In Luke 8:19-21 Jesus’ family come to see him, but Jesus does not treat them as we would expect, instead he talks about a new family that goes beyond the barriers of flesh and blood. I don’t feel he was rejecting his family, merely stating that family, for Jesus, was a much broader concept than we consider it to be.

As a father of an adopted child, although we tried for and failed to have a “birth” child, I know that adoption was not and never will be second best for us. We treat our child no differently than if they were a birth child, our love for her is not any less. Flesh and blood is not as big a determining factor to what family is as we might think.

I read online, and I wish I could remember where, that church is like a family meal. In a family meal you all bring something to the table, you serve each other; while someone does the cooking, others might clear up, wash up and dry up. Family meals are joyful, but there can be disagreement but the meal is marked by mutual love for each other and a willingness to serve each other and forgive each other. Families are marked by being communities of generosity, hospitality and joy.

But sadly, for many people, their idea of church is more like a meal at a Restaurant, it is a transaction. You are ushered to the table, your order is taken, the food is cooked, served to you, cleared away and the plates are all washed. You may not ever know the name of the person who served you, cooked for you or cleaned up after you. If you go often enough you may get to know the staff, but very rarely on a deep personal level, you will never love them nor they you. At the end of the time you leave your payment, and if you are feeling generous or that your expectations have been met, a tip.

Now don’t get me wrong; I love a restaurant trip, particularly with good friends or family, but church is not meant to look like that, and sadly too many churches have professionalised every part of the service. All you have to do is turn up, the worship is lead by the worship pastor, no need for you to bring anything, your kids are conveniently taken away, by the paid kids worker, so you can focus on the word being preached. The Pastor/vicar brings an uplifting, but never too challenging message, they don’t want to make you uncomfortable, and at the end you leave a tip, collect your kids, have a cup of coffee and leave.

I wonder if this is really what Jesus intended for people who he called to follow him? I wonder if we have lost the idea of community, family and friendship (in the Gospel of John, Jesus calls his disciples his friends). I wonder if we genuinely lived in this way, whether we would see more people want to come to know Jesus?

Michael Shaw

Michael Shaw is the pastor of Devonport Community Baptist Church in Plymouth.