Our familial relationships are profoundly important. We all know that in good ways (and sometimes bad/painful ways), obvious ways, and in ways so deep we don’t even recognize them, that our families form us. This is true with regard to the impact and contribution of our grandparents, parents, and siblings as well as with our children, spouses, and in-laws. We are formed by our family – deeply. When/where our family relationships are good, vibrant, and healthy, we are blessed deeply. When they are not, we are impacted negatively and wounded – deeply.
This is true because we are made in the image of a relational God and the Trinity is a family.
All of the above is also true with regard to our church family and our relationship with her. When/where our church-family relationships are good, vibrant, and healthy, we are blessed deeply. When they are not, we are impacted negatively and wounded – deeply – sometimes in ways so deep we don’t even recognize them.
That might sound like an exaggeration – one that the pastor of a church could be especially prone to make. But, in the Bible, our relationship with Jesus and his Bride, the Church, is prioritized above all other things. That was scandalous, shocking, and disruptive when Jesus proclaimed it. It’s also discordant and shocking to our ears and our Christian thinking, assumptions, and practices today.
It is made very clear in God’s Word: There is no institution, organization, or relationship in all of creation that takes priority over our relationship with Christ and his Bride. Yes, as we read in 1 Corinthians 7:32-35, it is true that, above all other personal relationships, the human marriage relationship competes with and divides our concerns for and devotion to the Lord, his Kingdom, and his Bride. That’s a reality that God acknowledges.
So, why am I sharing all this today? Our relationship with the Church has been increasingly on my heart, mind, and soul over the past year. That’s increased over the past weeks. Spending time worshiping with and learning from 4,000 Chinese pastors and leaders in Kuala Lumpur has deeply impacted and changed me. Also, this coming Sunday, Pastor Bob will be installed as a pastor at Church of the Redeemer by our local Presbytery – the Metro Atlanta Presbytery.
The Commission that will install Bob as a pastor of our church family includes two men who Bob & Karen have known for over 40years. Isn’t that beautiful and special – over 40 years! This is how it’s meant to be! One of these men, John Robertson, was Bob’s pastor when he was in college and he married Bob and Karen way back in 1978. Consider for a moment how beautiful and profound it’s going to be to have these 40+ year family relationships speak into our church family and participate in laying hands on Bob & Karen this Sunday as our church family worships together and welcomes Bob and Karen into our family.
The following Sunday, Feb 23, I’ll be sharing more about our time in Kuala Lumpur and our new partnership with a local church family in China. I (and many others – wiser and smarter than me) believe the Chinese Church has important things to teach us and the Bride of Christ around the globe. Why?
I don’t know when it happened, but statistically the global center of Christianity has once again shifted. Just like it once shifted from my home in Scotland/Europe to North America, it has shifted again – this time from North American to Asia. China is on track to have more Christians than any other nation in the world. I am NOT saying that the Holy Spirit has abandoned us here in the USA, but the global center of Christianity has shifted. God is powerfully at work in an oppressive Communist nation bringing millions of people to Christ. Here’s how this connects to the topic of Christians and their relationship with their church: A Christian’s relationship with their local church family is central to what is going on in China and to the persecution of Christians there. As one Chinese pastor explained to us during our trip – a pastor who’s own grandfather was imprisoned for 5yrs during the Cultural Revolution for being a pastor – he said: “They told our grandparents, ‘Deny Jesus or we will kill you,’ but they are telling us, ‘Stop going to your church or we will kill you.'” Chinese Christians are being persecuted, losing their jobs, and having their children taken away from them – for going to their local church and for living as if their relationship with and connection to their local church family is a non-negotiable!
As pastor John Robertson preaches to us (and Pastor Bob) this Sunday about what it means to be a church family and have a pastor, his text is Matthew 5:1-12 and his sermon title is “The Importance of Being Poor.” Take some time to reflect and ponder all these things as you meditate on Matthew 5:1-12. May God meet us all in his Word and in worship.
Yours in Christ,