What Makes a Church a Family?

Family feud

The gospel of grace has exploded over the past few years. Ten years ago you probably hadn’t heard of Joseph Prince, Andrew Wommack, or Escape to Reality. But today many people are preaching grace, writing about grace, singing about grace, and walking in grace.

Now there are countless sermons, books, videos and testimonies about the healing power of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.

Given this exciting and global revolution, why is it still so hard to find a church preaching pure grace? Why do many churches still preach a mixed-up message of grace-plus-works? It seems the grace revolution has touched every corner of the world, except the main street church. Why is that?

Why is the church slow to get grace?

The reason some churches are slow to embrace grace is because they are not families. They may say they are a family, but what they say differs from what they do.

God sets the solitary in families. (Ps 68:6)

Family is where we do life and encounter Jesus. You need love, grace and healing? You’ll find it in God’s family.

Churches that function like families get grace; churches that function like businesses or platoons, don’t. I don’t say this to disparage the local church, but to strengthen God’s wonderful family. An orphaned world needs a family, and the church is how God meets that need (see Eph 3:10).

What makes a church a family?

Now there’s a question worthy of discussion at your next leaders’ meeting. What makes a church a family? This may be the most important question a pastor can ask, yet when I was leading a church I seldom did. The word family was not even in our vision and values statement. (Is it in yours?)

Again, I’m not here to make anyone feel bad but to ask a healthy question. Are we a family? Are we real or superficial in our togetherness? Are we grace-givers or grace-killers?

I don’t have this all figured out by any means, but I’ll get the ball rolling. (You might want to add your own suggestions below.) What makes a church a family? For that matter what makes a family a family? It starts with these seven things:

1. Unconditional love

In a healthy family you are loved no matter what. Nothing you do can cause you to be cut out of your family.

But in a church built on anything other than love, relationships hinge on theological agreement. Think differently from the group and you’ll be marginalized, even ostracized. Ask too many questions and you may be asked to leave.

2. Love-based relationships

My marriage and my children are the product of love. I didn’t marry Camilla or have kids because they could play guitar, lead small groups, or provide for my retirement. I don’t see them as resources or recruits.

Churches are such busy places that often the only relationships we can manage are task-based. “If we serve together, we can hang out together. But if you’re not here to work, I can’t make the time.” In a family, intimacy is a right to be enjoyed by all, but in a working church it is often a reward for performance.

3. Families are real

If you showed up at our house without warning, you’d find signs of four messy children and two grown-ups too tired to do anything about it. There’s LEGO on the table, and food on the floor. None of the beds have been made and you can’t get into the laundry for the pile of unwashed clothes. It looks like a dump because life is taking place. Projects are in progress. Learning is happening. That deafening racket is the sound of happy people growing together.

Families are messy and honest, but churches can be shiny and fake. We want to do our best and wear our best for Jesus, but the cost may be more than we can bear. Burn out, fatigue, anxiety – these are the fruits of pretending we have it altogether. Churches talk about doing life together (good!), but life is more than meetings and monologues.

4. The parents provide, the children receive

In a family the parents are the source of love, hope, food, shelter, and pocket money. I ask only one thing of my children; that they receive. Receiving is the key to life. A baby or young child that doesn’t receive, doesn’t live.

In the church we may send a different message: provide. “A sheep that doesn’t provide meat and wool is a useless sheep.” What a terrible message! The sheep are there to be fed not fleeced.

If the church is to be a family, we need to recognize the father, and it’s not the pastor. Jesus said, “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matt 23:9).

Your pastor has needs just like you. Contrary to outward appearances, he doesn’t have it all together. The moment we give the Father’s job to him we set him up for disaster. So let us redefine the role of leader as receiver, and let us follow our leaders in receiving as they follow Jesus (1 Cor 11:1).

5. Children are empowered

We don’t want our children to be robots, so we teach them to think for themselves. Sure, rules are needed at first (stay off the driveway, don’t stick your fingers in the socket), but this is a temporary arrangement. Ultimately we want our children to learn to rely on the Holy Spirit so they can make wise, life-giving choices.

