One of my favorite aspects of being part of an active church is the fellowship that we experience when we get together. And, if I am honest, during those times that we are together for small groups or other events, one of my main enjoyments is eating good food!

Of course, it is not just about the food itself; it is what eating together brings. Eating meals gives a group of people something physical to do (which is unifying in and of itself).

It gives us something to enjoy together, which helps us build positive feelings and even memories, it disarms us so we can bring our guard down, and it works as an ice breaker to facilitate casual conversation.

Most importantly, eating a meal with other Christians turns us more into the kind of family that God designed us to be for a few moments as we enjoy food that will hopefully lead to greater fellowship in the future.

Because if you know what it is like to be in a healthy church or if you are familiar with the model of church that the New Testament gives us, you will know that the Church really is like a family.

I was reminded of this reality recently when I was talking with a missionary friend of mine. As he described his church on the mission field in South America, he happily described a group of people that cared for each other, were affectionate toward one another, and that really wanted to be together.

That is not only how Jesus wanted the church to be, but that is exactly how he started it — like a family!

1. Remember That Jesus Valued Family

He was born into a family with parents and siblings, and he lived with and participated with that family for most of his life. Then in the end, he loved his family so much that with one of his last breaths, as he hung on the cross, he made sure that his mom would be cared for (John 19:26-27).

Jesus taught about the importance of family and marriage (the foundation of the family) as well. One of his most popular teachings can be found in Mark 10:6-9 when Jesus declared that:

from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. ‘So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”

But Jesus did not just teach about the importance of family and marriage; he actively endorsed it to the point that his very first public appearance (after his somewhat-public baptism, of course) was at a wedding that he attended with his mother and disciples and where he performed his first miracle.

And Jesus was not just a bystander at this wedding — he even got involved with serving refreshments” (John 2).

But then, in that same passage where Jesus gave his disciple John the responsibility of caring for his mother, we get a hint about the kind of family relationship that Jesus also had with his disciple because the writer uses the phrase “the disciple whom he loved” (John 19).

This is because Jesus did not just focus on caring for his physical family, but he essentially welcomed all of his followers in and treated them like family, too.

Mark tells the story that one time when Jesus was ministering to a crowd, and some people told him that his mother and brothers were outside, he responded with,

 “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:31-35).

2. Treat the Church Like Jesus Treated His Disciples and Ministry

As we read through the gospels, we find that at different times Jesus walked with them on trips, he road with them in boats, he reclined with them in homes, he attended feasts and celebrations together with them, he taught them lessons like a father teaches his children, he rescued them when they were in trouble, he allowed them to make mistakes and then used those experiences to teach them even more, and, my favorite part, he ate with them!

God himself, in the flesh, took the time to sit down and share a meal with his disciples — and like we already mentioned — that is such a keyway that he treated them like family.

One particular time when he did this is what we call the Last Supper.” One important detail in Matthew 26:20-29 is that Jesus served the bread and wine to Judas Iscariot, who he knew was against him and that would soon betray him.

This is a perfect illustration of how families even care for members who they do not get along with or that they are even more like enemies with. Another important detail is that Jesus said he would do this again… one day. We will come back to that in a minute.

This family dynamic of Jesus ministry did not end with him.

3. Resemble the First Church Who Treated Each Other Like Family

Very soon after Jesus ascension back to heaven in Acts 2, the apostles gave the gospel to people from all over the world and invited them into the family of God — something that only the Jews thought they had claims to at the time.

Then, as a result, the picture that we get of the First Church is nothing short of the kind of utopian” society that other cults have tried to mimic.

They loved to each other, meeting together regularly, and sharing resources in a way that makes even the tightest-nit family seem like sworn enemies! This is because the Gospel of Jesus brings people together like never before.

Then later, the Apostle Paul taught about this family mentality by teaching the churches he started that we must not allow our differences to define us or divide us but seek unity and agreement (1 Corinthians 1).

He taught in the love chapter” that while faith and hope are important facets of our Christian faith, our love for one another is most important (1 Corinthians 13).

Paul also used the analogy of the human body with its many, unique members — that each has different functions but all serve one another to describe how the church is to view itself and treat one another.

This is important for us to study because the example of the First Church and Pauls instructions to the churches he pastored from a distance” gives us the standard for us today. One article that I recently read said that

If we are intent on trusting Christ to work in us as we gather and open to being Christlike as we gather, then — whether its for a meal or a church service or a golf game or a playdate for the kids — we share in that beautiful fellowship. We were designed for this kind of fellowship, this kind of connection in Jesus, and we cannot find it anywhere but the body of Christ. This is what finding true belonging in the church looks like.”

Lastly, the church family” does not end here on earth.

Heaven Will Be Like a Family

Another important detail of Jesus Last Supper with his disciples in Matthew 26 that we mentioned earlier is that Jesus promised that in the end, after this current earth and heaven were said and done, he would again sit down with his followers and have a meal.

But this time, there will be no doubt and betrayal mixed in! John prophesied in the Book of Revelation: Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7).

We get the impression from Luke that when Jesus returns for his servants” (the Church) that he will dress himself for service and have them recline at table, and he will come and serve them” (Luke 12:37).

What a beautiful thought that Jesus will once again serve us who have been serving him. But this will not be because he owes” us anything, but because we will have nothing to offer Jesus, who has everything.

Then that same Jesus will welcome his children into a New Heaven and New Earth that he has prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (again — the family and marriage picture) (Revelation 21:1-4).

One writer summed all of this up by saying that the end goal of Gods work and mission has been and continues to be a reconciled, intimate relationship with a people, his children, and the Church.

The church is a family, not by blood, but by the Spirit.

If more people saw the church as a family with her fellowship and flaws, then fewer would be leaving it. If more pastors and church leaders saw their church as a family, fewer would treat her like a job or abuse her.

If more church members saw the church as a family, fewer would outsource the caring of each other to their pastor or deacons or the serving of one another to a paid employee.

Christian — let us go the extra mile and not just expect our church to act like a family, but to do everything we can.

For further reading:

What Is the Meaning of the Body of Christ?

God’s Blended Family

What Is the Importance of Having a Spiritual Family?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/RyanJLane

Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, church planter, and now Pastor of Worship and Discipleship at Cheraw First Baptist Church in South Carolina. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking, and his YouTube channel. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.

Robert Hampshire

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