Indeed, much has been hearkened on institutional christianity with far too much synicism. I do not intend to join that choir. I love the church. Nonetheless, I do hope to expound what, perhaps, is the more faithful paradigm. For starters, lets look at what we know.
The organizational, programmatic paradigm
I do not intend to state that coldly, so as to sway your feeling of this paradigm. This is otherwise known as “going to church”. In this paradigm, church is a place, which houses an organization, which is made up of programs. More than likely, this is what you are used to. You show up around 10, sing 4-5 worship songs, hear a 20-40 minute message, sing 2-3 more songs, get “dismissed”, visit with fellow parishioners for 10-15 minutes, and then go home until next week. It works and it is reproducible. To be fair, churches operating in such a paradigm may be beautifully faithful to the gospel message. To change this paradigm may prove to be a barrier to some who expect certain things when they go to church, and so the best solution is to saturate each program with the gospel — not necessarily throw them away. The flaw of this paradigm, however, is that it is difficult to cultivate the kind of intimacy, knowledge, and joy in one another that is the innevitable result of a broken community redeemed by Jesus. In this paradigm, people far too easily hide.
There is another paradigm, however.
The familial paradigm
This paradigm is largely reflective of what is called the family of God; historically, theologians have referred to this family as the Trinity. The members of the Trinity are revealed in filial relations, ie. the Father, the Son, the Spirit. The redeemed Church is brought into this family through the initiative and decisiveness of God the Father through the Son by the Spirit. The Church is welcomed into the family of God primarily through marriage (Eph. 5:23; Rev. ) and adoption (Rom. 8, Gal. 4:1-7; Eph. 1). The Trinity does not then become quadritarian, as though the Church becomes a fourth person in the Godhead; rather, the Church enjoys full and total acceptance into the family of God through union with Jesus.
When I have brought up the doctrine of familia Dei and the inclusion of the Church into the family of God in discussion, it has typically been received with, “that makes me uncomfortable.” It makes them uncomfortable, but they are unable to show me where Scripture or, any theological theme therein, would deny such a doctrine. Now, this can indicate one of two issues: 1) Scripture does not refute it because it is a totally alien concept to the corpus, or 2) It is a doctrine that is taught in Scripture, but largely neglected in the pulpit–with the result of an ambiguous discomfort that cannot say why.
At the outset, this does not explain much. Any church may very well include such an explanation in some sort of ecclesial position paper. What I hope to spark through subsequent posts is how this familial dynamic is a divine reality and can actually be done in church.
Listen to a sermon I preached on the family of God at Antioch Community Church.