As of late I have been participating in an amazing “huddle” (small group) with a pretty incredible group of people. Needless to say, this small group, that meets once a week, leaves me filled with encouragement but also challenged to find myself in constant renovation…always growing.

I think what makes this group work is the intentionality in not thinking of ourselves as a “small group” or “accountability group” (admittedly that term seems a bit stiff) but rather as an Oikos (greek) or an  EXTENDED FAMILY. That word, Oikos, which refers to a household or family, is a description of the church in the New Testament. According to Mike Breen (who’s blog you can see here) the principles of creating an Oikos are as follows:

  1. Shared vision (What do we exist for? In other words, in what way is this community going to bring heaven to earth?)
  2. Shared resources
  3. Extended family (more than a nuclear family.)
  4. Mom/Dad (leaders in “fathering” mode)
  5. Prayer
  6. Common meal

Breen points out that, “If we were to dig through the annals of church history, we’d find that almost every time we see a missional movement of God, we also see a missional vehicle being used [that looks like an Oikos].”

This got me thinking…

What if the (capital-C) Church looked like my family. No, not the aforementioned huddle, but my blood-related family.

There is always a chance that I could be the exception but I suspect that my family is just as quirky and diverse as yours.

In our huddle we often talk about difficult things, so this morning I tried to imagine what Christmas would be like if my family decided to get together to discuss everything we believe about politics, religion, same-sex marriage, abortion, U.S. foreign policy or anything else that could be a source of contention. Just for kicks and giggles we could sit around and talk about one another’s viewpoints, doing our best to poke holes and tear apart any view or suggestions that we happen to disagree with. If this occasion were to actually take place, I doubt we would even make it to the meal (which would be sad because meals are typically the highlight of our family gatherings).

I don’t have any intention of trying this out, yet I am afraid that this is, all to often, an accurate depiction of the 21st century American Church. We are quick to draw lines in the sand: lines of theology, doctrine, denomination, you name it. We form into our fragmented groups and focus on defending our particular beliefs and attacking the beliefs that stand in opposition to our own. All the while, amidst the hostility and dissension, we have forgotten about the meal – the bread and wine (or body and blood) that binds us together.

However, the more I think about families the more I believe that meaningful Christian unity is possible despite the fragmented nature of American Christianity. Most of us know the right answer on paper: we are united by the bond of Jesus. Yet believing that statement in the face of a belief that seems to run counter to the Bible or acts against the spirit of love requires (if we’re honest) a bit more faith than we can muster some days.  But when I think about the differences in my own family and our ability to gather each year for great parties that have no shortage of love, I am hopeful that we as Christians can become experts at living in peace and unity despite major differences.

With a new year fresh upon us and the Easter season within sight may we look forward to celebrating the ressurection of Jesus and the arrival of God’s salvation for us. May we learn to focus on what joins us together. When we sit down to pray, seeking God amidst busy days and tasting the joys of His presence, may we know that we are all connecting to the same Father who loves us. As we tap into the peace and love that comes from our one Lord, may He share with us His passionate love for His people.

I admit that there have been days that I have despaired over Christianity and the ways in which we appear to be hopelessly fragmented.

However, today, I am hopeful.

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