Last night, we went with our daughter Christine and son-in-law Philip to their church (Fourth Avenue Church of Christ) in Franklin, Tennessee. We heard Chris Smith, who preaches in nearby Nashville, reflect on his spiritual journey.
This is a very good church. I’ve known their worship leader, Ken Young, for many years. I always enjoy getting to visit with him. So, for a number of reasons, I’ve tried to keep up with this church from a distance. Let me tell you what I sense about this church. This is subjective, based on about three or four visits and what I hear from our children.
This church feels like family.
I’m talking about atmosphere more than anything else. I sensed that atmosphere last night. They are relatively new at this church. Yet, I was impressed by how many people they interacted with on a July Wednesday evening.
It is one thing to say that the church is a family. It is quite another matter to be able to say that a church feels and functions like a family. I’ve known a number of people who will talk about their "family." Yet, everyone seems to be preoccupied with their individual lives. The atmosphere? Well, it is not that these people are hostile toward one another. They just seem — indifferent. Yet, families in all of their messes, joys, sorrows, quarrels, etc. ought to at least reflect that they care about one another. Many families would be quick to say, "Of course we care about one another." Yet, to be around them — it just doesn’t feel that way.
What if I am a part of a family in which:
- I never call my children. (I’m thinking adult here.)
- I never call my parents.
- I do not ask my children how they are doing, how they are feeling, or what they are thinking.
- I do not communicate a "well done" to my children.
- I rarely if ever take the initiative to be with my family. Instead, I passively wait for them to take the initiative and then complain because they don’t.
A church family can function with the same kind of indifference. It is no less frustrating and dissatisfying.
I have learned to appreciate ordinary, everyday people who love God and love people and who are just trying to live out their lives as followers of Jesus in their communities. These people are not to be taken for granted.
So what is it that moves a group of Christians beyond indifference toward one another? When does a group of people, a church, really feel like family?