If you have heard me preach, or know me well, you will know that the one thing I love most about the church is our extended family. If you adopt a child into your family they become part of the family. They now have a mother and father; a sister and a brother; aunts and uncles; grandparents; distant relatives – the works! They have a whole family network which could stretch across the globe. A place where they will be welcomed because they are part of a family.
You can probably relate. If you have ever been travelling you mum might have said something like “oh, I have a sister there!” or “I think I my best friend from school lives there now”. Instantly you have a friend in a place you’ve never been who will welcome you into their home. Why? Because your part of their extended family. You can come in because we have mutual friends and you can stand on their reputation. This takes you from a strange to a friend and in some cases, family.
This is what the church is like. When you meet Jesus you become part of a family, part of the “body of Christ” as Paul puts it (1 Corinthians 12:27), a child of God (1 John 3:1–2). In other words, you now have an estimated 2.2 billion (Pewforum) brothers and sisters across the world. 50,700 (Brin) churches in the UK filled with family you can drop by and visit. I love it!
“50,700 churches across the UK with 5,515,000 members” that’s a big family! – Brin UK Church Statistics, 2005-15
So whenever I am on holiday, or away from my home church (family), I like to visit other churches, other Christians, my extended family. It excites me to see what God is doing across the globe. To meet, encourage, support and be supported, wherever I am.
US Extended Family
While I was in the US I loved visiting the extended family. Atlanta, being one of the “Bible Belt” states is full of great churches doing great work, and I loved being able to drop in on some of my spiritual parents who have taught me so much through their ministries. I follow a number of churches and preachers in the US from the UK through their podcasts and blogs and it was great to visit their churches and be part of their family for just one day.
In New York, I connect with Redeemer who run the Centre for Faith & Work. They were running an event for Christians in the workplace while I was in the city. So I went along and met and prayed with other Christians in consulting and one of them shared how encouraged she was just by having me there (that I would take time out of my holiday to be part of the session). It was a great opportunity for me to connect with the staff there and those who run the centre.
The Journey Church were running an Easter outreach event on the streets of New York City. I have heard said, more than once in my week in NYC, that as little as 5% are Christians (Christianity Today). So why not help the family out?
I spend two hours on Saturday afternoon with a team from journey church giving out a total of 6000 snack bars to busy New Yorkers, matched with an invite to our (I am part of the family, remember) Easter services. I stood with another willing volunteer handing out several hundred snack bars in Union Station. We had some good conversations with some and sowed plenty of seeds with others.
I was chatting recently with the Growth Groups Pastor at Journey Church NYC and they had over 1500 people attending across three locations & eight services over Easter. They also had 33 people who made a decision to follow Christ as their Savior that weekend. I wasn’t even there for their Easter services, but I was part of that!