RESTORING THE CHURCH TO FAMILY
by Lyn Packer
For the past few years I’ve carried a prophetic word inside me that has built over time until now, when it is time to release it. That word is what follows in this article.
God is calling the church back to being a family, not an institution, a ministry or a business – but a family, His family!
Let me give you some insight into how this word came about. For several years I had lived with this growing uneasiness, a feeling of being dislocated and disassociated from family somehow, even though I dearly love and see my natural family often. It wasn’t until I was talking to another prophet one day who made the comment that ‘prophets often live their message, not just give a message’, that I understood what had been happening to me.
All of a sudden things made sense. I had been feeling the heart of the Trinity for their dissociated, dislocated family. I had carried that in me, feeling both their pain and the church’s pain. Since then, as the Lord and I have been processing that in preparation for releasing this word, the Lord has lifted those feelings and I feel normal again.
Prophets not only often carry the message within them, they also often model the answer, and my life had also unknowingly been doing that over those same years as my heart’s cry and my focus has been embodying and living out this prayer, “God You are love and I know, as one made in Your image, that’s what You’ve made me at my core, and what I’m learning to be. God make me a living manifestation of love!”
How far we’ve strayed
As I’ve carried this word growing within me over the past few years, I’ve become more and more convinced that the church needs a fundamental shift back to viewing each other as family.
Many times the church doesn’t feel like family because deep down we’ve strayed away from seeing it as that, and therefore haven’t put our efforts into being that. Instead we’ve often come to view church as a ministry, a meeting place, an institution, and it has often been modelled on a business or ministry, not a family. We may acknowledge that we are brothers and sisters with our words but when church is run on any other model, family will never be able to truly function. Do there need to be processes, structures and other things in place for the family to function well? Yes, but those processes and structures must come from the base of providing a place where family can be facilitated and really thrive. Our call is not to build a ministry or the best church in the city; not even to affect society, as good as that aim is. Affecting society should be a natural outcome of the family of God functioning and loving others well.
All over the world many people in churches everywhere are dissatisfied, feeling disconnected from other church members, they are longing for true family and community, and aren’t finding it in the places where they meet to worship. There’s no worse place for that feeling of being lonely and disconnected than in the family of God. Why? Because deep down we all know that we are supposed to be a family. We instinctively know that the feeling of belonging, of being known and celebrated, is what we were created for; that’s why we all long for it so much. And when we don’t find it in the family of God – where we should – our hearts and spirits grieve, and hope slowly dies within us. We often then end up going through the motions, meeting together in groups we call our church family, yet all too often feeling like it is anything but family.
That feeling of dislocation and not truly being loved is something that is at the very heart of what God is seeking to do worldwide. He longs to bring us back into a place of knowing that we belong, of being family, of being loved and accepted, even with all our foibles and quirks; all for one simple reason – because we’re family.
Family – from the beginning
Love and family are at the core of the creation of mankind, and of the gospel itself – the fact that the Trinity wanted others to be part of their one-ness, their love, and the relationship they shared with each other. They are love and love needs to express itself, therefore they wanted others to love, they wanted family. That’s why they made mankind in their image; not so that they would have a world full of workers, but that they would have others to share their relationship of love with.
Their plan was that mankind would grow and mature in that place of relationship and connection, of belonging. The heart of the Trinity was that we would experience that same flow of love, honour, oneness, yet diversity, that they experience between themselves and that this would become the basis for all human relationships. This love, caring for each other and working together would come to be called family. And that’s where our idea of human family is found. That’s fundamentally why couples have children; they want someone who bears their DNA, their image – they want someone who their love created, to pour their love into, just like the Trinity did.
Yet we all know what happened – relationship with the Trinity (who we most often just call God) and with each other was torn apart by sin, and mankind has lived in the consequences of that for many centuries…until Jesus, who is part of the Trinity, came to restore and reconcile all things back to themselves. It was Jesus who called God Father and showed us the closeness of relationship they had amongst themselves. He revealed that they were a family and invited us to also be sons and daughters of God. We were invited and restored back into the everlasting family to be the beloved children of God – family, with the Trinity and with each other.
