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When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community

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Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. But as the modern cultural norm of what social scientists call “radical American individualism” extends itself, many Christians grow lax in their relational accountability to the church. Faith threatens to become an “I” not “us,” a “my God” not “our God” concern. When the Church Was a Family calls believers b Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. But as the modern cultural norm of what social scientists call “radical American individualism” extends itself, many Christians grow lax in their relational accountability to the church. Faith threatens to become an “I” not “us,” a “my God” not “our God” concern. When the Church Was a Family calls believers back to the wisdom of the first century, examining the early Christian church from a sociohistorical perspective and applying the findings to the evangelical church in America today. With confidence, author Joseph Hellerman writes intentionally to traditional church leaders and emerging church visionaries alike, believing what is detailed here about Jesus’ original vision for authentic Christian community will deeply satisfy the relational longings of both audiences.


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Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. But as the modern cultural norm of what social scientists call “radical American individualism” extends itself, many Christians grow lax in their relational accountability to the church. Faith threatens to become an “I” not “us,” a “my God” not “our God” concern. When the Church Was a Family calls believers b Spiritual formation occurs primarily in the context of community. But as the modern cultural norm of what social scientists call “radical American individualism” extends itself, many Christians grow lax in their relational accountability to the church. Faith threatens to become an “I” not “us,” a “my God” not “our God” concern. When the Church Was a Family calls believers back to the wisdom of the first century, examining the early Christian church from a sociohistorical perspective and applying the findings to the evangelical church in America today. With confidence, author Joseph Hellerman writes intentionally to traditional church leaders and emerging church visionaries alike, believing what is detailed here about Jesus’ original vision for authentic Christian community will deeply satisfy the relational longings of both audiences.

30 review for When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus' Vision for Authentic Christian Community

  1. 4 out of 5

    Zach Barnhart

    Very insightful look into the first-century church. Hellerman offers a lot of historical reflection that helps us better understand the heart of key community passages in Scripture (i.e. Acts 2, Ephesians 4). Probably could have been a tad shorter, but there are some spots in it that really shine through. Would definitely encourage pastors (especially those who oversee group/community ministries) to check this one out.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Adam Thomas

