The Joy of Mini-Church: Part 3
Family. The greatest joys, the deepest heartaches.
One of the joys of mini- versus mega-church is that people want a sense of family. I admit that it is possible to create a "family feel" in a mega-church, but it's not easy and it's not the same as being a family. Sometimes people will gravitate away from a big church saying something like, "We just felt lost there. We could come and go and no one would even know. So, we wanted to seek out a small church where we could develop a sense of belonging...of 'family.'"
Those who know more than I do about these things tell me that the moment you choose to be a "family" church, you have immediately limited your growth potential. At a certain growth point a church will not feel family-like anymore. Some line is crossed and the church becomes "an organization" or "a team" or (gasp!) "an army." Mega-churches work like mad to break their bigness into littleness--with connecting church, house churches, small groups, or "platoons." I think that at some point the very forms of bigness work against what the "church" is supposed to be. I could be wrong.
My question is this: why do we have to outgrow the sense of "family"? Who says with any kind of binding authority that being a family church is a bad thing? I get out my New Testament and review what God's up to in calling out people for his Name and I see "family" everywhere!
I know that the first century familia was not the same as the USAmerican "nuclear family." The familia included a man, his wife, his children and his slaves (with their families). Yet, the family was a working metaphor for the called-out ones of God. We are the "household" of faith. We have a common Father and older Brother. Even Paul chose to use the family metaphor to shape his apostolic ministry, telling the Thessalonian church that he served among them like a "nursing mother" and like "a father." He didn't throw around his apostolic weight; he demonstrated family love. Moreover, and most strikingly, Jesus said, "Who are my mother, my sister and my brother? Anyone who does the will of my Father, that's who!" Jesus redefined the family--the new people of God.
When our daughters were younger I would sometimes refer to one of them as "old-what's-her-name."
"Oh, Da-aaad! You know who she is."
Of course, that's what families are for: a place where you are known. Not tagged with a sticker that reads, "Hi, my name is John." And it's not just your name that matters. You matter, and your entire story is held as a sacred trust. You are not your story, but you and your story are honored and challenged and transformed "in the family."
I know that's what bars are for, too. "Cheers"--where everybody knows your name.
Mini-church is family size. We're small enough to create a common family story and yet big enough to do more in and for our community than any one (USAmerican nuclear) family can do. A Trinitarian God-shaped relational community exists and it seeks to spread the love and the joy. The idolatry of the USAmerican (Christian) nuclear family is dismantled in the presence of a serving, missional, multi-gifted spiritual family where there are no "big shots."
Turn in your Bibles to Luke 4, and pass the green beans and potatoes...