A church destroys itself by preaching law. “The law teaches us how to live.” No it doesn’t. The law condemns and kills. It inflames sin and destroys hope.

Jesus said, “The Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). Read the New Testament and you will find a church led and strengthened in the Spirit. Those led by the law are slaves, but “those led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).

6. Children are encouraged to think for themselves

The noble Bereans were lauded for checking things out for themselves (Acts 17:11), but in some churches you are discouraged from thinking for yourself. “Don’t question the Lord’s anointed.” This has created a population of spoon-fed pew-warmers:

By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one. (Heb 5:12, MSG)

Every day I get simple, easy questions from grown men and women who don’t know what to do. They beg and plead with me to give them wisdom and this grieves me. They are so accustomed to looking to the man of God for wisdom that they have not grown up. They need someone to go over the basics of God again.

7. Children are encouraged to dream

Recently I saw an Indian family on TV celebrating one of their children’s achievements. The interviewer said to the parents: “You must be so proud of your child. What do you want them to be when they grow up?” I expected the father to say something like doctor or lawyer, but he wisely said, “We don’t know what God has made her to be. Our job is to help her figure that out for herself.” Good answer!

Churches and families send one of two messages to their members and children:

  1. I believe in you. God believes in you. God had a dream and wrapped your body around it. Let’s work it out together.
  2. You can’t be trusted. Your heart is deceitful and wicked. You’ll probably screw this up so let me dictate your choices for you.

A dysfunctional church has but one vision and everyone is expected to sign up for it. It says a lot when a family of six has more dreams than a church of sixty. Free people dream (Ps 126:1).

Those are my thoughts; I’d love to hear yours. Remember, this isn’t about fault-finding. This is about learning how to be family. What makes a church a family? How do we get it right? Where can we improve?


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65 Comments on What Makes a Church a Family?

  1. Hey Paul some great thoughts…..Let me tag on to a couple of yours…As part of a family my uniqueness is affirmed and while having similarities to my siblings in my looks, abilities, giftings and interests will be different. Accepting this helps to deal with the pressures of competitiveness and never measuring up. Sadly where striving and competitiveness exists in a Church it causes individuals to evaluate their worth on if they measure up, and this wears them up and eventually many simply give up.

  2. Brandon Petrowski // February 9, 2017 at 1:29 am // Reply

    I grew up in a church family. What you describe is how it was. Since then, I have moved around some, and there is only one church that has come close to that. You’re right that it is very rare to find. People from that church I grew up in are still friends today and keep contact, show up for special life events, etc. A core group of them are still doing church together.

  3. Amen, amen and amen – especially to these statements: Think differently from the group and you’ll be marginalized, even ostracized. Ask too many questions and you may be asked to leave. Churches can be shiny and fake. “A sheep that doesn’t provide meat and wool is a useless sheep.” They are so accustomed to looking to the man of God for wisdom that they have not grown up. A dysfunctional church has but one vision and everyone is expected to sign up for it.

    I was in a cult called “church” and I saw these “doctrines” played out over and over.

  4. I belong to a grace based church. Half a dozen years ago we embarked on the grace journey. There has been hearbreak, chaos, disorganisation and more as we have discovered what it means to be a family. We have been released to dream dreams, to see our own visions and to run with both. Our leaders keep an eye on things but facilitate rather than direct. We have come to understand that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone because of Christ alone. Because of that we now understand that there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s love and nothing we can do that will separate us from his love. This has had an impact on our relationships one with another and while life together is not always smooth sailing and on occasion is distinctly messy, it’s fulfilling and a whole lot of fun. We are coming to an inderstanding that it is possible for each of us to run our own race and to do the things that God has prepared in advance for us to accomplish. I wouldn’t change it for rule based church for anything.

  5. Bart Shadbolt // February 9, 2017 at 1:47 am // Reply

    I really enjoy your articles Paul. Refreshing and enlightening. A very good friend of mine and I were in a Saturday morning men’s study several years back and he would direct every discussion to grace. Most of us were going to a church that you just described, so much of what Jim was saying was pretty radical to is. I credit Jim with planting the seeds of grace that the Spirit has since grown and flourished within me. Little did I know at the time I would need this foundation of grace when my family and I had a horrible church experience and we’re asked to leave.