    What does your church statement of faith say about how Christians should relate to one another? Probably not much (if it's anything like the church I pastor!). We're often too concerned about how we, as individuals, relate to God. And this blind spot of contemporary Western evangelicalism should trouble us, as Hellerman demonstrates in this wonderfully thought-provoking book. Hellerman challenges the assumptions of radical Western individualism, where what matters most is "our own dreams, goals, What does your church statement of faith say about how Christians should relate to one another? Probably not much (if it's anything like the church I pastor!). We're often too concerned about how we, as individuals, relate to God. And this blind spot of contemporary Western evangelicalism should trouble us, as Hellerman demonstrates in this wonderfully thought-provoking book. Hellerman challenges the assumptions of radical Western individualism, where what matters most is "our own dreams, goals, and personal fulfillment" (4). Such individualism leads to relational poverty both in and outside the church. Our relationships are often superficial and "we leave and withdraw, rather than stay and grow up, when the going gets tough" (4). We make major life decisions on our own, causing unnecessary stress and confusion. And, to misquote JFK, we often ask what our churches can do for us, rather than what we can do for our churches. "The purpose of church, of course, is to help me continue to grow in my personal relationship with Jesus Christ" (15). Or is it? This book helpfully examines the "strong-group surrogate family relations of early Christianity" (6) to prod us to think about what church could look like, if we embrace the reality of being family together in Christ. After a cultural introduction, the journey continues through the teaching of Jesus. In the NT world (as in some other cultures today), "the group took priority over the individual" (32). In such a context, the most important group was biological family, and the closest family relationship was that of brothers (50). When Jesus chose the metaphor of family to describe his followers, he was essentially endorsing these strong-group values for his people. When he calls us "brothers and sisters," he envisaged something much stronger than 21st-century sibling relationships. The radical nature of belonging to the family of God is reflected in Jesus's teaching. Jesus was not always "family-friendly." In fact, he often taught "the gospel's potential to irrevocably undermine family unity and to divide family members against one another" (54). The apparently mixed messages from Jesus can only be reconciled if we realise that the call to discipleship is a call to a new family, and that this call often creates a clash of loyalties. Jesus calls us to choose "between one group of people and another – between our natural family and our eternal family" (63). This choice isn't absolute, of course, and our loyalties may not be mutually exclusive. But Jesus's statements in Luke 14:26 (not best translated as "love less") and Matthew 8:22 (scandalous even if the father hasn't died yet) show the radical implications of our loyalty to Jesus in terms of our loyalty to our "surrogate family." We get further illustrations through Jesus's declaration when his natural family are standing outside in Mark 3:31-35 (64) and when James and John leave their father in Mark 1 (68). Having sought to summarise the attitude of Jesus, Hellerman's journey continues through Paul and the early church. Paul uses the language of "brothers" very deliberately, following the pattern of Jesus, in order to urge believers to act out what they are – siblings. This sense of family was expressed, for example, in the Jerusalem collection, where sibling language is used multiple times in a short space (89). Outside of the NT, we have documentary testimony of how loyalty to God was expressed in the daily reality of loyalty to God's family. One example would be providing for believers who had been imprisoned (when the experience of prison was very different from today). Hellerman concludes this section of the book by directly confronting the unhealthy emphasis of individualistic views of salvation that talk of Jesus as a "personal saviour." Salvation, however, is not merely personal – it is a "community-creating event" (120). Hellerman coins the term "familification", to use alongside "justification" and "sanctification," as a description of what happens when we are saved, as we are brought into a new reality and called to live in light of it (132). This is exactly the pattern we see in Acts 2:40–45, or in Paul's teachings in Eph 2:14–18, 1 Cor 12:13, Titus 2:14, and elsewhere. Revealingly, when Paul speaks of his Lord, he chooses "our Lord" fifty-three times and "my Lord" only once (125). Think about how you would summarise the gospel to an unbeliever. Typically, though we wouldn't put it as bluntly as Hellerman, we treat God's family as s a "utilitarian afterthought – church is there to help us grow in our newfound faith in Christ" (123). Of course, Jesus is the saviour of individuals, and he relates to us in a personal, intimate way, and he blesses us with church for our good – and yet there is more to the Christian life than individual spirituality. "The community, not the closet, is the place where salvation is worked out" (137) – a false antithesis, of course, but Hellerman's goal is to provoke! These first six chapters are really crucial, but Hellerman is less strong or helpful on actually applying the principles, as he does in subsequent chapters. The most helpful discussion in the latter part of the book is probably on the topic of leadership, and the distinction between a strong-group Christian family and an oppressive cult. The servant-hearted leadership of a plurality of elders is central to God's model for his church, with Jesus as the Senior Pastor. Even with the weaker final chapters, this is a powerful, insightful and challenging book, and a good prompt to reflect for oneself on the "What about…?" kind of questions. It's a book to chew over together in the church, perhaps as home groups or as a leadership team. And if you don't have time to read the whole book, the conclusion is pretty clear and thorough. I'm certainly going to continue to reflect on this book for some time to come. And feel free to look at our church's statement of faith in a few years to see if, in God's power, we've made any progress!