To liken the Local Church to a family, though it sounds very intimate and appealing, does not accurately reflect the Bible’s portrayal. It is true, however, that the Bible likens the Church to a family – not the Local (visible) Church but the Universal (invisible) Church.
Apostle Paul describes the entire Church as having only one Father, thus… there is only one family. He said in Eph.3.14, 15, “I bow my knees to the Father… of whom the whole family in Heaven and Earth is named.” And Apostle Paul refers to “the Church throughout all ages, world without end,” v.21.
If this is the case, i.e., that it is the Universal Church that the Bible likens to a family – to what should we liken the Local Church?
In relation to Apostle Paul’s analogy of the Universal Church belonging to one family with one Father; the Local Church may be likened to Foster Homes, where the Father’s adopted children are cared for, i.e., nourished and nurtured. Pastors (who in another analogy are depicted as Christ’s under-shepherds) act as Foster Parents ensuring that all the Father’s children are cared for equally; and none neglected. The Pastors of Local Churches are not the fathers – but God is the one and only Father.
Thus, there is only one Father, only one family, but many Foster Homes.
This proposition draws out (at least) five implications:
- All adopted children, though enlisted in different Foster Homes, are truly brothers and sisters that belong to only one family, having the same Father.
- Each Foster Home is governed by a set of rules/principles that may differ from other Foster Homes. The kind of discipline implemented in each Foster Home depends largely on how the Foster Parent(s) understand and interpret the ‘Universal Manual for Foster Homes.’ This Manual is widely sold in bookstores, and is also easily downloadable from the Internet.
- Foster Parents remain as ‘Elder Brothers’ only, but they have a serious charge from the Father of all, as “they must give account for your souls,” Heb.13.17. They do not – ever – transform into ‘fathers.’
- Transferring from one Foster Home to another is not equivalent to transferring from one family to another. It is simply transferring from the care of one Foster Home to another. Thus,
- Membership Status in one’s original Foster Home can change without prejudice, e.g., when a Member moves (permanently or indefinitely) out of his/her Local Foster Home, his/her Membership Status can change from “Active” to “Inactive” or to “Alumnus” (or “Former Member.”) His/her name is taken out of the list of adopted children presently being cared for in that particular Foster Home. He/she is (should be) now enlisted and cared for in another Foster Home. He/she is still family…
As do all who remain.