    Jim has since started a grace based church, written a few books on grace and has spoken at Mockingbird. And I continue to be amazed at God’s grace everyday.

  6. I used to go to a church that was a ‘family church’s but as a matter of deliberate policy the leadership decided they were going to run it along business lines

  7. Paul I think this was great about churches. I would probably add one more and it is something I have struggled to learn myself. Church families need to learn to listen and hear each other. Too often while someone is telling me something important in their life, my mind is thinking of my response instead of listening and taking it in.

    • Listening is a super-important skill in families. As a pastor, I was far better at teaching than listening. As a dad, I know success or failure hinges on how well I listen. Thanks Keith.

  8. I can’t buy into the local church as a family cause the whole church is a family (it’s the age old ? – who is my brother?) – I should be able to get those 7 things at any church from any Christian in all God’s creation. If not, we have nothing different from any other religion or any unbeliever; thus our religion is false.

    • Roshan J Easo // March 8, 2017 at 3:58 pm // Reply

      Yes our religion is false, but I’m learning and reminding us that the church was instituted to provide grace and forgiveness. We may not compete otherwise, but that’s what the church sees in Jesus. Does everyone see this, by now I would hope so, but mixed up gospels are preached. Even still, the true gospel is presented all over here and that’s worth celebrating.

  9. We really enjoyed this article Paul; thanks for these reminders. We will pass these on in our Bible Study. Love the family photo, as well.

  10. A beautiful and worthy commentary Paul. I’ve been wrestling with this at my church for some time now as I wasn’t feeling the sense of “family” or “home” but of performance, routine and regimen. I rarely if ever hear the word “family or love” but more of what “we ought to do as a church” [spelled family in my book], or how can we reach out to the entire community [how about let’s reach out to each other first], or how were the “numbers” this week? Up? Sad, but true. As you have said, it all comes down to LOVE and God is LOVE! Thanks for a great bit of insight, Paul.


  11. Absolutely love it! It helps me see more clearly what I’m looking for in a church, and why I’m not satisfied with those I attended.

  12. Wanbiang Lamare // February 9, 2017 at 3:37 am // Reply

    Thank you Pastor for sending me your article.

  13. Roshan J Easo // February 9, 2017 at 4:02 am // Reply

    Do insurance adjusters and financial service providers make good family? ❤

  14. Joseph Mathew // February 9, 2017 at 4:06 am // Reply

    I was in a performance based church for 15 years. When I first heard the grace message preached by Pastor Joseph Prince, it was like light bulbs going off in my head. The revelations I received set me from from the guilt and condemnation I carried around for so long. But it came at a price. I was forced out of my church family as they could not accept what I now believed.
    In a family everyone has the freedom to be who they truly are. But in churches, this freedom is not there. Everybody acts as if they are on the mountain top. A valley christian is unacceptable. As a result there is so much of pretending. I would love to be in a church family where everybody including the pastor is able to be vulnerable. This is to me the true test of whether or not grace flows there.

    • The kid’s movie Inside-Out demonstrates this perfectly. Problems arise when we are forced to be happy, but families come together when we’re hurting and allowed to be sad.

  15. Well said.A family should be a place where people grow in knowing the Father and their identities in Christ.

  16. Darrell Peyton // February 9, 2017 at 6:21 am // Reply

    I am in complete agreement with what you have said. Your thoughts here express why I don’t currently go to a church and when I do venture out to try again what I sense about it all. The last time I went to church I began to have an engaging conversation with a lady and right in the middle of it she said “OH, I’m supposed to be leading a meeting of the youth workers, I’ve got to go” and that was the end of it. What you said about if you go to church for relationships you will have to work for it has certainly has been my experience. My answer to it all is seek good relationships with the people who are in my life wherever I find myself.

