When you hear the word “family” – what does it mean to you?
Based on the way you were raised, your country of origin, circumstances of life, etc…the word “family” can mean many different things for many different people. For some it can mean fond memories, laughter, warmth and healthy community, while for others it can mean chaos, fear, abuse and loneliness. For some it may mean poverty, for others ample supply.
I asked the team at Hillsong San Francisco, “What does family mean to you?” Here were some of their responses.
A few said, “It’s the feeling of being welcomed and accepted, loved for who I am, a sense of what you see is what you get, genuineness but not perfection.” Others described “family” as, “People who have my back through thick and thin, they look out for each other”. Another responded with “People you can rely on, love, loyalty, commitment through the best and worst of times”. I loved this one: “A place where bonds happen, seeds are planted, roots grow, lives shaped.”
Family means all sorts of things. For Jacqui and myself, personally, family is everything. We love our parents, nieces, nephews, brothers, and their wives. It’s been vital for us to be around family since moving to the other side of the world from Sydney to San Francisco just over one year ago. We may not have a biological family, but we do have a spiritual family. One that is “One house with many rooms”. It’s the HOUSE OF GOD!
The first revelation in the Bible we have of God is Elohim. The creative creator, God! Then, throughout the Old Testament God reveals many facets of who He is to different people throughout the generations. Like a diamond, he reveals different understandings of who He is across the span of time, such as Yahweh (Lord), Jehovah, Rapha (Healer), Jehovah Shalom (Peace), Jehovah Tisdedkenu (Our Righteousness), El Elyon (The Most High), El Roi (The God who sees me), El Shaddai (God Almighty), Jehovah Jireh (Provider), Jehovah Nissi (My banner, flag, my covering). Yet, my favorite of all of revelations culminated when Jesus – the son of God – “moved into the neighborhood” and brought the most beautiful revelation of all: Father (Abba).
As Jesus was on the cross he speaks to his mother, Mary, and one of his disciples John and states in John 19:26-27: “When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ And to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother’.”
What a beautiful alignment of two people becoming one family. Two people that were brought up in different homes, with no blood relation, different ages of life yet united by Jesus into this picture of family – Mother & Son!
The church of Jesus is a picture not of a perfect family but what the family of God should look like on earth. Acts 2:41-47 (MSG) states, “That day about three thousand took him at his word, were baptized and were signed up (accepted the message). They committed (devoted) themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers. Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw. Every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.”
God is genius. Despite a broken-down and disbanded society, God still choses to create family. And if done like in the book of Acts, it will be healthy, a place of refuge, a house of hope, restoration and reconciliation. A place where skin color, status, position in society doesn’t take precedence over the value of a human soul. A place beckons “come as you are!” This place offers a genuine heart-felt welcome home through generosity, kindness, wisdom, and faith.
The Church translated Ecclesia means “the assembly, or the ones called into community (A gathering of people, a body) The church is not the place, the church is the people.” We are family and God places the solitary in family, because family matters.
I’ve discovered the Church to be these 4 characteristics:
- Church is the gateway of heaven.
Jacob, the son of Issac, who was the son of Abraham (the father of this family of faith) has a dream where he sees the angels of God ascending and descending from Heaven to Earth. In Genesis 28:16-17, “Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, ‘God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!’ He was terrified. He whispered in awe, ‘Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven.’ A meeting place with God. He called the place ‘Bethel’ which means the house of God and brings a tenth of everything he has.”
In the New Testament Jesus references himself saying “I am the gateway, the door, the way, the truth, the life, no one can get to heaven but through me”. The scripture also says He’s the head of the Church and that He is there, where two or more are gathered in His name.
Church is God’s plan to bring Heaven to Earth, it’s not peripheral to the world, but the world is peripheral to the Church. Jesus said “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not and shall not prevail against it. The Church is not an institution, organization, company…it’s FAMILY! A living, changing, breathing organism.
I remember the first time walking into Hillsong Church in March 2001. I thought, “Wow! Incredible! Wonderful!” There was a sense of Heaven, a welcome home, a belonging, something I had never experienced before. This was the night I had a “Jesus moment”, a Heaven-breathed experience.
2. Church is the body of Christ
Jesus is the HEAD OF THE HOME / BODY.
Ephesians 1:20-23 (MSG) says, “All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.”
God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church.
We are all different body parts but all part of the same body…the Church is the hands and feet of Jesus.
A body divided against itself will not stand or live. That’s why I love how where there is unity, God commands a blessing.
Christianity was different because it was the first multiethnic religion. Up until then, people were born into religion based on ethnicity, culture, or tradition. The Gospel places us all level on the same playing field. Our status, color, ethnicity, wealth, gender, or lifestyle doesn’t determine whether we can or can’t come to God. The scripture clearly states that “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!” and “Anyone that comes to him, He will not drive away”. In other words, when it comes to Jesus, you can “come as you are”. However, (disclaimer) when you truly have an encounter with Jesus and understand His grace and righteousness – it changes you!
The scripture teaches “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female”, (you could add in, black nor white, Latino nor Asian) but all one in Christ.
One what? One Body. One Family!
3. Church is the bride of Christ.
The church is referred to as the bride of Christ. There are numerous references of wedding banquets but one of the other important references is towards comparing Christ with the Church, a Husband to His wife. Scripture teaches and highlights the beginning of a family unit is about the relationship between husband and wife and how it is to reflect Christ and His Church.
Ephesians 5:25-30 says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body.
This love, care, nurture, generosity and kindness that a husband shows to his wife reflects the way Christ treats his bride the church.
4. Church is the family of Christ.
During the birth of the New Testament Church, the scripture, many commentaries, and historical books highlight that the Church (God’s family) was known and characterized in society for the way it treated the poor, widows, orphans, children, as well as exemplary business dealings, vulnerable transparency and morality.
This family met in the temple courts (church services, prayer meetings) and from house to house (bible studies, small groups). People were known, looked after, they weren’t given a hand out but a hand up. It was a place for everyone and because of this people in general liked what they saw and the Lord added to the number daily those who were being saved.
I love the greater church, and I love our family called Hillsong Church and especially love this part of the vision of our House:
“The church that I see is a global church. I see a global family: One house with many rooms, outworking a unified vision. I see a church apostolic in calling, and visionary in nature; committed to boldly impacting millions for Christ in significant cities and nations throughout the earth with the greatest of all causes – the Cause of our Lord Jesus Christ…Positioned in the heart of culture, in great diverse urban centers, I see buildings that struggle to contain the increase of all that God is doing; occupying land and places that are miraculous in provision and impossible to ignore. I see a church that is big enough to dream on a global scale, yet personal enough for everyone to find their place. I see a church that beckons ‘WELCOME HOME’ to every man, woman and child that walks through the doors.”
– The Church That I Now See by Brian Houston, Global Senior Pastor at Hillsong Church
I know that there is no perfect Church, just like there is no perfect family…but it’s family nonetheless. I have a heart for God’s House, because God’s house had a heart for me first. Hope you can make it to your local church this weekend!