Little Churches

How do you define church?

Dictionary.com offers these top definitions of the word “church”:

1. a building for public Christian worship.
2. public worship of God or a religious service in such a building: to attend church regularly.
3. the whole body of Christian believers; Christendom.
4. any division of this body professing the same creed and acknowledging the same ecclesiastical authority; a Christian denomination.
5. that part of the whole Christian body, or of a particular denomination,belonging to the same city, country, nation, etc.
6. a body of Christians worshiping in a particular building or constituting one congregation: She is a member of this church.
7. ecclesiastical organization, power, and affairs, as distinguished from the state.
Every one of those definitions falls short of the true meaning of what the Church is, and even all of them taken together still doesn’t measure up to it. Our English word “church” can be traced back to the Greek word kyriakos, which literally means “the Lord’s dwelling.” Where does God dwell? Paul writes in Eph 2:22 – “And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” In other words, God dwells in his people.
Whenever you see the word “church” in Scripture, we’re actually translating a different Greek word, ecclesia. This word can either mean “a called out people” or “a gathering.” Words like “assembly” and “congregation” work as well. But the most important point about this word is that Scripture never uses it to refer to an organization, a hierarchy, a building, or a function or event. It refers to people – people called out of the world gathered together in the name of Jesus.
Jesus said that “where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am with them.” While the Church can be all the people of God in all the world, it is also present where two or more people come together in the name of Jesus, united by their saving faith in him.
Have you ever thought of your family as a church? It fits the definition. If you are a Christian parent seeking to raise your children as disciples of Jesus, you should know that your family is a little church all on its own. You might not be called by a larger congregation into public ministry, yet you have a responsibility to shepherd – to pastor – your family. This is especially true of fathers, to whom God has given the role of leadership in the family, but it’s also true of mothers (all the more when the father is not present or not a believer), grandparents, uncles and aunts.
As a Little Church, your family can do all the things a larger congregation, and the Church as a whole, does. Think about the main things you do at church:
  1. Worship: In corporate (large body) worship with your congregation, you sing, praise, pray, and hear the Word. At home, you can sing songs of praise and devotion to Jesus. You can lead your children in prayer, confessing sins and asking God for what you need. You can read the Bible to each other.
  2. Grow: In your congregation you have Bible studies, Sunday School, and other activities to help you grow in your faith and knowledge of Scripture. At home, you can study the Bible together, talking about its meaning, and read devotions that help to explain what Scripture says.
  3. Serve: In your congregation you have opportunities to give of your time, talents, and treasures to bring the Gospel to others and to help meet people’s needs. As a family, you can find ways to financially support someone you know who is struggling, or reach out to people with the Gospel, or do work to benefit someone who needs your help.

 

Really, the only difference between your local congregation and your family is size. So start looking at your family as a Little Church, and use some of these practical ideas to help you worship, grow, and serve:

  • Who is the “pastor” of your Little Church? If you have the nuclear family, God’s clearest call is to the dad. But not every family is the same. Determine who is the natural “head” of the household, bearing in mind the roles God has given us in Scripture. If there is no dad, then it’s mom. But maybe it’s Grandpa, or an adult son, or an uncle. That person should take responsibility to lead the family spiritually.
  • Set aside time for study of the Word and for prayer. Not sure where to start? Remember that the Word has power all on its own, so the simplest thing is just to open the Bible and read. There are also many great devotion books, kids’ Bibles, and other resources for families. (see the bottom of this article for some links to some good resources)
  • Look for ways to serve. Sit down as a family and brainstorm the things you’re interested in and can do in your community. Try to come up with a family or an individual you know who needs your help. Look for a mission opportunity through your congregation. Find a way to serve together as a family, using the gifts God has given you.

 

Resources for growth:

  • The Story Bible – a beautifully illustrated Bible written toward kids, with questions for discussion about each story.
  • The Jesus Storybook Bible – a cute kids’ Bible aimed at helping children see Jesus in every story.
  • WELS.net Daily Devotions – a resource site from the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod with daily devotions on many topics.
  • Focus on the Family – a conservative Christian organization aimed at helping families be spiritually strong, with lots of great devotional content
  • Seeds Family Worship – a site full of Scripture songs and devotional content designed for families
  • Mike Westendorf’s blog – the blog of Christian musician Mike Westendorf. Why his blog specifically? Because he’s the one who got me thinking about this topic a lot lately, and he has lots on his blog to encourage and get you thinking about how to grow your Little Church.
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A brief thought on enhancing intimacy

Jesus said that the greatest expression of love is sacrifice. He showed us what that means by his death on the cross. One of the most significant expressions of love between a husband and wife is sex. So, how do sex and sacrifice go together?