  17. I love the points you have made. I have been praying for a paradigm shift in the church so that relationships (with God, each other, and the world) become the focus. There is such a need for the church to be a family that reflects God’s unconditional love and grace. As I have grown in my understanding of God’s love, grace and the finished work of Jesus, truth is setting me free to just be me and to be more transparent in my relationships with others. A family loves, accepts and forgives each other unconditionally, giving to others what we have received from our Heavenly Father. I have asked Holy Spirit to let me see others as He sees them, to love them as He loves them and to always believe in God’s best for them. My husband and I teach a bible study on God’s grace. Rather than focus on the wrong (thinking or behavior), we teach them the truth of who they truly are in Christ and that His power is available to them be free from the power of sin. We love and accept them unconditionally and encourage them not to identity themselves by their behavior but by the truth of their new identity as a child of God.

    • God Bless you Linda it’s people like you that have helped people like mysel. Keep sharing the truth and revealing people’s true identities. It was Pastor Pauls book the gospel in 10 words that did this for me. It blew the lid off of my addictions and bondages where I am free now living above defeat.

  18. Wayne Alumbaugh // February 9, 2017 at 6:42 am // Reply

    All the information anyone has is in His Word. Grace is His grace. We, I are totally undeserving. People don’t get this. I didn’t. It’s all in His Word. But even in His Word it speakes to some things which are hard to understand. 2nd Peter 3 verses 16-17. And what people do with them. This will not go unnoticed. Revelation 22 verse 18-19.

    This is fallen humanity and I we are all guilty before the Creator. But yes there is Hope, but it’s what He has done, not me or you or the Pope. Let’s get on the right page and knock off all this division. He is Holy, we are not. Lest not spread around anymore nonsense and stuff which is out of context with His Word. Again read and study His Word. Wayne

  19. Love the conversation. A family is a safe place where we are loved, accepted and affirmed for who we are. Where we can be transparent about our struggles, share our questions and thoughts without fear of being labeled as wrong, support and be there to do life with one another and learn that being right isn’t the goal, but walking in love and relationship with each other is. A family is committed to each other and their relationship so unconditional forgiveness is vital. Praying he Church will continue to grow in the revelation that God is about family and not organizations.

  20. a very timely post. You have described pretty much 80% of My church experience. My wife and I are not going to church now, we just do church at home. So many of my generation (baby boomers) seem to be in the same boat, having done church for decades and are now worn out with expectations of performance . My hope is a change is gonna come ..

  21. Thanks so much for your insight. It’s discouraging not finding many churches that preach grace. My husband pastors a very small church in NYC and, if nothing else, we are a family and we care about each other. We used to be in a mega-church for many years and quite frankly, I lost my belief in God because of the law teachings and feeling like I always had to please God in some way. Thanks be to God who freed us from this teaching and opened our eyes to the gospel of grace. I truly pray that the mainstream church can find it’s way to the truth so the rest of the world can see who Jesus really it.
    God bless!

  22. Great article Paul, will reread this one a couple of times to get it imprinted in my spirit 😉

  23. Family is a warm, accepting environment, while business is a bit like a cold doctor’s office. You come to get your prescription and are in-and-out with little-to-no meaningful interaction. Sadly, I think the Church looks more like a business today because we’ve forsaken the uncomfortability of intimacy for the flashy allure of a rapid growth structure. However, real growth is birthed in the environment (family) where the individual’s journey is cherished and people live together in committed love, not set on building attendance or pushing a brand, but focused on loving each other like Jesus.

    I don’t want to make harsh generalizations here, because I do know well-intended churches that operate with a “business model” and still desire a family environment. Unfortunately, I just don’t think it’s possible to do both and that’s the trap we’re currently in today. I think there’s a great confusion over the Church of what it really does mean to be family. Our instant gratification culture has informed how Church should function and thrive rather than letting organic, life-on-life relationship rooted in love be the messy context in which we learn to “just be.” I believe this business mindset is an effect of impatient, superficial relationship that wants immediate results, not genuine change. We need to go back to making the individual the priority, not the structure.

    Are we willing to sacrifice the temptation of the “hip” church for the sake of actual connection? This is so good, Paul. Thanks for the post. It’s really opening my eyes to what needs to change in the Church, not from a condemning sense, but from a “there is so much more”!

