DETROIT, MI – My wife and I had a disagreement in the car while riding with two recent college graduates in the back seat. We did not even remember it happening, but months later, one of the young women told us how deeply it impacted her. We both shared our opinions, said whatever we said and moved on. “My mom would have gotten out of the car, and my dad would have driven off,” she shared. Something so insignificant (to us) that we did not even realize it happened, radically redefined family for her.
He wasn't the outside or sports type at all. Our 20-something friend was at a BBQ with us, and there was a football that I never would have thought to throw with him, assuming he would not be interested. Yet he initiated a game of catch with me and another guy. I was deeply moved when he told me, “I never had my dad around to do that, that was really cool. That was kind of a dad moment for me.”
Another young man shared, “My family was angry all the time. I never knew what a real family was like before I experienced this.” There is a group of young men who call us whenever one of them has a birthday, so my wife can make a cake and they can all come over and celebrate. Another young man we were investing heavily in stopped and said, “You know, I guess we’re brothers now. I have never had a brother before!”
What do all these have in common? They are pictures of our longing for the deep, family relationships that God designed in His world and in us. These pictures are vivid because the world we now know is full of broken relationships. Our first parents, Adam and Eve were created in perfect relationship with God as Father, with each other, and with the created order so that they might reflect - image - the beauty of our God who is by His very nature relational - Father, Son, and Spirit in perfect communion for all eternity. The fall broke these relationships, but Jesus came to restore them. Hebrews says He suffered “to bring many sons to glory,” and that “He was not ashamed to call them brothers.” Jesus came to make family out of His enemies. Through His work, we who were far from God have been adopted by the Father.
Ephesians calls the church “his body, the fullness of Him who fills all things in every way.” Luke introduces the book of Acts as a continuation of “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” So the church, God’s adopted family, exists as the concrete presence of Jesus on earth, continuing His work and mission to extend the family of God to more and more people. We do this through the gospel message proclaimed, so that the power of God awakens sinners from death to life resulting in their adoption and inclusion in the family. We also ought to live in such a way that people see and experience the goodness of the family of God through us, both before and after we have proclaimed the gospel word.
This is the work of the church, of discipleship, of church planting: to speak the gospel word over believers and unbelievers and through it, establish a family who will put on display the real, tangible good news of Jesus in their neighborhood and everywhere God sends them. Because of this, our lifestyle and our “strategy” means a lot of everyday experiences, sharing our lives with each other and with our neighbors. It means our home and hospitality are a primary weapon for the kingdom. It means intentionally inviting young adults to live with us for a season of intensive development and discipleship, while getting to observe how we live as a family and how we follow Jesus.
At Refuge Detroit, we exist to cultivate spiritual families who live out their common hope publicly with the aim that each person we encounter will receive a NEW HOPE in the gospel, a NEW HOME in the family of God, and a NEW HUSTLE (purpose) in the mission of God.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Drew Ansley is a church planter in Southwest Detroit. He lives there and ministers with his wife, Alisha and daughter Makaela. They have been in the neighborhood since 2015 making disciples and building a team which will help train more disciple-makers and leaders for the city. They hope to launch the public face of Refuge Detroit church in 2018. Find out more at refugedetroit.org or email Drew directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.