Well, think of it this way: The nature of sacrifice really is to give of yourself. So, in sex you can either be self-seeking, focused only on your own pleasure and desires, or you can be self-giving, doing what is best for your spouse. If we want to follow Jesus example of sacrificial love, then we want to learn how to be self-giving lovers. What does that look like? Here are four thoughts:

  1. Communicate openly. When you don’t know what your spouse enjoys, you can’t very well offer it. Same goes the other way around. Keeping communication open about what is good, what is not so good, and what you want to do together will make it easier to give to one another.
  2. Give up the “I don’t feel like it” attitude. You do plenty of things you don’t feel like. You probably don’t always feel like going to work, or cooking dinner for the family, or calling your mom, or exercising. But you do these things because they’re good to do. So why take a pass on being selfish when it comes to sex? It’s okay if you have to eliminate distractions first (“Honey, I am willing, but can we wait until the kids are in bed?”), but don’t let distractions become excuses.
  3. Learn to step outside your comfort zone. If we’re honest, we all have things we find a little awkward when it comes to sex. Sometimes those things can lead us to say “no” to things that are perfectly fine to do. In most marriages one spouse or the other would like a little more variety, and the other is the more hesitant. You can be self-giving by learning that if God has given us freedom, maybe your comfort zones are your own issues, and its okay to step out of them once in a while.
  4. Keep the focus on each other. It may seem pretty obvious, but in our sexually confused culture it is easy to get pulled away into things like pornography, erotic literature, and sensuous imagery in movies, shows, and magazines. But sex is intended to be an intimate connection between two people, which doesn’t really leave room for that other stuff. So keep it exclusive. You wouldn’t invite someone into your bedroom, don’t go traipsing into someone else’s (even a fictional characters!).

If you’re looking for more solid wisdom on how to enhance the sexual intimacy of your marriage, here is a menu of resources I dropped on my last post:

  • Sheet Music by Kevin Leman: Dr. Leman is a fabulous writer. He’s funny, he easy to read, and he’s incredibly practical. I’ve enjoyed all of his books. In this one he addresses many of the issues that married couples tend to face in their sexual relationship, but does so in a way that is so easy to read and grasp.
  • The Song of SolomonYeah, reading the Bible is kind of a no-brainer here, but specifically the Song makes it evident that God is no prude. It is a good encouragement to be romantic.
  • The Marriage BedA website put together by a Christian couple seeking to help other Christian couples develop deeper sexual intimacy and overcome the many obstacles sin puts in the way. It contains dozens of helpful articles, tastefully written and (mostly) Biblically based.
  • For Women Only and For Men Only by Jeff and Shaunti Feldhaun: While these books aren’t primarily about sex, they shed light on a lot of the issues between men and women, most of which do contribute in some way to the sexual relationship.
  • Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray: All of the books in John Gray’s landmark series are worth reading. While they generalize a lot about the nature of men and women, for many couples the things he says hold true. This one addresses the differences between men and women in the bedroom.
  • The Gift of Sex by Cliff and Joyce Penner: The authors are Christian and the book addresses sexuality from a Biblical perspective. It is a bit more clinical than others, which can be both good and bad. If couples are trying to address issues relating to physical or psychological issues, this one might be especially useful.
  • Laugh Your Way to a Better MarriageThis is a video series presented by a pastor about how men’s and women’s brains operate differently, and how it impacts everything from dealing with stress to how we approach sex. Funny, insightful, and just plain entertaining, it’s well worth watching. Pro-tip: you can find most, if not all of it, on youtube.
  • Covenant SpiceThere is nothing wrong with a husband and wife acquiring products once in a while to assist their sexual relationship, especially when trying to overcome specific challenges. But it is hard to get those products without being exposed to all kinds of shameful advertising. The folks at Covenant Spice are Christians who wanted to help other Christians by offering an online shop without the smutty ads and images. They ship stuff in discrete packaging and are very respectful of the intimacy that exists in marriage. ‘
  • Hot, Holy and HumorousThis is a blog run by a Christian woman who wants to encourage other women (and men too) in god-pleasing sexual intimacy. I have often found her stuff to be some of the best written available online.