  24. I love what u told about church should be a family. Many years ago Daddy God taught me something concerning the importance of love in the family. When i got home 1 night my youngest son came to me and offered me his cookies, my older son wants some of that cookies but his brother doesnt want to give him and he keeps on insisting me to take his cookies. I then got a revelation from God that He felt the same way when his children try to please Him but dont learn to love their brethren the way He does. Our heavenly loves to see that we love each other.

  25. mervyn farrell // February 9, 2017 at 11:16 am // Reply

    The Grace message is good. It emphasises Gods Unconditional Love. ( Agape ) It is Gods enabling power to live HIS Way. The danger in it, like anything taken to extreme, is that it becomes an excuse for sloth, indolence and sheer laziness. Christians are given Commands by God in Christ. They centre on Gods desire to take over the world and His plan to do it through us believers , by first buying us back from satans lordship over us by HIS BLOOD and then putting HIS HOLY SPIRIT in us as Adam had before he fell. Now HE expects us to Multiply. Like any married, we are expected to Multiply and we are not. Evangelism is the urge to Multiply. In most Grace churches that urge is stifled and we are not obeying Gods command. Result – no fertility, no growth. We allow our streets and homes in our neighbourhood to be taken over by muslims, jw’s , sda’s and mormons. Instead of saying ” this is mine to take over for my Saviour and Lord.How dare you come in here with your deception and lies. Im going to every home with the Truth which brings everlasting Life. The book of JAMES needs to be studied and acted on or we are lost. Wake up and get up church, on your feet and out the door to the mission field around us. Expel ” fear of man ” demon and be a soul winner. Bring in ” the harvest”

    • In my experience, taking God’s grace to extremes makes you anything but lazy. The problem is not that people take the grace of God too far, but that they don’t take it far enough. Grace that is less than hyper or extreme is unbiblical.

    • I don’t believe we were bought from Satan’s lordship. Satan don’t have such power! We were bought from the wrath of God! Satan could Lord it over God’s creation because God gave man up because of Sin (Hab 1:13a; matt 27:46) but when Jesus died and met the just requirement of God’s righteousness, as many as received him were given the power to become the sons of God (jhn1:12) consequently the devil had no choice but to give up lordship of them. Jesus never died to devil or buy us back frm him. We were bought frm God’s wrath. (1cor 6:20). Too many believers have credited the devil with so much power that he doesn’t have.

      And just like Paul said, it’s either extreme grace or it’s no grace at all. Am quite amazed when people say grace is a license to sin. I was sinning before I got saved and I didn’t need to license for that. Any person who says or feels or thinks it is possible to go on sinning because of Grace has neither known Grace nor experience him. (Titus 2:11-15; Rom 6:2)

  26. Buddy Anderson // February 9, 2017 at 11:25 am // Reply

    Thank you. Enjoy every article, please keep it coming!

    • Thank you Paul Ellis for your thought provoking articles. Praise God that you have come out of a binding church culture into a liberated Kingdom of the Son of man. I have been reading the comments for well over an hour and I am reminded that even though I question what is God up to? (I have not been in a church community for 11 years though I have visited many subsequently, yet cannot find a biblical Church family of unconditional love). The comments though have encouraged me that God knows my needs even if I am a single man. I can only persevere as God does want me to connect even if it seems so difficult. May God help those who lead mixed grace churches to dare to step out in faith and create grace centred churches. If one cannot change those within its walls then the only option is to recreate. Surely then God’s church will replace the mixed 🤗 law + grace churches. Continue to write your articles and yes I also thank God for Joesph Prince who also loves the gospel of 🤲 grace. Shalom to all my grace empowered online community. Hebrews 13:5-6.

  27. I like to give my “tithe” to random people in my church family anonymously when I see or hear a financial need. Lots of fun family blessing.

  28. Pro Active Security // February 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm // Reply

    Excellent bru!!

