Perhaps because of my broken family, God’s familial nature and plan spoke strongly to me as I began to follow Him in the 1970’s. I was captivated by the Genesis story where God pursues mankind through families, from Adam and Eve, through Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and my favorite, Joseph. I was impressed early by God’s declaration to Abraham that “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, NASB). Through the rest of the Old Testament and into the New, God pursues mankind through families. In Ephesians 3:15 Paul speaks of God as the Father of Mankind, and “through Him every family in heaven and earth derives its name” (food for more thought on the heavenly families!). Family is not some construct that man designed. Earthly family reflects the very image of God’s heavenly family!
When we began starting house churches in Rhode Island in the late 1980’s, it was for the purpose of learning how to start underground churches in closed countries. After a few years of doing this, we felt we had learned what we needed, so we suggested to the house churches that they combine and become a large church. After all, America loves big! But at the meeting, several of the younger leaders, recent college graduates, said that in the house church they were able to watch parents interact with their kids and with other parents—it was church meeting like a family. They felt this was so valuable that, even with all its liabilities, they wanted to keep the church in the homes.
Several years later, as we started house fellowships in England, myself and another older man, Ted, became the “grandfathers” to the group of 20-somethings. We found that “grandfathers” are able to bring healing and reconciliation to the brokenness between fathers and their children, so that the next generation can rebuild the foundations and start healthy families. The kingdom of God does not have to be built on broken foundations. Ted continues this ministry to young men and women in England today.
I have become convinced that if there is any hope for Western culture, it will only be as we heed the prophetic warnings of Chuck Colson in his book, Against the Night, to turn away from self-centered, radical individualism, which, he says, is a grievous danger to Western culture. Instead, I believe we must focus intentionally on rebuilding the family unit in the West, where radical individualism is countered by multi-generational families, which include grandfathers and grandmothers who are willing to lay down their lives for their kids and their legacy, and where the 55+-year-olds stop focusing on themselves, but on their legacy of family which they will leave behind.
…next week I will post about how God has led me and my family to put some of this into practice!
(This post is adapted from my original article “Multigenerational Family Communities” published in the March-April 2012 edition of Mission Frontiers magazine: http://www.missionfrontiers.org/issue/article/multigenerational-family-communities)