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Your church might be an orphanage if…

I just returned home from a two-day roundtable in San Diego with a small group of leaders from several nations. The one leader from China, who is a real father figure to the massive underground church there, said something to me that stuck in my mind as I flew home. He said, “Churches without Fathers and Mothers become orphanages.” Now, I have always taught that the church is a family, not an institution, but I never considered the possibility of a church being an orphanage.

Obviously, local churches are organized like institutions are, but we so much more. The strongest metaphor for God’s people in scripture is that of family. Both the Old and New Testaments liken us to God’s household. And Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father.” If we do not receive the spirit of adoption and learn to know God as our Father, we go on living as orphans. The Bible says in Psalm 68 that God “puts the solitary in families” not orphanages.

So, a church might be an orphanage if it is primarily a gathering of those who are not living as “sons and daughters.” It might be an orphanage if the church is primarily organized to meet the needs of its members. It might be an orphanage if there is no culture of family and cohesive acknowledgment of belonging. And it might be an orphanage if there are no fathers and mothers who parent the believers. In orphanages professionals do their work of meeting needs but without family relationships.

This same Chinese leader told me that we must raise up fathers and mothers in the church or we will lose the next generation. He referred to what the prophet Malachi said that God “will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”(Mal. 4:6) That is a sobering word. And I think it applies not only to our biological family but also our spiritual family. We all need real people to model and apply the parenting that God wants to express toward us as his children.

Is your heart turned towards those you could call father or mother? Or is your heart turned away? Is your heart turned toward those who may need you to father or mother them? Or is your heart turned away?

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