When the Church is Family

This article was republished with permission from Lifeway Research.

It’s been years since my husband and I lived close to our biological families. For most of those years, we were at least within driving distance of our parents. But after we got married, the Lord sent us to Houston—halfway across the country from our families.

It can be difficult to live far away from parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members, but the reality of our situation really set in when we became pregnant. While we normally miss our families, the birth of our daughter took that to a new level. We realized, of course, that apart from short visits, we’d lack the natural help of our parents as we welcomed our child home. But even more so, we had to accept that our daughter will miss out on a lot of time with her extended family.

Of course, we always knew this would be the case. And we’re certainly not the first nor the only couple to have kids while living far away from extended family.

We were blessed to have our families visit at our daughter’s birth and help us out those first the first weeks. But eventually, they had to return home. That’s why I’m so thankful for the church and how the Lord has provided a family for us when our extended families are far away.

Living far away from our extended family has caused us to learn just how vital the local church is to our life—our spiritual growth, our emotional well-being, and our physical needs. And, just as the birth of our daughter caused us to see some challenges of living far away from our parents, it’s also opened our eyes to how blessed we are that the Lord has given us a spiritual family to care for us during this time.

While I grieve for the time my daughter will miss spending with her grandparents, aunt, uncle, and great-grandparents, I’m also thankful we’ll get to teach her and show her the value of the local church.

Everything In Common

Acts 4:32-35 describes the local church in no uncertain terms. All the believers were of one heart and mind. They had everything in common and shared their possessions. They testified to the Lord Jesus Christ. There wasn’t a needy person among them because the believers sold their homes and land and brought the proceeds to the apostles, who distributed to those who had need.

We’ve been on the giving and receiving end of the local church many times, but I can’t think of a time when I needed the local church more than in these last few weeks of having my newborn daughter at home.

After our families went back home, our local church, as well as other believing friends and coworkers, have more than picked up the slack. They’ve checked in on us almost daily to make sure we’re doing OK. When I was at the height of the emotional roller coaster that is postpartum blues, our friend—a mom of three herself—brought us dinner and stayed longer than she had to, just to hold our baby and let me talk through my fears and frustrations about becoming a parent.

We had to add dates to our meal train because so many have volunteered to bring us dinner. When we had to list a local emergency contact for our pediatrician, we didn’t hesitate to list my husband’s boss—without even asking him—because we knew he’d be willing to do that for us.

Leading By Example

Perhaps there’s something instinctive about believers taking care of other believers. But I also think how a church family serves one another is directly related to how the pastors serve and encourage others to serve.

Pastors spend their days serving the church. Not only do they spend time praying for their congregation and preparing sermons, but they also spend time meeting with members. Pastors counsel and shepherd members, often bearing burdens by themselves. They lead by example and encourage their congregations to do the same. When our daughter was born, our pastor checked in on us, came to visit us in the hospital, and provided dinner for us. But he also encouraged our small group to do so as well.

While we may grieve the distance that’s between us and our extended families, we also rejoice that God doesn’t leave us to fend for ourselves. He’s given us a local church—a spiritual family that loves and supports us in all seasons of life.

Photo by Erika Giraud on Unsplash