the weblog of Alan Knox

Introduction to When the Church Was a Family

Posted by on Oct 5, 2009 in books, community, definition | 3 comments

As I continue to write a review of Joseph H. Hellerman’s book When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community, I thought I would share a few quotes from the Introduction:

Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of a community. (pg 1 – the first sentence in the book)

It is a simple but profoundly biblical reality that we both grow and thrive together or we do not grow much at all. (pg 1)

I am hardly naive enough to suggest that modern Americans ought to return to the extended family systems of generations ago… But we must realize that we have paid a tremendous emotional and spiritual price to be released from the cultural shackles reflected in the strong-group values of our ancestors. (pg 6)

As church-going Americans, we have been socialized to believe that our individual fulfillment and our personal relationship with God are more important than any connection we might have with our fellow human beings, whether in the home or in the church. We have, in a most subtle and insidious way, been conformed to this world. (pg 7)

Contextualizing New Testament social values in our congregations requires us to significantly revise the way that we conceive the church. (pg 9)


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  1. 10-5-2009

    Yes! And this quest for individual fulfillment has left the Church looking less like a body and more like a fragmentation of what we should be. We do try to sincerely meet together weekly in some form, but we miss the intimacy of being deeply connected with the body the way the early church was.

    My question is, what are the long term ramifications of this? Being more conformed to the image of the world is not a positive direction…obviously.

  2. 10-5-2009


    Since we don’t understand how to accept one another and live as family, we end up separating whenever something painful happens. What would happen if we stuck together in spite of the difficulty? I think Jesus’ prayer in John 17 could point out some ramifications.


  3. 10-5-2009

    If we were to get deeply connected to others and truly commit to bearing one another’s burdens, we might begin to see a level of unity that the Church has not seen since Acts. And we might also begin to look like followers of Jesus…Then this verse might make more sense in the context of the modern Church. John 13:35″By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” To be honest, sometimes we just don’t look like disciples of Jesus. And to “outsiders”, what we are selling looks to be very unappealing at times.