Monday, 11 July 2016


(This originally appeared in the July edition of the Grapevine. The Grapevine is the monthly magazine of Hardwick Baptist Church, Stockton-on-Tees)

I’ve had the pleasure of spending a good amount of time with my family recently.

At the end of May, Nancy and I and the kids went away to Scotland with our extended family and a few friends. Over 30 of us, including 10 under 7s, took over a manor house and converted stables just south of Perth.

I have always loved being part of a big family. My cousins have been like brothers and sisters to me as I’ve grown up and now it’s lovely that the next generation get time to play together as well.

The advantages of being part of such a big family, who get on with one another, massively outweigh the disadvantages, even for those who are less extroverted than me.

The hardest downside is that there are more people to lose.

Recently my Auntie Kath went to be with her Lord and Saviour Jesus. She was 58 and she died of cancer. She is in a better place and that brings me, and the rest of our family, great comfort.

But, the realization that this is only the beginning of the goodbyes we will have to say, is hard fact to face. As one family member said to me at the funeral, “I’m not ready to lose anyone else.”

Our family holiday was bittersweet because that my Auntie would have loved it but she wasn’t there. At the same time as missing her, having so many of us there meant we were able to encourage, care for and support one another well.

It was also a privilege to be able to speak at the Calvary Christian Fellowship weekend away in the middle of June (that’s the church I grew up in).
We spent the weekend thinking about the topic of suffering which was hard but very relevant to many there.

Again, I saw many of my family members there and it was good to be able to do that.

All of this got me thinking; you may not come from a big family or whatever size you family is, you may not get on well with them, maybe there are personality clashes that flare up if you spend too much time together, but, for the Christian, church is a our family.

The Bible is quite clear that church is family (Matt 12:49-50, Eph 2:19, 1 Tim 5:1-2). We are all brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus. We are each united to Him and, as such, connected to one another in the most wonderful way.

So, our spiritual family is massive. It means that there are more people to say goodbye to, but each of those goodbyes is shot through with the cure and certain hope that we will meet again.

Not only that, but this massive family is blessing from God. In the New Testament we are constantly being told to _____ one another. (John 13:34, Rom 12:10,16, Col 3:13, Heb 3:13, 1 Pet 1:22.) Whether it’s “forgive”, “love”, “encourage”, the point is that there is an other, we are together. Life is not a lonely slog up a mountain, it’s a corporate race that we run side-by-side with others.

Do you see church as your family? If not, why not? If you do, how can you make sure that you live that out in practice?

We share the most amazing things as brothers and sisters in Christ. Because Jesus died for us, His Father is our Father, His Spirit lives in us (Rom 8:9-11), His righteousness is credited to us (2 Cor 5:21) and so on.

You might not feel like committing to church. Maybe you don’t want to get too close to people. Maybe you don’t want to risk relationships for fear of being let down. Maybe you are scared of sacrifice.

But, believe me, it’s worth it.

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