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Family or team?

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It’s Jets hockey season in our house again. I’ll admit we were part of the excitement two years ago when the team returned to Winnipeg after more than a decade. We proudly wore our blue and white jerseys. We signed up for NHL Centre Ice with our cable provider. We partnered with friends to buy season tickets.

It was incredible to watch the transformation the Jets brought to Winnipeg. It felt like the whole city had renewed purpose and passion.

Perhaps that’s why the church loves to use the metaphor of “team.” It gives us purpose and passion. Like a team, we train regularly, grow stronger together, and function as one unit. Our coaches (pastors and leaders) spur us on to excellence. Everyone has an important role to play within the larger group.

And our goal as MBs is clear: to reach Canada with the good news of Jesus. This is the great commission rephrased for our day – the call, as we go, to make disciples.

As a team, our rally cry is Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” It’s enthusiastic, compelling, visionary.

As a team, we don’t allow anything to distract us from our goal, our mission. Not controversy. Not criticism. Not even temporary victories.

I think of Westside Church, who recently purchased The Ford Centre for the Performing Arts in downtown Vancouver. Despite the exciting news of having access to such a grandiose meeting space, pastor Norm Funk says “our hope isn’t in this building – it’s not why we exist.

“Jesus is our hope. This is just a room – a beautiful room, yes – but it’s not the hope of this ministry. This is just a building. Jesus is Jesus.”

So this is our team’s ultimate goal: to know Jesus and make him known. This goal keeps our eyes focused outward and onward.

Family portrait

But life isn’t all about team. It’s also about building family ties, attending reunions, hosting Thanksgiving celebrations, making memories – all while trying to make amends when feelings get hurt or toes get stepped on. It’s fun but messy.

The church is family, too.

This domestic metaphor takes us broader and deeper. It leads us to places in everyday life that might make us feel a bit uncomfortable.

Families stop and sit together every once in a while. They embrace everyone in the clan – even those whose performance might not be as outstanding as others’ – and find ways to include them. Families listen to the wisdom of elders and make room for the youngsters. They invite the arrogant uncle to the dinner table and set a place for the stranger.

Sometimes, families don’t function as smoothly as we would like, causing us to turn inward for a brief period.

As a family, our rally cry is Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” It’s inclusive, nurturing, close to home.

This metaphor was the driving force behind this months’ feature, “’Can I give you a hug?’” Including people with disabilities in the church”. Karis, whose son has autism, often finds herself in the church foyer, weeping, because she’s had to leave the service.

What does Karis long for? “Just a touch.” That’s what family can provide. A loving embrace. A helping hand. A place to belong.

Family and team aren’t duelling metaphors. They’re both ways to envision the fullness of our call as Christ followers. Sometimes we take part in passionate pep rallies, as we look forward with hope and anticipation. And sometimes we find ourselves around a Thanksgiving table, deep in conversation with a cornucopia of oddly matched relatives, sharing the reality of everyday life together.


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