It’s been trendy, among churches, in the last two or three decades to create all manner of support groups. There are support groups for people dealing with alcohol addiction; drug addiction; divorce; mentally or physically disabled children; and older people, with various forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease or other chronic illnesses (caregiver support groups).
However, God created the first and by far the most important support group. It’s called the family. Tragically, as Judeo-Christian believers, we have become professionals as slicing and dicing the family in every imaginable way. Walk into virtually any church and find the family shot gunned into widely dispersed groups based on gender, age, marital status or educational level. Each group is tightly proscribed, narrowly limited, and quickly becomes isolated, especially from the family.
The same situation exists whether the church is traditional (Sunday School) or contemporary (home-base groups). The contemporary church simply scatters the traditional Sunday School around the neighborhood, scattering the family as in the traditional church. The increasingly popular home based groups in some cases exert even more pressure on the family, because they are scheduled at different times and places, during the week.
The result is that the family is forcefully splintered at the very place where they should be reinforced as well as worshiping and learning together. Family members lose a sense of the panorama of time and how they fit into that panorama.
Of course, God views the entire panorama of time from the Garden of Eden to the return of the Messiah. Even with our human limitations, it is extremely important that we understand our debt to the 3-4 generations of ancestors who preceded us and our duty to the 3-4 generations of descendants who follow us.
The usual rationale for slicing and dicing the family at church is that each family member is at a different place in life and has different needs. Balderdash! Every family member has exactly the same need to learn that “God is love” and that His love is manifested through us as humility, forgiveness, mercifulness, longsuffering, and a servant’s spirit. Collectively, they represent the character of God and the lifelong journey to grow in them. Those are lessons the entire family can learn together. Each family member helps the others learn those lessons daily.
In modern America, the family is being blown apart. The modern church is structured in a way that facilitates the breakdown of the family. No statistics are necessary. It is self-evident that the family is breaking down among the bodies of believers nearly as fast as it is breaking down in the background secular culture.
The church, whether traditional or contemporary must be restructured to strongly reinforce and build up the family, rather than tearing it apart. Families must meet together, worship together, and learn together as they have for millennia. The devastating slicing and dicing of the family has only been part of the church structure for the last 100 to 150 years.
The family is God’s only support group. It is far more powerful than any other. There are major limitations created by the collapsing American culture. Generations are often separated by long distances. People find themselves single following a divorce that was not of their own choosing. There is also enormous cultural pressure to satisfy self, rather than serve others.
Here is a Biblical remedy. Consider forming numerous family support groups, where groups of families can reinforce each others experiences and learn about high risk activities and how to help family members who fall prey to those risks before the crisis occurs. Thus armed, a family, demonstrating a servant’s spirit, may want to consider informally “adopting” someone in crisis as a means of helping that person. Similarly, when generations are separated by long distances, a family may choose to adopt an older or younger generation family locally.
There is still a place for some of those support groups mentioned in the opening paragraph, but only for those people who don’t have the support of an immediate family.
What does it take to wake up the body of believers?
What does it take to wake up the clergy?