Scripture: Ephesians 5:22-33, 6:1-4
(5 of 6)
One of the trends that I’ve observed in churches in over 30 years of pastoral ministry is the growing separation of church and family. Before I entered the ministry, when I was a child and youth growing up in the church, the distance between the two was much less. From what I have heard and read, a generation or two before my generation church and family were pretty much the same thing for a family that knew Christ. In other words, if a Christian was committed to family, he was committed to church. If a Christian was committed to the church, she was committed to family. There was no competition between the two. Now however, the competition is getting greater. Regular church attendance is on the decline, and one of the chief reasons for it is “family conflicts.” The priority of church attendance has declined, but the priority of spending time with family has increased. Families are slowly drifting from church.
There’s no judgment in that statement, it’s just a statistical fact. One classic Baptist church covenant begins as follows:
Having been led as we believe by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, We do now in the presence of God and this assembly most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.
We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love;
To strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort;
To promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, doctrines, and discipline;
To give it sacred preeminence over all institutions of human origin;
To contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.
The key portion is:
“To strive for the advancement of this church…to give it sacred preeminence over all institutions of human origin.”
Many of these “institutions of human origin” focus on families and are seen as essential, but they don’t focus on Christ. As a result, family activities and church activities are increasingly at odds with one another. In the passage for this morning, Paul ties church and family very closely together. So in the fifth message in the series of God’s expectation of church members, the focus is having church and family joined together. From God’s standpoint, the two aren’t at odds, but are woven together. There are three specific expectations here.
First of all, God expects you to pray together for your church as a family. The idea of love flows through this passage, and if you truly love the church as a family, you will pray for the church as a family. Ephesians 5:28-30 says, “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
Love the church as a family. Pray for the church as a family. What often happens with families involved in churches is that instead of truly loving the church by praying for the church, they just talk about the church. They discuss the good, the bad, the frustrations, the people they really love, the people they tolerate, etc. Prayer slips out of the family talking sessions, and when that occurs the sessions usually go negative quickly. What happens is that even though Christian parents have good intentions, they can sour their children on church and even on Christ. God expects you not just to talk about the church as a family, but to pray for the church as a family. Show that you love the church together. The church, after all, this church, is the bride of Christ.
Jesus gave his life for her. Pray for her, respect her, promote her, and if you have to speak of her faults, do so carefully and humbly. God expects you to pray together for your church as a family.
Then, God expects you to worship together in your church as a family. Ephesians 5:31-32 says,
“’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.’” Most of you have heard the idea of man leaving his father and mother and “cleaving” to his wife. Leave and cleave. Leave one way of life and cleave, or be faithful to another way of life. What I’ve missed in these verses until now is that they are woven together with the idea of the local church. Paul isn’t making a point about marriage here. He’s using marriage as an illustration to make a point about the church. You leave an old way of life in which you were committed to other things as a family. You begin a new way of life of embracing the local church, as a family. Worshipping together as family strengthens the family. If a family doesn’t worship together, then it misses the benefit it could receive from doing so. God expects Christian families to worship together. He is pleased with you doing other things together, but His priority is for you to worship together. He doesn’t offer worshipping together in your church as an option if you aren’t too busy with other things, He expects it. He’s grieved and hurt if you don’t.
“Pastor, what about if my children don’t want to come to church. If I force them to come will it damage them spiritually?” Do your kids want to go to school? Will insisting that they go damage them intellectually?
“Pastor, I want my children to be well-rounded. I’m okay with them being in church some Sundays, but I think its okay that they have other interests.” Just because they have other interests besides school, are you okay with them skipping class? It’s also possible that what you see as well-rounded God sees as mediocre. If you want your family to change the world, then worship together regularly in church with the One who created it and sustains it. If you want your family to have the best life possible, then worship together in church with the Giver of life.
Remember Jesus’ words in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” God expects you to worship together in your church as a family.
Then, God expects you to serve together with your church as a family. Ephesians 5:22-24 says,
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”
Again, its tempting here to get bogged down on what Paul is saying about marriage and miss completely what he’s saying about the local church. Christ is the head of the church. The church submits to Christ and serves Him. So when you come together in the local church as a family, the point is not to find a congregation that serves you best. The point is to find one in which you can serve God best together as a family. As you serve the members of the body together, you’ll find that you love them more and more. You’ll also find that love reciprocated from them. It’s important for children to grasp that life isn’t all about them. It’s all about God, about honoring him, loving him and obeying him. There is no better place for families to learn how to serve than in the local church. In the local church you have other godly men and women who have committed their lives to serving Christ. In the local church you have families older than yours who have much wisdom to share. In the local church you have families younger than you who have much energy and life to offer. God brings it all together in the local church. There is no better place to belong. There is no higher organization of which you can be a member than the local church. The longer you are a part of it and serve it, the more you come to fall in love with it.
The fifth pledge of “I am a Church Member” summarizes all the expectations God has of families in the church, and a response that pleases him.
I am a church member.
I will lead my family to be good members of this church as well.
We will pray together for our church.
We will worship together in our church.
We will serve together in our church.
And we will ask Christ to help us fall deeper in love with this church because He gave His life for her.