God’s Call To The Family
Throughout the Bible, God turns His people toward the home. After giving the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, God commands Old Testament Israel to teach this crucial declaration to their children in as many everyday ways as possible. This sentiment is echoed throughout the Old Testament, as God instructs His people to make His ways known to their “children and your children’s children”.
Later, Jesus famously invited children to Himself, even as His disciples pushed them away. And He often used elements of children’s faith as a metaphor for the Kingdom of God. Some of Jesus’ own family members were among His first followers: two of his brothers penned biblical letters, and His brother James was leader at the world’s first church.
Family imagery fills the most common metaphors for the Church in the New Testament. Patriarchs and matriarchs of a family are baptized “with their [household] as well”. Still true in much of the world today, extended families in Bible times all lived in one home. When a child got married, a room was added to the house and life went on. Children apprenticed to continue the family business. Fathers led families as patriarch pastors.
Missional leader Mike Breen (not the sportscaster; this one has an awesome British accent) explains that the Greco-Roman oikos (“extended family”—a group of 20–70 people) was a primary venue for the gospel spread in the early church. He argues that since families were close-knit, if one person began following Jesus, family members often followed—thus the “household” references in Acts.
We don’t live in homes of twenty people today. At most, parents or in-laws may live with us, or a sibling for a season. We might follow Chevy Chase’s example of a full house for the holidays, but everyone goes home. We may not live in the same city, or even nation, as our parents.
The most often we might see anyone outside our immediate family is at a reunion. In that context, they might be as excited to talk about Jesus as they are about the commemorative iron-on t-shirt your aunt insists on making everyone.
But unless your family is uniquely blessed, there are likely people in our own genealogies who don’t follow Jesus; some probably reject Him outright.
Our #1 Priority?
We must close with an important question: is family a more primary mission field than non-family? Jesus’ own family became believers. But He did not seem to allow His heartstrings to be tugged exclusively to His parents and siblings. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me,” while “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life”.
Before they believed He was the Messiah, Jesus’ family rejected Him. But that did not deter Him from his mission to fishermen, tax collectors, and prostitutes. At one point when His family sought to speak to—and likely distract—Him, His response seems downright harsh: “‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ . . . He said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’”.
As everyday missionaries, we pursue mission wherever God has sent us. So on one hand, our family is the closest, most heartfelt mission field. On the other hand, we must guard against “family idolatry”—putting more value on our families, simply because we have longer history and an abiding love for them than our neighbors and co-workers. So is mission to family primary? It must not be lost as a priority, but the safest biblical line to draw is that we must guard our emotions, motives, and idols from making it the priority.
We must neither ignore our families for the sake of everyday mission, nor ignore everyday mission for the exclusive sake of our families.
If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, God calls you his missionary. You may never go halfway around the world. You may not raise financial support. But because of God’s gospel work in you, you are on mission: to people in your work, school, neighborhood, and those in need. As everyday missionaries, God has sent us to live out his Great Commission in the ordinary, normal, all-too-busy, and even most mundane moments of our lives.
- But what exactly does an everyday missionary do?
- Where and when does everyday mission happen?
- And how can you possibly share the gospel, without killing your relationships?
A Field Guide for Everyday Mission (Moody, 2014): “Who Is My Everyday Mission Field?” for more: visit everydaymission.net