I am a leader in a group of Churches known as the Independent Christian Churches. We do not call ourselves a denomination because we have no governing bodies beyond the local Church. We are mostly united around our Bible colleges. We call ourselves the Restoration movement as we try to restore New Testament Christianity. Each year we have one major conference that makes an effort to brings us all together or at least all our leaders.
When our Church leaders come together, they speak of themselves as a movement or most frequently, a brotherhood. In the history of our Churches, the preacher was originally called by the title of “Brother.” The man who leads the Church was “Brother Harris” and not a pastor.
This concept is rooted in several pieces of thinking. First, the Bible frequently refers to the people in the Church as brothers and sisters. We should call ourselves by Bible names. The second was the desire to see everyone in the Church as equals. No one is greater than another, and we are all God’s children. Finally, is the desire to see everyone we encounter as a part of my extended family in Christ.
While I have never been a huge fan of calling people brother or sister at Church, I do find the concept challenges me.
Do I view other Christians in my local Church as part of my family in Jesus? I do not just attend the same Church as people each Sunday; I am connected to those people. I have a bond in Christ that is as strong as my natural family, if not stronger. I work for unity and the betterment of all of those people, even when times with them is difficult.
Do I view other Christians across the globe as part of my family in Jesus? The people who follow Jesus in other states and other countries are part of my family too. What hurts and what helps them affects a member of my family. The bonds of faith extend across all racial, cultural and geographic boundaries.
Recently my wife was writing a card to my son as he went off to college. She took out all the old journals she kept of his childhood. She ran across a story from elementary school. The teachers had told the boys that when they were at recess, they needed to pick other people on their teams than another Harris boy. As my son relayed this story to us, he paused and said, “Don’t they understand that we are brothers?”
At a young age, my son saw the bonds of the family meant something. I wonder if believers see the family of God in the same way. Do we seek to connect with other Christians simply because of our faith in Jesus? Each one of us is a part of a family. In Christ, you are my brother and my sister. That connection is real, but do I recognize it?