Briefly

  • The Bible describes two families. There is the household family with parents and kids (often called the “nuclear” family), and there is the church family of God with our Father in heaven. Just as nuclear families provide the basic building blocks of society, a church family is a basic building block of the Kingdom of God.

  • Families promote health. The core areas of health that the nuclear family promotes, are the same core areas of health that the family of God promotes.

  • In this message, I’m addressing one of those four areas of health: raising people to maturity, and helping them with socialization.

  • Physical adults in a church family may be spiritual children, and in need of raising up in the ways of God. Really, we all will have something in our lives that needs better health and the support of our church family to pursue that health.

  • But, we need to be careful that we are not simply reading in the Bible stories of people from thousands of years ago who encountered God and found health. You see, each generation needs a fresh encounter with God so as to write our own stories.

  • It is possible for a group of Christians to function as a family of God with just a couple of small steps.



Introduction

Families work together to develop health in four areas: emotional well-being, care-taking, provision of basic needs, and rearing and socialization. Parents are the ones who provide the instruction and coaching, and kids are the ones who are supposed to cooperate.

There is, of course, another layer of family called the family of God. The goals here are similar to that of a family raising children. That is, people come into God’s family and need to be raised in the ways of God, and to become socialized into a new way of life.

No nuclear family or church family is doing this perfectly – there is dysfunctionality. But ideally, with of the presence of the Holy Spirit within the church family, the church family would be a model of good health and the pursuit of good health. And, as Christian brothers and sisters mature within the church family by developing good health, they become conditioned to spread good health into the nuclear families connected to the church.

Though this message is going to talk about raising up people (both kids and adults) to maturity, my main point is that we need more than a good lesson about health, for we need to apply that lesson into our lives and experience the health it describes. Or put another way, it can be illustrative to hear a story from the Bible of how a person from thousands of years ago encountered God and found health, but our story – our lives, our churches, and our families – need our own fresh encounter with God so as to experience health in our generation.

A Quick Note about Singleness

In doing a series on family and the family nature of the church (a family of God), I am aware that a lot of single people feel left out or like second-class citizens. God never intended this to be a truth that single people experience in the church. A single person has just as much value and just as much of a contribution in the family of God, and Paul even suggests that there is greater opportunity for a single person to contribute within God’s family (1 Corinthians 7:32-35).



Raising Up

Today, I’m going to be focusing on that fourth area of health, which refers to the proper raising of children. I think most of us get the notion of child-raising, because we want kids to be productive and cooperative members of society. We want them to play well with others, to have good manners, to have a future that contributes to the well-being of society, and to not create chaos and harm.

To do this raising of children, we usually begin with instruction, and then provide the resources and mentoring they need to weave that instruction into the fabric of their lives.

A church family is similar. We usually begin with instruction from God via Scripture. Coincident with that, people in the church family are to provide mentoring and support that is guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and ultimately there is transformation of lives to align with God’s plans for health. We see this described in places like Ephesians 4:11-16, 1 Corinthians 3:1-17, or 1 Corinthians 12:4-31.



The Challenge

Most American parents soon discover that they only have about 12 years of solid influence on their kids before their kids will start to want to be “raised” by peers or by the latest media sensation who is way cooler than their parents. Teens slowly become their own captains of raising and socialization, choosing both how and in what way that they will be raised. In the view of many teens, parents are out of touch with their kid’s challenges, and their parent's only solutions are both un-fun and un-helpful.

This attitude is often brought into the American church families. In the family of God there are many physical adults that need to be raised in the ways of God – they are spiritual children. And, it is challenging sometimes to help an adult realize that there is a need to grow up, or to provide guidance. Why? Many or most are still functioning as “captains of their raising-up”, and their peers and the media of our world are giving them guidance that is mixed in with the guidance of God. When a person spends 1-2 hours a week around God, and over 100 hours a week around these other agendas of the world, the other agendas win out. For so many, God is just a story, something to be learned.

This is the situation that we see happening in Judges 2:6-10, where a generation is described as not knowing the Lord or the work that he had done for their nation. This doesn’t mean that they didn’t have access to the stories, or even know the stories, of God, but that they were not encountering the power of God in the same ways that their parents had. They spent so much time and energy pursuing all the other agendas of the culture around them that they didn’t have time for God.

This meant that God had become a story of older generations, rather than an experience of their current generation.

(By the way, God had warned Israel about this in Deuteronomy 6:4-12.)

We have to be careful not to substitute Bible stories for the presence of God. Education is not the same as rearing and socialization. Instead, we should help one another, kids and adults, to engage with the power that is described in those Bible stories.

In other words, we need to not be merely satisfied with how God interacted with generations from a long time ago. We can read the story of Paul and Silas in jail, rescuing them as they trusted in God. We can read the story of Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and see him trusting in God. But what of our generation? We should be hungering for God to interact similarly with us in our generation, with our own experiences, and not be satisfied with just Bible stories.

Kids are smart, and these days they want to connect with experience. Many kids are not connecting with Christianity because they don’t see the power. For so many, their church experience, instead, is just learning dusty old stories from 2000 years ago that promise there is going to be power today, but how are we guiding them to find it beyond the stories? I believe we have multiple generations that have just barely enough time for God to read the stories, and nothing available to pursue the God of those stories. It reminds me of this warning from Paul:

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. (James 1:22)



Writing Our Own Story

American Christians who are adults often do not want to be parented, and we also don’t think that we have the responsibility or permission to help raise up one another. So, we default, it seems to just reading stories. Yet Scripture describes a family of God as iron sharpening iron, and parenting one another so that we are raised up (e.g., Ephesians 4:11-16).

If we really want to pursue God, I believe we have to give permission to others to help raise us up in the ways of God. This means that the atmosphere of the church family has to be viewed as people who are pursuing the health that God describes, and supporting one another to be successful - not just learning lessons.

So to begin, can we function as a family of God?

Can each of us identify a part of our life that needs better health (spiritual growth)?

Can you identify at least one other person who is helping you with pursuing better health?

Can you ask others to be in prayer for the power of God to pour into your life?