I have always loved Psalm 68:6, “God sets the lonely in families.” In my mind’s eye I picture a table, dinged and scratched from years of love, where there’s always space for another chair and an extra plate. It’s a verse that quietly underlines the goodness of belonging to others and being known. Family, at least in Psalm 68:6, sounds wonderful.
Family is complicated
However, family takes on a different sheen when you crack open other parts of Scripture. There are stories in abundance of biological families grappling with a wide range of struggles, and the church families of the New Testament seem to fare no better. There’s bickering and arguing amongst brothers and sisters in Christ (Philippians 4). The children of God lead one another astray with teaching and lifestyles that depart from the gospel (1 Corinthians 5). Jealousies and power plays creep in as sons vie for the best positions in the kingdom (Luke 22).
With so much mess attached to the idea of family, why has the Lord woven familial language into the church’s design? Why not choose an analogy that’s less messy and less full of pain?
Family is chosen
One possible reason flows out of God’s sovereignty over the makeup of our church families. Notice that it is God doing the action of setting the lonely in families in our opening verse. Even when there seems to be a degree of choice as we settle on which church to belong to, we have not chosen the brothers and sisters who already belong to that church family, nor do we choose the ones who come along after us. Part of the task of belonging is learning to love people who may be very different to us, learning to love people who may make that calling very hard to do – and recognising where we are not easy to bear with either! Families require a love that is costly, sacrificial and in it for the long haul – and that’s a good thing.
Perhaps the Lord built familial language into the church’s design because he knows all our relationships post-Fall are marred with sin and strife. It takes a lot to break a familial bond, so when Jesus’ death and resurrection created a new family of sons and daughters (Hebrews 2:10-12), it is both a glorious identity for us to step into and an entirely necessary one as we experience the complexities of belonging to fellow sinners and sufferers.
Family is possible
All church families are imperfect but, wonderfully, the rich blessing that families can be is entirely possible in a local church. The head of every church family is Christ, the one who gave his life to make adoption into God’s family a reality. And if the Father gave up his only Son for his church’s sake, he will provide all we need to love one another as we have been loved. This includes the Spirit who applies his word to our hearts and empowers his people to have the mindset of Christ as we walk alongside one another.
To his church, Christ has given pastors and teachers to nurture the growth of infants in the faith towards ever-increasing maturity (Ephesians 4), that we may go on to be spiritual fathers and mothers to those who come behind. It’s a glorious thing to look around your own church family and spot the ways this is happening already.
Family – how BCUK can help it grow
One very small way the Lord may choose to build up his family is through the BCUK Church-based Intern Scheme. The scheme is designed to support local churches as they seek to develop a rich vision for interpersonal ministry and a culture of care across the life of their church family. Interns work alongside their church leadership to nurture wise conversations that point people to Jesus in the everyday realities of life. The aim of the scheme is to see church families across the UK relate to each other and to the Lord in a way that brings glory to God and displays the power of the gospel to the watching world.
The Intern Scheme is for individuals who have completed the entire BCUK Certificate Course, and who want to keep on growing. The scheme provides monthly training meetings, peer groups and one-to-one mentoring. Interns are equipped to run courses or seminars, develop pastoral care structures, engage in interpersonal ministry and develop their own skills and experience in pastoral ministry, all in collaboration with their church leadership, with long-term ministry in mind. The scheme also offers two parallel tracks for the second year:
The Church Growth Track is tailored to interns who find themselves drawn to informal conversational ministry. They are often in churches who are keen to see a culture of care develop but are not currently developing formal counselling provision. The Counselling Track is designed for interns who bring a measure of expertise in conversational ministry, through either church ministry experience or professional roles. They are often in congregations who are keen to develop a more formal counselling provision within their church or in collaboration with other local churches.
If you feel you or someone else in your church family might be a good fit for the Intern Scheme, why not ask the Lord whether it might be suitable for your church family. And, whether the scheme is the right fit or not, why not join with Paul in his prayer for the brothers and sisters at Colossae, asking that God might fill your church family with the knowledge of his will, with wisdom and understanding, so that each family member may live a life worth of the Lord and bear fruit in every good work, being strengthened by the Spirit’s power (Colossians 1).
Applications for the September 2024 intake will open on 1 January 2024 and close on 15 March 2024. If you have completed the Certificate Course and are keen to find out more about these internships, you can read more here or get in touch at email@example.com.