  29. Good article, Paul. We do seem to be in a time where a lot of christians have given up on the local church and are opting for hanging out with friends and calling it church. What do you think about these groups that have none of the structures that Paul talks about? Is it right to call these groups ‘church’ because ‘we are the church’? It’s one thing to be ‘a family’ but if we’re just hanging out with people we like to avoid difficult people then that’s not real either. It sounds really harsh but I think that lots of christians are just plain rebellious and don’t want to submit. Church has stopped being about what we bring and has turned into entitled expectation, and ‘if I don’t get perfection, I’m off.’ Man, this sounds horrible, but I’m seeing it all the time. People are staying away from great churches that are seeking God and are in His will.

    • I have studied church in scripture. The main intent for assembly is for edification, encouragement, teaching and singing praises. Many regular churches fail woefully in most of those. The early church was just small groups of people gathering in home to do the above. Tiny home gatherings as no more prone to spiritual problems than big structured churches. For example the church we used to go to a mid sized Baptist church would not disrupt the order of service no matter what. We joke that they wouldn’t know the Holy Spirit even if he bit them. My friend’s small church that meets in a building in a back yard. Some Sundays they never get around to the preaching because they praise and testimonies start rolling and they take up all the time. Most are not looking for perfection. We just want out of the cliques and are hungry for real meat.

  30. You can make up whatever definition of church you want, man has been making it up and changing it since Jesus died. Church and doing church is not what Jesus taught. It seems to me Jesus was against the religious institutions and hierarchy. Church was not even a word to define in His day.

  31. There are so many different family models if you look around, with humility we can adopt strengths and repent of our weaknesses. Some Families are super organised, and others not so much. Some have highly defined roles, rules, hopes and cultural expectations that change with maturity and others treat adults like toddlers forever.

    Controlling parents cause their children to be permanently dependant, always living under the shadow of their superior Father with his 40 years’ experience to point at. And then there are families who support their sons to be potters, rocket scientists, or authors, the Father says “how can I help?”, which is quite the opposite from “your greatest ambition should be to exactly like me”. Mostly these experts have 4 years’ experience 10 times, which is a long way from 40 years’ experience.

    It’s not unreasonable to insist young child obey very specific rules, however you must ask questions about the parents effectiveness when they are still telling their 20 year old son to ___ ___or else. It’s a sign of poor parenting that anyone could see. Yet within many church settings it’s the norm, rules based church models are populated with immature adults who continue a kind of co-dependency relationship. If church doesn’t produce high functioning interdependent adults there is something wrong with “family” model.

    All these are “family”, some high functioning, others dysfunctional but still all are family. Word based proof texting, instead of Spirit lead discernment is a base block of spiritual dysfunction.

  32. Many good points. My thoughts. The church was never meant to be a large building with lots of people, but rather small house groups in homes. This supports the family concept, with fewer sheep & more bonding happens.

  33. In a family, everyone’s contribution is welcomed (and guided, to some extent). See 1 Cor 14:26. This is really hard for “polished” churches, and highlights the importance of connect groups, imho.

  34. Loved the article and comments from everyone. My husband and I opened a 501c3 to plant a grace based church. But it was impossible to get away from program and order of service. Our friends partnering with us never really believed in our vision. We felt we were pushing the idea so we closed it down. We took our beliefs home- to our house to focus on our family foundation. Friends and family still don’t understand our vision for a relational experience because we have nothing to see as an example within four walls. We know wider ministry will come, and we know it is happening on the grass roots level right now. It is still hard to keep that measuring stick down. Do you have any thoughts about how to ‘unchurch’? Any thoughts about a shift into a new era and style of worship?