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    Hellerman, Joseph – When the Church Was Family I admit, I may be a bit biased since I have been sitting in Dr. Hellerman (Pastor Joe)'s pews for over a year now, but to be fair, I have been saying a lot of the same stuff (in person and in writing) long before I met the man or read the book. His thesis is absolutely right; we as a church are meant to be like a family, where there is love (actual love, not meaningless Christian "love") and forgiveness (actual forgiveness, not meaningless Christian " Hellerman, Joseph – When the Church Was Family I admit, I may be a bit biased since I have been sitting in Dr. Hellerman (Pastor Joe)'s pews for over a year now, but to be fair, I have been saying a lot of the same stuff (in person and in writing) long before I met the man or read the book. His thesis is absolutely right; we as a church are meant to be like a family, where there is love (actual love, not meaningless Christian "love") and forgiveness (actual forgiveness, not meaningless Christian "forgiveness) and where everyone cares about each other in word and deed. The Bible even goes as far as to say "If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (NASB, 1 John 4:20). So, it's kind of important... Now, he not only uses the Bible well, but he also goes from an angle I had never considered, one which makes the biblical text all the more powerful: the family metaphor is used quite a bit in the Bible, and the family in the ancient near east was a far different animal from what we typically think of in the west today. Weall know we’re called brothers and sisters etc. But what would that have meant to the people who first heard the message, who the metaphor was applied to? Hellerman makes the case that, in near eastern culture of the time, two things were true. First of all, the society was far less individualistic than modern western society. People, just as a matter of conditioning, saw the well-being of the group as more paramount to their own. Their very concept of identity was wrapped up not in whom they were, but what group they belonged to. This was all the more true of the family. The family was, in many ways, not X number of individuals, but one inseparable unit. That is how the church should be. Secondly (and I would say even more importantly), the family relationship back then was far closer and tighter than it often is in the west today (which makes sense, given their group mentality). In the west, some people are really close to their siblings, and some are not. In Jesus' time, it was pretty much a given that the sibling relationship was the most (emotionally) intimate relationship a person would have (even more so than marriage). He gives extensive (but easy to understand) historical evidence for this. The bond which by nature is quite strong was all the tighter in that culture and context. To say that someone is your brother wasn't just a phrase we throw about all willy-nilly to speak of close friends or even just people of the same race or sports team. Your brothers and sisters were a part of who you were. So to then say that as Christians we are therefore brothers and sisters to one another is incredibly powerful The book is a good mix of scripture and history. As I said above, taking account the historical context explains what the things said in scripture mean, and knowing how the early Christians practiced them gives additional insight. There is also a discussion about the benefits of plurality of elders (as opposed to a church with one senior pastor). It is only partly related to the main points, but I think he makes a good case, and he ties it together well enough. One final thing I really loved about the book was that, in true pastoral fashion, the facts and data are brought to life by unusually intimate looks at aspects of Hellerman's own heart and life. Though written by a professor with abundant research and evidence, this book isn't written from an ivy tower. It isn't just logically coherent arguments that accurately make a point. This is Pastor Joe, a child of God and part of the family of God who has accepted the challenge and honor of teaching God's word leading those who are willing. Since the book is about the church as family, knowing that this is a real person and not just a mind behind the words you read makes it all the more powerful. CONS: As my 5-start rating would indicate, there aren't a lot of them. The only thing I'd say to watch out for is the beginning. It isn't dangerous or anything, but it gives somewhat of a different impression of what the book is going to be about than is reality. It comes across more like he's arguing that more group-focused societies are in and of themselves better than western society by virtue of being group-centered, whether or not God is in the picture. I don’t think that that is his point at all. Remember, the whole thesis is that the ancient near eastern family very close and group-centered, and that since the ancient near-eastern Jesus and his ancient near-eastern apostles were explicitly saying the church is to be just like a family, the Christians should likewise be close knit and loving and forgiving and caring of one another and should more about the church and their brothers than themselves. In the beginning he goes on so much about how other societies are less focused on the individual and some of the pluses of that because later on he's going to be using those two things to make his case about the church. For the church,, we should be more like a communal society than the one around us. It’s not an argument that we should always submit to the will of the family as would happen in near-eastern culture. In fact, one of the things he argues later is that the family of God, our fellow believers, should in fact take precedence over biological family (which sounds insane, but ultimately makes sense, as in Christ we are bound to and by something greater than our DNA). So, the beginning can be a little bit muddled, as it sounds like it came from a book called "why Americans should emulate more group-centered culture." After all, people without Jesus are people without Jesus, no matter how much of a community they are a part of. In context, however, it fits right in. CONCLUSION: If you sincerely follow Jesus, read this book.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ben Robin

