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When the Church was a Family

By Joel Comiskey

February 2010

Reading books sharpen our vision and help us to stay on the cutting edge. I have a list of recommended books that I encourage pastors to read to fine-tune their cell vision.

I just added another one recently by Joseph Hellerman called When the Church was a Family. Hellerman is a professor of New Testament at BIOLA University in La Mirada, CA. This book is a radical call back to the New Testament way of doing church as a family. Hellerman shows how the culture of the New Testament was group oriented, rather than individualistic. They understood Christ’s call to become the family of God and in fact, the New Testament Church lived out Christ’s call. Hellerman does a great job of critiquing the church today. Listen to his words:

You might try what I did on a Sunday morning some time ago. I preached a sermon entitled ‘why Sunday A.M. is Not the Church’ in which I compared early church family values and practices with the way that we do church on Sunday morning. The application was challenging but quite straightforward. I proceeded gently but firmly to inform my people that many of them–some of who had attended on Sunday for years–had never been to church! Then I encouraged them to begin going to church, that is, to start attending one of our home-group settings where they could cultivate the kind of surrogate sibling relationships that God intends for his children to enjoy with one another (p. 178).

Hellerman believes that the New Testament church prioritized their relationships with each other (the family of God) before their own nuclear families. He then exhorts us to do the same because he believes the Bible teaches this .

I disagree. I believe God wants us to prioritize our own nuclear families above the local church, and I think there is biblical precedence for this as well.

Overall, this is a great book, and I would encourage you to read it.