  35. The problem with “church” is that today in the USA and Canada and I assume other countries the 501c3 “church is no long functioning under the headship of Christ. They are now business, legal defined “corporations” registered.
    Why would any “grace based” church even have to in corporate, be registered under the state (Caesar) and not stay faithful to the leader and Head Jesus Christ?
    The 501c3 IRS rule prohibit “propaganda” so in affect the “churches” are gagged from speaking the whole truth. They cannot preach like the prophets did to rebukes their Kings in Old Israel.
    Homosexuality and abortion and other goverment crime cannot be spoken about. How can we be lights in a perverse world with our pastors gagged. The truth needs to spoken

    The Church of Jesus Christ is forbidden by Scripture to merge with the State because the two exist as separate entities. The State is not to claim jurisdiction over the Church, and the Church is not to place herself in such a position. The Church does not need to request of the State permission to exist as a legal entity. Its charter is the Bible, and its article of incorporation are the commandments of God. As Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). If this principle applies to an individual, how much more so to his church

  36. Good article and absolutely love the photo.

  37. Religion is a business. Period. I think of Jesus turning over the tables and ousting the money changers from “His Father’s” house. Jesus would most certainly have a lot of house cleaning to do if He was to return to any number of Christian churches throughout the world, especially if He was to attend an Administrative Council meeting. There is more concern about saving money than saving souls, or at least that has been my experience.

    I long for the small church where I spent my youth and where I was married. It was my home away from home. The building was plain with only the essentials. Our pastor was truly a man who loved God and who knew all of his congregation personally. On many occasions he openly wept from the pulpit because of his heartfelt concerns for his congregation, his community, and/or his country. There were revivals and youth rallies, albeit small sometimes, but I have never forgotten the feeling of family from that time of almost fifty years ago. I only wish my children and grandchildren could have had that same experience. Sadly, they live in a time of the mega church. The church I left a few years ago has three services. I had actually invited people to church not knowing that they were already members because they attended the 9:30 service and I attended the 11:00 service.

    The church, to me, has grown cold because of “business as usual.” I do believe the home Bible studies/church is the way it was meant to be and was when Believers began meeting when Christianity was in its infancy.

  38. I’m at the stage of working these things out too and have basically left the institutional church because of the mixed messages there.
    I’m hoping you will explore these things further in due course.
    The prayer seeds I have at the moment are:
    1) Wayne Jacobsen and his stuff on finding church.
    2) Jesus said that He would build His church.
    3) Of the increase of His government there will be end.
    The last one I find useful to pray when I’m getting down about the church, the world, everything.
    Thanks and be blessed. Tony.

  39. Best post ever. My favourite, next to Lukewarm in Laodicea.

  40. Thank you for this post! Your website is bringing some healing and such loving grace that I’ve never seen before! The last two (Baptist) churches I attended longterm placed great emphasis on attending every service throughout the week. One pastor actually preached that those of us who were not attending all three weekly services were hurting the body of Christ. (Their slogan was “Three to Thrive”) In the last church, tithing was also greatly emphasised. I was made to feel guilty for both not tithing a regular amount, and for not attending more constantly.
    I am a widowed mother of four, so time and money are in short supply. These situations, however well-meaning, did not make me feel like “family” and after a while I couldn’t take the guilt and shame anymore, so we just quit going to church, and as bad as this may sound, it was a huge relief! I have not given up on God. Your website is bringing some healing and such loving grace that I’ve never seen before! Thank you again, Paul.

  41. It seems to me that this article is based on the false premise that the idea of “going to church” (in a physical manner) is a biblical model and God’s idea, when in fact, it’s man made. The idea of “ekklesia” is biblical and is spiritual in nature. God’s ekklesia is spiritual not physical. Spiritual not physical. Gather as “christians” as you see fit in your daily lives, but to turn it into a religious exercise is wrong and practically unavoidable if you do so on a scheduled basis. If churches would just be honest with themselves and members and call themselves what they truly are, a christian social club that provide entertainment and learning, and we collect membership dues/fees, I could deal with that.

  42. Our church kept us in bondage by misrepresenting Ephesians 4:16. They would say, “your supply is in the joint”. Which to them meant our supply came from submitting to authority. This put the burden on the underlings to stay in line. The truth is the joint that supplies is love. Leaders in a family environment are more concerned about your well being than their authority.

    • richard elson // February 13, 2017 at 11:48 am // Reply

      Jesus said “Beware of the leaven of herod” compromise allegiance hierarchy. Honour and power is the currency within Herods’ family.
      Unity is conformity, Faith is dogma, steadfastness is stubbornness and love is conditional on loyalty.

