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How Do We See Church As a Family?

Most of us were raised thinking that “church” refers to an institution with set leaders and practices and we participate in it by following expectations. Intuitively we think of the church institutionally, even though it often calls itself a family.

How is God shaping your view of his church in a way that allows you to see its reality around you?

Or if you’re not yet beginning to see it, what do you focus on when your hunger to be part of his church begins to draw you?

As much as I have distanced myself from the “church” as an institution, I admire what my mom and my sister have for church. What they have now is family. Let me tell you about their families.

Mom’s church: Mom lives on a farm about 2 miles from the local town, In that local town is a Lutheran “church” that has a building over a 100 years old. It is typical of the rural buildings. Little white box with a steeple and a bell that they never use. The pews are old wooden, probably dating back to the inception of the building itself. As old and rickety as the building and its components are… the community that gathers there are indeed a family. It is what church used to be like 50-75 years ago in the rural communities. It wasn’t just a building, these people shared their lives together. This community has welcomed me into its family even through I don’t go Sunday morning and when I go Sunday morning… it is usually after the service is over and no one complains that I’ve missed anything. I have made it pretty obvious that I am not interested in the tradition and the rituals. But it doesn’t phase them. I show up for potlucks, community events, Christmas caroling… you name it. Everything but “church”… but in doing that I find I am so much a part of the church anyway.
The pastor they have now only works part time for the two parish congregation, so he supplements his income in various ways. One on his part time jobs is my mom’s handyman. Since my carpenter father passed away, there has been a lot of work to do on the farm and around the house, so the pastor has been a big part of that. His wife has a garden at the farm too, so they have become very special to me. They know my story and have still embraced me with no judgment or shame. I guess I find this hard to replace and that would be one reason I have chosen to stay away from finding something new.

My sister’s “church” One thing that makes my sister’s community so unique is the pastor. He started working there straight out of seminary and has been there for over thirty years. That community has been his family for as long as he’s been called pastor. That is not only rare in the Lutheran denominations, but unheard of. Most pastors move around 5-10 times in their life. Seems God “calls” them to be mobile.
I told the pastor that I respected him for staying with one community. Because of his commitment to stay, his “church” has become more of a family than a program to sustain. I respect him and his wife for the home they have given so many people over the years. I was able to share this with him this weekend when I attended his father-in-law’s funeral. I don’t know what other people have told him in the past, but I told him “Thank you for staying!” Because no one else does. My mom tells me he plans to stay there until he retires. What a legacy! (my sister and her family have also been a part of this community for over 25 years)

Those two communities have outshone so much of what I have experienced. I am glad for my mom and my sister for what they have. My mom once told me… "I don’t blame you for leaving, because of what you went through… " What I miss is the family. It is what I haven’t been able to find much of in my own world. So I share myself with my family’s family and for now I am content with that. Just wish they weren’t so far away.

Ruby from Calmar, Alberta


That sounds like a dream come true. We have wanted to stay in the same church forever, too, but it just never worked out. I hear the complaints about pastors leaving for the a bigger church and more pay. I’m sure some do, but most of the time the churches won’t let you stay very long. They have such unreal expectations. They want a coach to MAKE their church grow. It’s the thing I fear most about the possibility of ever pastoring again. We have to move soon and I sure hope we’ll be able to make some real friends wherever we go. I’m so tired of all the phony church family stuff. But it is nice to know that there are real church families someplace on the planet.

In our church before last several of the ladies made quilts to give to a women’s shelter in a nearby town. I asked the director to come speak to our group. I did not tell her about the troubles in our church. She spoke about dysfunctional families and how the members manipulate one another. When it was over, my one friend pulled me over and said, “You told her about our church, didn’t you?! She was describing our church!” No, I hadn’t told her a thing.

I just think it would be wonderful to have Christian friends - whatever you call the bunch. People you can trust, who won’t throw you over.


Besides my own blood family, for me, my church “family” (or at least what I have focused on for the moment in the search for one) has become those very few people in my life with which I can share and talk about what I’m learning. If I read or hear something wonderful that God is revealing to me about His love, or grace etc., I know I can send a text or have a conversation with those few and be engaged in a meaningful connection. What a wonderful thing it is to have Good News and want to share it with someone who will also think it is Good News and not just think I’m making the Bible into what I want it to be…etc… The IC church family and friends that I came out of is still in bondage to religious performance. So I actually feel distanced from them for the time because they don’t understand why we left church or why we are doing what we are doing. However, I have been thinking that God is bringing a few new connections into my life…and I’m excited to see where it all goes…


God is showing me that church is not limited to a couple of hours on Sunday morning, limited to a building strictly for one purpose. The church God is showing me is more of a spontaneous happening, sometimes wonderful, at times inconvenient, as I realize God does not submit to our concept of time and space.

God is also showing me the church he envisions for us is under His control, not ours. And it is all-encompassing. Sometimes wisdom comes from the unlikeliest of sources. It requires me to keep an open mind and heart, and to constantly remain on-call. Not with a hypervigilance mind you, but a sense of wonder. I never know when and where church will appear, and for how long. Sometimes it can be for mere minutes, othertimes hours. To explain this to someone who still submits themselves to a traditional church setting, would surely baffle them. Only through experience would they understand.

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I would say that I have a hunger to be around people that are either (1) living in Gods love, (2) have a good understanding of God’s love, or (3) are on the journey towards having a better understanding of God’s love… and (4) they are beginning to cast off living by self-effort and religious obligation.

I also know that whenever I’m with other people like this, I feel at home (like I’m peaceful and happy). I also know that I don’t sense that peace and happiness when I’m surrounded by people that don’t have a good understanding of God’s love, and they are living by self-effort and religious obligation.


Bailey, NC


Oh Man! I couldn’t have said it better! I totally agree and feel likewise!

This quote exemplifies what church means to me. Although we attend a large church service most Sundays, it is in smaller groups that I find ‘real’ church: in our weekly small group meetings, where people come from many differing backgrounds and are on different faith journeys; my discipleship group, where three of us women meet because one asked for help growing in her walk with Jesus; and soon, I hope, I will find it in a start-up group for four couples to help us grow our marriages in Christ. I find ‘church’ where I am free to ask questions, express doubts, share joys, pray together, know that I am accepted and loved.

Beth and Gadiela: I pray for this for you.

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Believe me, I’m grateful for your prayer. We need it!!

I believe God is allowing me to see the reality that the church He is building is not a building or an institution, but people… people who are yearning to know about Him and His love for us. As I met with a couple of my friends that I used to go to IC with, we talked about how the “church” should be. I mentioned that it’s not about some guy (or woman) getting up there for an hour expounding on what their “opinion” of what the Bible says how we should live or not live. But it should be about us interacting with each other, talking about what He is doing in our lives, or showing support for others that have needs. I also said that the best part, when I attended IC was afterwards, when we had general conversations about our everyday life.

However, these friends still attend IC and still feel the need or obligation to do so. I don’t judge them, I feel what’s good for me is not always good for someone else. So, when I feel the hunger to be a part of His “church” drawing me, I do feel alone. I just come here to this conversation and read what others are saying and go where ever I feel He is guiding me.


When I hunger for church (which is a lot lately) I try to refocus on the relationships in my life and how I can nurture them. After 13 years outside the IC I have had several special Christian friendships but I really hunger for mutual relationships that create community and have really never been able to experience that. I really hunger for that community!