Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, to the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae: Grace to you and peace from God our Father. –Colossians 1:1-2 (ESV) We often throw around the terms “brother-in-Christ” or “sister-in-Christ,” and we know that these familial tags are commonly used in the New Testament to refer to the relationships between believers. But do these terms carry the same weight to us as they did to first century believers? Is our Christian experience different because of our Western, 21st century understanding of these concepts? Is our faith weaker and our impact shallower because of our individualistic approach to the Christian life? One recent book says yes.
“In our typical gospel presentations, we introduce God’s family only as a sort of utilitarian afterthought—church is there to help us grow in our newfound faith in Christ.” The preceding quote is from a book called When the Church Was a Family, by Joseph H. Hellerman. Hellerman is a professor at Talbot and a pastor in Hermosa Beach, California. Dr. Joe was my Greek prof when I was a student at Talbot, and one of my favorites. One of the things I appreciated about Dr. Joe was that he was a guy who had one foot in the academic world and the other in the church. He would often talk about the things now found in his book. He was passionate about a model of church life, which he was convinced was the kind Jesus and Paul expected, and his passion was contagious. While the content of the book is from his study of the Scriptures and the culture and history of the 1st century, it is also filled with contemporary illustrations from church life, which makes it very readable. I found When the Church Was a Family encouraging, challenging, and thought provoking. Thanks Dr. Joe. Pastor Dave