18.3.10

Faith At Home

On Tuesday all of the staff of BAC went to a "Faith At Home" conference. I was one of the people who pushed for us to go to this conference. Upon seeing the short video where Mark Holmen outlines what the focus is, as well as their advertising which focuses on the alarming rate at which university students are leaving the church (an issue over which I am also concerned), I thought it promised some discussions and ideas we could really benefit from. (things like ministry silos, and moving the practice of Christianity outside of the church building)

So, we went. And as I sat through the first session, led by someone from Focus on the Family, I couldn't help thinking: "What have I gotten myself into?" And I do not mean that in a good way. We were told all about how central the family is, and how if we aren't doing family ministry then we aren't really doing any good, and so on. The speaker went on to layout these facts: Jesus has promised, in Matthew 16:18, that the gates of hades, or hell, will not overcome the church. God has laid out his plan, purpose, and promise for the church. But, he went on to add, when we turn to the family we don't have the promise. God lays out his plan and purpose, but makes no guarantees. So far, so good. The conclusion though: Satan is attacking the families, and our churches are based on our families, so rally around, protect, and focus on the family. Meanwhile, I am sitting there thinking, if the church holds a promise and family does not, shouldn't we build on the church? Maybe flip the relationship, and have families change? And what about the fact that while 'one man one woman united in marriage' is biblical, beyond that there is no specific family model laid out for us? Focus on the early twenty-first century western nuclear family?

So, I left the first session dismayed and wondering. However, by half way through the second session, presented by Mark Holmen, I was right on board. What had changed? Why did the first presentation strike me so negatively, and the second so positively? Mark, the speaker, said it: Language matters. He was going through the keys to doing a "faith at home" thing in a church, and one of them is that language matters. He added, "I don't care what you call this project (insert examples here), but whatever you do, DO NOT use the word family. No matter how much you clarify, the word family has so many connotations that you will always leave people out with that word." (not an exact quote, but pretty close). Then I got it. Faith at home isn't about focusing on the family. It is about focusing on living out our faith in the rest of our lives outside of the church. The reality is, of course, that the majority of people live in families outside of the church, and so living out our faith outside of the church will mean doing so in two places: In our family and at our workplace (this second was not touched on during the conference).

Mark went on to talk about the different ways you can get different age groups and people in different life situations involved in faith at home; teaching them to pray regularly, read the bible, bless, serve, worship, etc. What he is actually promoting we do is precisely what I had thought initially: Base the family on the church, not the other way around. All of those practices which make us Christian, and which we showcase on Sunday mornings (as well as at church events, like prayer meetings, bible studies, etc.), need to find their way into our homes (whatever our homes look like). Further, he promotes doing this in such a way which takes advantage of the current culturally determined inbuilt systems of our lives. For example: It is simply a fact that mothers and fathers have a larger impact on their children's lives than anyone else (and always will, though the precise degree as opposed to other people's impact, like grandparents, friends, etc. will always depend on the cultural/societal constructs in which we live), so why not accept that fact and work with it?

As much as it sounds like a lot of work, I hope that we can incorporate this into our ministry at BAC. I think it is heading in the right direction; so many of the valid criticisms leveled at the church would become invalid if this was followed through. We are called hypocrites because we live one way on Sunday at church, and another at home. but what if we lived out our faith at home? Christianity is accused of lying because we preach changed lives, but don't exhibit them (same divorce rates and all that). What if we did change? And so on.

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