Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Family Values

Having taken time out from church stuff during the sabbatical, I'm very challenged by this:

"Many of my 'minister friends speak fo church as something from which they must seek solace. They 'protect' their day off and guard the privacy of their home. They feel the loneliness of ministry, looking outside the local church for people who will pastor tham and events that will refresh them.

For me, church is where I find solace. The Christian community pastors and refreshes me through the word of God. Someone put it so us like this: "If I were to say I needed a weekly day off from my wife and children, people would say I had a dysfunctional marriage. So why, if I say I need a day off from church, do people not ask whether I have a dysfunctional church family?" "
(Tim Chester 'Total Church' p121)

Of course, that's not all there is to it: I quite relish a day with my wife and kids after a week of funerals, admin meetings, sermon preparation, and an array of wedding and baptism preparation meetings with people who I'm (mostly) unlikely to have any long-term relationship with.

But at the same time it challenges my casual use of the term 'church family'. It feels a bit like 'community' - a label which, if we keep sticking it back on often enough, might (we think) stand a tiny chance of being partially true.

Chester argues that our relationships in the church aren't really close enough, particularly that of church leaders with church members. Writing on discipleship, he notes that most discipleship happens not through formal settings (sermon, course, small group) but informally, in response to the stuff of daily life.

That's only possible if people are actually sharing daily life together in some way. Simply turning up for a sermon once a week isn't going to 'make disciples'.

if anyone's read this far, what do you think?


  1. Add up time spent with family and time spent on ministry - still think that a day off is guilty?

  2. If I were in a marriage or close relationship where my every waking moment I was expected to be giving attention to my spouse/significant other, then I would say that was an equally unhealthy relationship - one characterised by an unhealthy co-dependency or "clinginess". Where that kind of close attention IS required by circumstances (e.g. a serious chronic illness or condition), then it is now accepted that some kind of respite is needed to maintain mental and physical effectiveness.

    I do, however, agree that many churches need to develop much closer relationships between members so that our discipleship and formation become much less formalised. This type of informal conversation and mentoring over coffee worked so well with our two lads through their teenage years and early twenties. But where this happens there is also the danger that the community becomes cosy, insular and inward looking. People will value the quality of relationships, spend time together, but fail to look outward to include others. Striking the balance is so important and many churches get it wrong one way or the other.

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  4. I have been encouraged by Chester's writing. I have been a pastor and was burned out. The idea of church as as an organic living body, as opposed to the regular institutional rule bound monoliths, appeals to me greatly. Presently I am "churchless" so I am looking for an extended "family" that wants to make Christ known to each other an the world in living way. I hope I'm making sense!

  5. I think our churches are in different situations so our experiences will be different. In my suburban parish in western Canada I have not yet done a funeral this year, or a wedding, and have almost no 'drive-by baptisms'. Much of my pastoral week is spent either giving care to our congregational members or in other kinds of outreach not related to 'occasional offices'. Also i have been here 11 years. I do very much feel that this is my church family and although I take a day off every week, I find a lot of strength and support and comfort in worshipping and learning with my church family - especially the Thursday morning men's Bible study which is often the spiritual high point of my week.

  6. I love this quote : “Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.” (Bridget Willard)

  7. I find many of my colleagues work hard to maintain the line between family and work. Living over the shop there are times when, like a parent, I need some 'us' time (where us is the wife and/or children) but the relationship is generally consistent and continuous.

    I think this works and helps me to see myself as a member rather than the proprietor and this brings about a different church than is found where clergy and laity are clearly evidenced.

    A challenging and stimulating quote, post and response,

    Thanks - V