Made one in Christ
In family there is diversity of opinion, beliefs, likes and dislikes, and expression, but underneath all that is a foundation of love, of knowing that we are family, and that family relationship is stronger than our disagreements or differences. Our sense of family and unity is found not in our agreeing over theology; it’s found in knowing that we have been brought together in relationship with God and each other in Christ – made one family in Him. And Scripture calls us in Eph 4:3 to maintain the unity that we have through the Spirit.
We don’t have to try and find family, we need to realise that we already are one, and start treating each other as that. We are not rivals – ‘us and them’ – neither are ‘we’ right and ‘they’ wrong because ‘they’ don’t believe what we believe. We are all growing and learning; none of us has all truth. None of us will ever have perfect theology because we will never fully understand God. We must realise that we see through a glass dimly, and on our best day we only have a small part of the full truth and a partial perspective (1Cor 13:9-12).
Jesus told us plainly that it was by our love for one another that the world would know we were His disciples (John 13:35). I am convinced that that simple statement is at the heart of why the world doesn’t see us as having significance for their lives – because they don’t see us loving each other well.
The Heart of the Reformation
Over the past decade or so the church has entered a time of reformation that will change the church even more than Martin Luther’s reformation did. During that time the Lord has been relentless in establishing identity in the lives of His children so that they know beyond doubt that they are sons and daughters of God. Now He is taking us deeper into that revelation, from an individual level to a corporate level, from individual sons and daughters to knowing that we are family.
This is something that will call for a radical overhaul of our mind-sets and behaviours and will fundamentally change how we each live our lives, as well as changing how our churches are run, and possibly even what happens as we meet together.
In the initial stages of this reformation of the church there will be a tearing down, and a rooting up, in order that we can rebuild on a restored foundation. This tearing down is from God, and will come out of the realisation that it is only those who deeply love something who can find within themselves the courage to face the truth and do what’s needed to fix things. We must courageously face our shortcomings in order to correct them.
Much of the church currently live in a state of ‘hope deferred’ in relation to the family of God, the church, and that has made us sick, as scripture tells us in Proverbs 13:12. The church has become sick and dysfunctional as a family, and, sadly, the world often sees that sickness, that dis-ease and dysfunction better than we do. That’s part of the reason they don’t come to our churches for help.
But God is the great healer, and restoring relationship is something God is brilliant at! After all the Trinity acted together, coming as one in Christ, to restore us to themselves. This was family acting to restore their family.
Now the Trinity are calling us to realise afresh that we are family. It’s time for the church – individually and collectively – to repent of our mind-sets, attitudes and unloving actions towards each other. It’s time to correct our viewing of the church as a ministry or institution, and modelling it on a business, where we have done so. It’s time to realise again that we are family and begin to work on our family dynamics, our relationships, our love for one another.
With the word comes the grace and power
As with all prophetic words that God releases, along with the word comes a release of the power needed to bring this to pass. God is calling us back to being family and in that call is also the provision we need to see this happen. The grace, the love, the ability, with God’s help, to be able to forgive each other and work through our differences, finding our way back to family closeness. It will take co-operation with God and each other. It will require effort and determination on the part of each of us. We will have to choose to walk as family, look out for each other, help and care for those around us in a deeper and more practical way than ever before.
In the midst of our cooperating with God, He will also work miracles of reconciliation as well. God’s plan for the church is not an ignoble, defeated, broken body of Christ, full of family disharmony. It is a radiant family where the Trinity will have what Christ died for – restored relationship with them and each other, and the knowing that we belong, that we are loved, accepted, and celebrated, and that we are, through Christ, family.
I believe that it is out of that place of truly loving one another, and working together as family, that we can most effectively see radical impact and systemic change in our communities!
Lyn is recognised as a Prophet within New Zealand and other nations she’s ministered in. Her ministry is revelatory and catalytic, propelling people into encounter with God. The governmental prophetic gift she carries is expressed through prophetic, revelatory insight and strategy, prophetic words (personal, corporate and national), teaching, art, and writing. Click here for more info...