    I have been thinking about the twofold (individual and corporate) nature of the Christian life for a while now and this book is the closest thing I have read to navigating the balance perfectly. I recommend it for its biblical demolition of American individualism alone! Every Westerner who wants to understand Christianity the way Jesus did should read this book. Personally, I wish everyone in my local church could read it. The first six chapters are necessary; the final three are helpful - though I have been thinking about the twofold (individual and corporate) nature of the Christian life for a while now and this book is the closest thing I have read to navigating the balance perfectly. I recommend it for its biblical demolition of American individualism alone! Every Westerner who wants to understand Christianity the way Jesus did should read this book. Personally, I wish everyone in my local church could read it. The first six chapters are necessary; the final three are helpful - though I cannot endorse every single thing in them.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Tim Callicutt

    I think my dad said it best: if you wanted to understand this book, you just need to read the last chapter. You could do so with practically no context and understand the basic arguments, while still not losing much nuance. I never really disagreed with this book, but never found it particularly insightful. For those who have done practically no study into the idea of biblical community, it is a fine starting place. But if you have done some study, or just grown up in a church culture that empha I think my dad said it best: if you wanted to understand this book, you just need to read the last chapter. You could do so with practically no context and understand the basic arguments, while still not losing much nuance. I never really disagreed with this book, but never found it particularly insightful. For those who have done practically no study into the idea of biblical community, it is a fine starting place. But if you have done some study, or just grown up in a church culture that emphasized community, the majority of this book will be review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Markin

    Fantastic! Created some cognitive dissonance but further grew my love for the church.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Todd Benkert

    I wanted to like this book. The church needs a clear and compelling argument for the family nature of the church and a corrective to the radical individualism of the average American church-goer. For some, this kind of argumentation does just that. For me, the argument felt rather flat and unconvincing. I kept waiting for the “Ah Ha” moment where it all clicked and I saw the Scripture from a whole new light. That moment never came. One of the drawbacks to the book is that as he shares his descri I wanted to like this book. The church needs a clear and compelling argument for the family nature of the church and a corrective to the radical individualism of the average American church-goer. For some, this kind of argumentation does just that. For me, the argument felt rather flat and unconvincing. I kept waiting for the “Ah Ha” moment where it all clicked and I saw the Scripture from a whole new light. That moment never came. One of the drawbacks to the book is that as he shares his descriptions of group oriented cultures both in antiquity and today, he does not emphasize his purpose for doing so at the outset. Instead, he seems to be arguing for the superiority of the group culture over our Western individualization. That seeming purpose made me uncomfortable from the outset and inclined me to want to reject the conclusion I anticipated he would make, only to find that he is not making it. Had he stated his thesis at the beginning, rather the end, I may have been more convinced and less inclined to give up on the book and move on to something else. Once I did know where he was going, I found myself eager to move on more quickly from his description of group culture to his application for the church today. My recommendation to readers would be to read the conclusions of the first two chapters FIRST, then read the chapter to see how he came to that conclusion. Otherwise, you may reject his important argument before he makes it. At places, I do find his exegesis strained and unconvincing, often rejecting traditional interpretations, in order to make his generally valid argument. HE sometimes employs a selective use of Scripture to argue his point while ignoring other passages that would seem to argue otherwise. For example, his argument for the priority of sibling relationships over marital ones ignores entirely the numerous passages of Scripture that prioritize the husband/wife relationship. At other times, however, the author demonstrates how the group culture brings new clarity concerning the radical nature of Jesus’ call to discipleship. Many of the statements of Jesus are radical from our rugged individualistic worldview. They become more-so when understood from the group-kinship cultural background of the New Testament era. Thus, the book makes some important points about both the context behind these important New Testament passages and the radical call of discipleship and the body life of the church, exchanging one family for another. There is much good material here and I will use the book as a reference. As for the book itself, I remained unmoved by its tone and argument. In the end, rather than feeling the mild discomfort that precedes a paradigm shift in thinking. I felt unconvinced and slightly annoyed, gave up about half-way through (about pg. 100) and moved on to something else.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    Considering the direction the leadership of our church is moving, this is an amazing resource. A fuller review will follow at a later date. Suffice it to say that if you desire to understand how the early church thought of itself, how Jesus understood the relationship the church would have, and how to begin building community and changing the understanding what Church should be, this is a great resource. See the full review: http://backporchreview.weebly.com/ Considering the direction the leadership of our church is moving, this is an amazing resource. A fuller review will follow at a later date. Suffice it to say that if you desire to understand how the early church thought of itself, how Jesus understood the relationship the church would have, and how to begin building community and changing the understanding what Church should be, this is a great resource. See the full review: http://backporchreview.weebly.com/

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    While the premise is one of the greatest needs and challenges for the American church, the lack of female voices (other than those related to the author and the nameless mothers with depression) was disappointing. How can we talk about the church as a family when we leave out over half its members?

