be an active part of than that of helping cultivate healthy and nourishing church family relationships.

               A relationally healthy church is cultivated by a thousand different choices every day by all sorts of people; it doesn’t come about by chance or by simply believing truth.  Far too many churches have been torn apart by self serving agendas, by a lack of humility, by a lack of truth seeking and reconciling actions.

 

The Church Family: Ephesians 3:15

               Followers of Jesus form the family of God.  It has an eternal, global and heavenly reality and a local manifestation in and through a community like Redeemer.

Our church family is precious and important for different reasons.  It provides spiritual nurture and care that engages people with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Church family provides a safe place to belong and become more fully the unique person God has created you to be…and to be part of a community that radiates faith, hope and love to each other…and to those outside the family.

               Many of you have your deeply personal reasons for why you regard RBC as ‘precious and important.’  What might yours be?

               And … our church family is fragile and affected by the attitudes and actions of each one who is part of the family.  ‘Show of hands’…who has experienced first-hand church family conflict, disunity and relational and emotional pain?  Many of us have.  And no church, including RBC is immune from relational pain and fracturing.

Why These Messages?

                Because God yearns for us to be healthy and maturing in faith, hope and love.  Yet, that shared experience of growing maturity is dependent on each of us ‘doing our part’ to protect, cultivate and manifest spiritual, emotional and relational maturity and health.

               Let me speak my heart…I see evidences of the grace of God within this church family, Sundays and between, every week, without fail.  

               Our humanity insures that at any given time we are building up and cultivating a healthy church family…or we are damaging the family and sowing seeds of disunity.  Why does this happen?  We are a mix of beauty and brokenness. I am. You are. We are. Disappointments, disagreements and frustrated dreams can create tension and conflict.  No wonder Paul writes with thoughtful boldness, gentleness, passion and startling clarity what he does to a church family he loves.  He wants to jolt them into recognizing what and who is at stake.  And to resolve afresh to be and do what it takes to continue maturing as a church family that radiates (yes, I have already used that word, I know) faith, hope and love.

Required Behaviours and Attitudes: Part One of Two!

  1. Start on Your Knees: Ephesians 4:1.  If you profess to be a Christ follower, then let’s actually follow Jesus day to day, being faithful to his call to place him and his agenda first. Matthew 16:24 Cultivate a posture of responsive obedience to Jesus.  
  2. Lead with Grace: Ephesians 4:2.  I freely admit that these behaviours are way easier to talk about than live.    Gentleness (strength under control).  Patient (with annoying people).  Bearing with one another (an appropriate acceptance of humanity without tolerating destructive ‘stuff’…more on that next week!)  We need to begin our conversations with appreciative grace, not criticism or accusation. There is no place for that in a healthy church family that seriously bears the Name of Jesus…not in my life or yours.

Can we talk about gentleness for a moment? We live in rough, harsh and hard world where people are broken and bruised constantly, by attitudes, words and actions.  Gentleness seems so out of place, so out of touch. Friends, we need to reclaim purposefully gentleness of attitude, demeanour, word and action. Illustrate: Matthew 12:19-21.  Matthew 11:28-30.  Gentleness is fast becoming an endangered relational trait.  We can’t let that happen at RBC.  I am profoundly grateful for the gentle words, attitudes and looks that populate our family. We need to see more of this and less hardness, harshness and judgmentalism.  Because sometimes a lack of grace is expressed and experienced at RBC.  We can and must do better.

  1. Contribute to Protecting and Cultivating Unity of Christ’s Spirit: Ephesians 4:3-6.  We aren’t to ‘mess’ with God’s family. 
  2. Respect with Appreciation, Diversity within the Church Family: Ephesians 4:7-12

All sorts of different spiritual gifts, personalities, life stories etc.  We are to treasure this reality and cheer people on!  There is no place for demanding conformity to our preferences or expectations.  Not cool.  At all.

  1. Remember God’s Intention…Maturity, becoming like Jesus: Ephesians 4:13-16

We need each other, the wide spectrum of gifts, personalities, skills and stories…don’t forget the stories.  Or the love.  Vs.16.  Love is a very big deal.

 

So, let’s recap. And as we do, what behaviour or attitude do you need to pay more attention to?

  1. Start on your knees.
  2. Lead with grace.
  3. Contribute to protecting unity.
  4. Respect diversity.
  5. Remember God’s Intent, Loving Maturity.

Of the 5, which one stands out to you, maybe even calls your name loudly?

Any questions about the Scripture passage or message?  If you are a newcomer I hope you will grasp what matters deeply to the leaders and many people here!

Navigating Church Family Relationships:  taking our cues from Jesus, asking for strength and guidance along the way…we grow and radiate increasingly faith, hope and love!  These realities will capture the attention and hearts of people, drawing them to consider the source of our life together:  Jesus.



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