At our church service on Sunday, the focus was on being family together. I have to confess that’s a phrase that raises my defences straight away. I’ve had too many experiences of being part of a church that talked regularly about being family when the reality could not have been further from the truth.
To be fair, I think people there genuinely desired for it to be like a family. The problem is it was just too big. It was always going to be impossible to know everyone, but it was far too easy for people to be overlooked or brushed aside, and this was definitely an issue.
As well as that, everything was done very professionally and to a high standard, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but the impression that came across (unintentionally) was that certain people were valued more than others and that you had to have it all together in order to be able to participate.
So as we considered being family, my initial reaction was pretty negative, but then several things happened that would never have happened at my previous church:
- The person operating the powerpoint got completely confused and didn’t find the correct words until half way through the song.
- Then they tried to play a music track from an iPod, couldn’t find the track they were meant to play, and then messed up the volume control.
- A book was passed round for everyone to write in their birthday so that we could celebrate with each other. My birthday is this week and I didn’t realise that anyone knew, but they had found out somehow and they sang “Happy Birthday” to me in the middle of the service.
- Someone spontaneously invited people round for lunch, so a group of us spent time together, eating and then going to the park together.
- A four year old leaned over and told me his bottom was itchy and asked if I would scratch it for him! Obviously I declined, but I think that’s the moment it really felt like a family!!! 🙂
As I thought about it later, it seemed that none of it was slick or polished or professional. It was all a bit messy, but it was real and it was loving and it felt that it was how a family should be. People felt free to be themselves and everyone was valued. I loved the warmth and the sense of inclusion and the fact that a family who had joined us at church for the first time felt part of things enough to join us at the park.
Too often, in other areas of life, I am over-concerned with perfection. I want to do things well, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I also want other people to look at me and think I’ve got it all together.
I’m learning not to do that though. For a start it’s a false impression, as you’ll know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, so if you’re looking for someone who’s got it sorted you might as well stop reading now. The truth is I’ve been struggling more this week than I have for a few years as things I thought were dealt with are triggered once again.
Also, when we present ourselves as perfect it puts people off as it sets an impossible standard for them to aspire to and it prevents them relating to us.
So let’s be honest- life is messy, but if we love and support one another as family, we can do this. I’m grateful for the people who have been there for me over the last few days. Part of me hates to show weakness- I’d rather be the strong one who is there for others- but family is about supporting one another and it has to go both ways.
And the Bible reminds me that God’s family has always been messy. Hebrews 11 is filled with examples of people who were used by God, but as you look down the list, all you see is imperfect, messed up people who failed and doubted and made mistakes. None of them did it perfectly but God used them. They all had a part to play.
And that reassures me that maybe there’s a part for you and me too. None of it is on our merit. “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 1:5)
We are family, and we can do this- together.