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tessa

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Joseph Hellerman believes radical, Western individualism is poisoning the American church. We are made to grow together, but instead we choose to live apart. What is the antidote? We need to, as the book’s subtitle suggests, recapture Jesus’ vision for his church. Hellerman takes his audience back into the first century context of the New Testament to show us that true community such as Jesus wants for his church is found in “strong-group, surrogate family relations of early Christianity." Helle Joseph Hellerman believes radical, Western individualism is poisoning the American church. We are made to grow together, but instead we choose to live apart. What is the antidote? We need to, as the book’s subtitle suggests, recapture Jesus’ vision for his church. Hellerman takes his audience back into the first century context of the New Testament to show us that true community such as Jesus wants for his church is found in “strong-group, surrogate family relations of early Christianity." Hellerman argues that our contemporary churches should look like a first-century family making decisions as a group. Hellerman brings his concerns into focus with the story of Roberta, a former member of Hellerman’s local church who resisted her church family’s community and counsel in a time of personal crisis. Hellerman uses this story to illustrate how, in our culture, the church plays no vital part in decision making because our right to personal choice and preference is so strong (3–4). The rest of the book, Hellerman (1) defines a strong group, (2) shows that first century family was a strong group, (3) reminds us that Jesus describes his church as a family and then draws out the implications from there. This strong-group mentality fundamentally changes the way we relate to one another in a local congregation. If Hellerman’s assertion is correct, Jesus wants his church to make decisions over against personal need and even biological family. Hellerman focuses on the passages in which Jesus speaks about family. He notes that Jesus seems bipolar in his attitude on the family—sometimes positive and sometimes negative. What Hellerman does with his larger exposition on first century culture is give us a broader context for understanding Jesus harsh words toward biological family (i.e. Lk 14:25–27). What Jesus is asking for is, in a sense, more radical given the stronger nature of family relationships. But Jesus is asking for a realignment of allegiance toward God’s family (Mk 3:33-35). As Hellerman explains, instead of our American Christian priorities of (1st) God, (2nd) Family, (3rd) Church, (4th) Others, Jesus called us to prioritize (1st) God’s Family, (2nd) My Family, (3rd) Others (73–74). That concept alone has profound implications in our local churches today. While personal family schedules dominate our lives, what would it look like for the church to organize their schedules around each other instead? What would it look like for churches to make group decisions (specifically vocation, spouse, and residence) about how we lived our personal lives? It seems like cultural heresy. One problem that surfaces, which Hellerman does address, is that the church very quickly starts sounding like a cult. He addresses this by saying leadership should never be just one person and should not be manipulative or self-serving, and goes on to argue for a plurality of elders (185ff). Still, it is hard to envision people not being wary of strong-group decision-making given the history of cults. Yet, Baptist churches have a congregational polity of voluntary service that may provide a good framework for this kind of church family. That aside, I find group decision making personally appealing. There is so much stress on people, especially young people, to make good decisions in the aforementioned areas of vocation, spouse, and residence that making them with like-minded believers would be a welcome relief. This way of doing church would also be highly expedient for the global mission of the gospel. We see this kind of thing from those who partner to live, work, and minister together as a church cell in urban areas. However, one misgiving I have is that decisions will be difficult to make on the level of implementation. Suppose my church wants my family to invest in middle-school programming (camps, short-term missions trips, events, etc.) and not church planting or some other endeavor I deem more important? Would I be able to abide with my church’s decision if we disagree ideologically on implementation? I honestly do not know because I have never even tried to discuss these things with my entire church family (which would include both families with middle-schoolers and others looking to plant churches). Overall, as a modified dissertation (156), Hellerman’s work is an academic treatment of a very practical subject: the expectations of Christian relationships in church. Though Hellerman connects his dissertation findings well with our current situation, it is obvious Hellerman was answering academic questions and not practical ones. He does not delve into the hard steps of implementation, only that we ought to relate to one another like a first-century family. Yet, even if we agree with Hellerman (which I do), we are not given any help bridging the cultural and historical gap. Hellerman’s insights will never bear fruit unless brought out of an academic study of the past into the context of our contemporary, local churches. I suppose that is our job.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Collin Smith