      Herod said “If you Sadducees will be my renta-crowd and support my leadership I’ll give you a chip in the power game and you can select the high priest from your own ranks. And Don’t mention my marriage arrangements with my brothers’ wife or else”. And so for 160 years B.C there was no valid high preists. John the Baptist ignored the memo and got his head removed.

      Herods leaven(leaven of the Sadducees) is political control. Inside the church these controllers see themselves as “fathers” looking after the poor little ol’ defenseless dumb sheep.
      Power, being the life blood of Herod’s leaven flows like this, 1. Gain control over men 2. Maintaining control over men 3. Increasing control over men
      These “fathers” say “ it’s my house, my rules . . . bend under them or leave”. Sons of Dysfunctional families either leave in disgrace or accept their place at the high table. Those who leave mostly go on to repeat the model they have hated, the only thing that changes is the name and a few rules. Not been equipped for ministry, but instead have been prepared for a life of politics, to gain, maintain, and, increase control over men. A few sons have a revelation of the forgiveness they have received in Jesus and respond in mercy and grace, their whole landscape changes.

  43. Love this, Paul! I am actually in the middle of reading “Pagan Christianity” right now. It is so interesting to learn where a lot of our “church” traditions come from. My husband and I encountered the message of pure grace over a year ago and have since (by the prompting of the Holy Spirit) stepped away from our once-a-week “church” attendance. We are experiencing organic, Spirit-led fellowship and teaching in such a joyful way now, that we don’t want to go back! It’s fun to think about where God is leading our family in the future. We have many friends who participate in “family church” much the way you described here. It excites me to hear/read other people put to words the things that are on my own heart. Thanks for all you do!

  44. I would like to point out that I know people who would probably call the grace message “unbalanced”, but still love unconditionally and do many of the things listed in the post.

    • And I know unbelievers who do many of these things, which goes to show you it does not require any special wisdom to love and be loved. We are hard-wired for love, but religion comes along and ruins the whole thing by saying you have to work for it. Perhaps this is why Jesus said the tax collectors and sinners were entering the kingdom ahead of the religious Pharisees. They had a better understanding of their need for love and grace and were quicker to respond to what God wanted to give them.

  45. Medda June // March 9, 2017 at 11:58 am // Reply

    Great points as ever, Paul. Since you asked for additions, I’d like to explore a vital by-product of your aforementioned items: trust. Healthy families contain members who know they’re free to be themselves without fear of backlash. If a person knows he or she is unconditionally loved not just by God, but by those who claim to represent Him — free to dream, make messes, and have undergirding support to try new things — then liberating trust abounds. A trustworthy community yields members who are liable to commit spontaneously delightful acts of love, joy and creativity. Talk about a big bang! Conversely, a dysfunctional family is like a minefield; one missed step, whether intentional or not, and safety flees like a dove. When safety flees, unhealthy coping habits have a better chance to infect the environment, yielding misalignment and profound frustration. Thank God for Holy Spirit, our great Healer, who ensures us that no damage is too great for Him to cure.

  46. Roshan J Easo // May 2, 2017 at 1:22 pm // Reply

    If the church is to be a family, we need to recognize the father, and it’s not the pastor. Jesus said, “Do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven” (Matt 23:9).

    Your pastor has needs just like you. Contrary to outward appearances, he doesn’t have it all together. The moment we give the Father’s job to him we set him up for disaster. So let us redefine the role of leader as receiver, and let us follow our leaders in receiving as they follow Jesus (1 Cor 11:1).

    Thank you.

  47. Olivia Wingrove // June 2, 2018 at 7:28 pm // Reply

    Loved it

  48. Oh man I just love this!!! Thank you Paul.

  49. Great to read this again, Paul. One can dream. Sigh…

  50. Delores Lowry // September 23, 2018 at 1:17 am // Reply

    I live 50 miles from the church I grew up in I looked for a church closer, but I couldn’t find one that I felt I was part of the family. They all preached law. Several years ago I went back to my church family where I belong, even though I have to drive 50 miles to attend, Larry T Ingram only preaches Grace, and so thankful for him and my family!

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