• jimpaula

Welcome to our family

Paula reflects on the role of the local church, painting a beautiful picture of how it could look should we take up the call of the Bible.

“Welcome to our family.” What wonderful words to read on the wall of our church foyer.

Today, there are many opinions of what the local church is and how it should look. Many see church as a weekly event, some a commodity to be consumed, and some see it as an optional extra. But could it be as simple as a family?

As I read the words again at church on Sunday evening, it got me thinking. What are the characteristics of the church in the Bible? How should we look to those outside the church?

Characteristics of the local church

I found at least 6 characteristics found in the local church: unity, love, maturity, multi-generational, multi-ethnic and, the clear winner, family. A family made up of brothers and sisters who have been adopted by God through Christ.

In many New Testament letters, the Bible addresses the relationships within the churches: 1st and 2nd Corithians, Romans, Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians and Galatians. In 1 Coririnithians alone Paul addresses them as brothers and sisters around 35 times, saying they should love one another and serve one another as they are now part of the church family.

This is such a contrast to our culture where the key message is “ you belong to you”. The Christian truth instead says we belong to God and His family (1 Corinthians chapter 3, verse 23; Romans chapter 8, verse 17).

The Gospel not only made us alive from being dead in our sin but also changed our status of orphans to children of God. (John chapter 1, verse 12; 1 John chapter 3, verses 1-24).

It is so important to know whose we are, that we are not alone and that we belong in a family.

Love one other

Unity is also an important characteristic of the church in a world where there is so much tribalism and division. Keeping the main thing the main thing, being unified in primary doctrine and allowing for diversity in secondary issues will represent Christ well to the world. We don’t have to be afraid as we know the church will prevail and it will all turn out well in the end.

Today, there are many opinions of what the local church is and how it should look. Many see church as a weekly event, some a commodity to be consumed, and some see it as an optional extra. But could it be as simple as a family?

In the New Testament it was clear that once someone was in Christ their previous status and social identities gave way to a new reality of being brothers and sisters. In the church in Rome there were Roman sympathisers such as Matthew the tax collector and those out to kill Romans like Simon the Zealot. There were slaves and those who benefited from slaves in the church.

But, the command was to love one another because in Christ we are one and those outside the church will know who He is by our love for each other (John chapter 33, verse 35) despite our differences.

Just like in a family we grow from a child to an adult, this is also true spiritually in the church family. The church family is where we grow and we want our siblings to grow because the goal is raising up the next generation to lead.

I love when Paul greets Timothy in 2 Timothy chapter 1, verse 5:

“I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

He is reminded of Timothy’s faith that was passed down from his grandmother and mother to him.

The church at its best is full of intergenerational relationships where spiritual mothers and fathers give wisdom and encouragement to the younger generations and the younger generation bring joy to the older.

Our culture has toxic generational divides which we can’t have in the church as we need each other.

It’s in our hands

In Matthew chapter 28, verse 19 Jesus tells us to go and make disciples of all nations and in Revelation chapter 7, verses 9-12 we see the results - a church with no ethnic barriers, every nation, tribe, people and language represented before the throne and the Lamb. A characteristic of the church is diversity, in particular a people of multi-ethnic backgrounds.

In Philippians Paul is writing to a church he helped start in Philippi encouraging them despite their circumstances to dare more to proclaim the gospel without fear. These words are just as applicable today in our church family.

“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence I will know that you stand firm in one Spirit striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians chapter 1, verse 27)

Let’s pray we walk worthy and that all of us may be one so that the world might believe the Gospel which changes everything.

What a welcome you will receive.

What a gospel you will believe.

What a God you will worship.

What a mission you will serve.

What a family you will belong to


What a home you will inherit.

Paula is a speech language therapist with pre-schoolers who have a disability. She and her husband, Jim, have been part of Windsor Park since moving from the UK 20 years ago.They are parents of two teens and are team leaders for year 10 youth. Writing is a new thing but one which she is enjoying as a way of expressing how God speaks and leads her in everyday life. // Photo: Kirstyn Paynter

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