Thanksgiving has always been about being together for my family.  I guess you could say that it has always been about FAMILY.  Thanksgiving was always a positive time for us and I always felt it was because of how together we all were during that time.  It was the time of year that highlighted the sense of family we had and how we were all always there for one another. 

I originally posted this on my original Millennial Jesus Blog but after reading through it tonight I decided it was time to refresh it a little bit for the new blog. 

I love the old hymns and that chorus always rang so loud in my heart. “Joint heirs with Jesus” is something that always sounded exactly like right where you wanted to be. Looking back at this as an adult I take note of the 1st verse and the words that say “It’s because we’re a family and these folks are so near; When one has a heartache we all share the tears, and rejoice in each Victory in the family so dear.

I feel like somewhere over the past few years that our lives have gotten so busy that we do not really take these words to heart when we sing them. Our lives are so hectic these days that we hardly stop and ask why when someone asks us to pray for them.

Two years ago, I lost both of my grandmothers within a week.  It was a tough time for my family and in some ways still is.  Especially during the holidays.   It seems like the Sunday lunches after church and other get togethers during the year have gone away and we are left with Thanksgiving as the big family get together but even now as our families continue to grow we have so much going on that it is even hard to make it all work. 

Before my dad’s mom passed away, I remember she would always get aggravated if you stopped by her house and were on your way somewhere else. For a long time, I did not understand why she was upset, I would think well at least be happy we stopped by. Now that she is gone, I realize she just wanted you to stop by without a timeline, without having to rush out the door, without seeming like it was just a visit to check some box. In some ways I feel like we have grown the same way with church. We are merely passing through. Looking back, I wish I hadn’t been in such a hurry while visiting with her.

God calls us to be family but in the past decade something has changed.  We have seen the rise of mega churches with multi-site campuses and while there is nothing wrong with this style of church; it does not always lend itself to a sense of family. I grew up in a small church and have seen all different shapes and sizes of churches during my time travelling the world. I have been to small churches and big churches alike that miss the mark on community. In my opinion the larger the church is the more the members must work to create a true sense of family.

In my experience I have noticed in larger churches you have cliques inside the church.  These cliques are great at taking care of themselves but can have a hard time accepting someone inside their clique who does not look and act like everyone else.   It is a natural occurrence that people are attracted to people who have the same interest as them and this is true in churches as well as society. The hard part for Christians is that we must open ourselves up to those that do not share the same hobbies and interest that we have. The entire church should be a family, not 2 or 3 different cliques making up 2 or 3 families inside the church.

As I said smaller churches are not exempt. I have visited small churches that I honestly believe did not even realize a visitor was there. Engaging our visitors and making them feel welcomed is a goal we must hit.

Do you know why most church visitors feel uncomfortable during the “hand-shake” fellowship at churches? It is because they feel left out. Church members use this time to catch up with each other instead of engaging the new visitors and making them feel welcomed. Imagine moving to a new neighborhood and being invited to a BBQ at your neighbor’s house but once you get there, no one speaks to you. No one introduces themselves to you, no one greets you. Do you feel like a welcomed member of the neighborhood or just an outsider?

All that is well and good but if we are not treating our regular members like family, we will never engage our visitors in that manner. Do we really hurt, when our Christian brothers and sisters are hurting? When is the last time you shed a tear for someone else’s sorrow? When is the last time you lost sleep because someone else was having a difficult time? I am not talking just about the ones that go to the same church as you. Do you see Christians hurting throughout the world and feel actual pain for them? Do you see their struggle and struggle with them? It is easy when it is someone we have known our whole lives but what about looking at this on a larger scale. The Family of God is not limited to your church or your community. It is the Family of Christians throughout the world. Christians at time struggle with this because what we don’t see and what doesn’t directly affect us sometimes goes right past us. If we want the world to take us seriously when we say that we are a Family, then we must act like a Family, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

I left most of this blog as it was originally written but wanted to close with this.  God has called us to community and to care for one another.  Church size is a metric that we tend to focus on but instead of focusing on what is going on inside our walls we should turn our focus on how to grow our community outside the walls.  Communities come in many shapes and sizes and that is okay. If we want to change the world around us then we must make sure that we are taking care of the community we are in. If our communities (churches) are not working like a family then what are we offering those in need around us? As life continues to get busy, we can get overwhelmed with all that is going on.  The important thing to remember is that our priority should be serving God and in that serving others.  Not just those who look like you, act like you, dress like you, and think like you.  God has called us to serve others and sometimes that means serving those who are not like us.  Sometimes that means opening our tables to those who are not like us. 

It is vital that we never allow ourselves to be so busy that we forget that we are The Family of God.  That is not just a word in a book.  The word FAMILY means something, and we need to live like a FAMILY.