    A counter-cultural call to a family ministry model. I felt more than a bit uncomfortable with Hellerman's "collectivism" at times, but then again I'm selfish. America's "radical individualism" must give way to hard-group devotion if they want to be Jesus' disciples. For, devotion to God is deeply tied up in devotion to his people-the church. I would have like him to mention more about the body image in 1 Corinthians 12, for here we see the collective and individuals in tandem as the body of Chri A counter-cultural call to a family ministry model. I felt more than a bit uncomfortable with Hellerman's "collectivism" at times, but then again I'm selfish. America's "radical individualism" must give way to hard-group devotion if they want to be Jesus' disciples. For, devotion to God is deeply tied up in devotion to his people-the church. I would have like him to mention more about the body image in 1 Corinthians 12, for here we see the collective and individuals in tandem as the body of Christ. Takeaways- Ancient Mediterranean Cultures: 1. The group came before individuals 2. The patrilineal family was central 3. Sibling relationships were more bonded than spousal Biblical: 1. Jesus prioritized the surrogate family over the natural (Mk 3, etc). 2. Paul used family and community language (brother, our Lord, etc.) to imitate Jesus teachings 3. The early church (til Constantine) operated like a family (spiritual AND materially) "The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the Ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathers not with me scatters. Matthew 12:30" Cyprian of Carthage

  12. 5 out of 5

    Nathan

    This book is one of the best books I've read on the Church. I could not say enough good about it. While it lacks some of the emotional force of Eclov, it more than compensates with a multitude of other virtues: 1. Biblical: His thesis is demonstrated to be profoundly biblical. He turns the lights on time and time again, in text after text, looking at familiar material through an often missed or dismissed lens to show a consistent but devalued layer of biblical data regarding the design of the Chu This book is one of the best books I've read on the Church. I could not say enough good about it. While it lacks some of the emotional force of Eclov, it more than compensates with a multitude of other virtues: 1. Biblical: His thesis is demonstrated to be profoundly biblical. He turns the lights on time and time again, in text after text, looking at familiar material through an often missed or dismissed lens to show a consistent but devalued layer of biblical data regarding the design of the Church in God's program. 2. Prophetic and Pastoral: His analysis and critique of the contemporary shape of American Evangelicalism is insightful, needful, and convicting. But his criticism of errors and weaknesses, though pointed, never looses a clear pastoral concern, never seems judgmental or haughty, and never becomes criticism for the sake of criticism. 3. Mature: That this book is the fruit of years of study and contemplation of the material is everywhere apparent. This is no new endeavor; these are mature thoughts borne out over years thinking and living. He writes with a good knowledge of Church history, narrowly tailored to his purpose. His writes with a compelling grasp of the pertinent psychological and cultural differences between New Testament times and today. 4. Articulate: His writing style is consistently good throughout. He does not strive for artistry at the expense of clarity. He writes in admirably plain English at a level appropriate for any serious adult Christian readership [I'm assuming a native English speaker], and he does not require or expect any specialized theological education on the part of his readers. This is a vision of the church that needs to be heard and widely adopted, whether by leaders or individual Christians.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Tara Guiffredo

    Hellerman gives some great examples of the Mediterranean Family Values and shows their correlation to the New Testament church. He makes the argument that the church family today does not uphold many of these values the way they once had. The Mediterranean family had a group mentality and it reflected in the New Testament church. The church we have in America does not always reflect this mentality and it even shows that we have an individualistic society. Hellerman believes that each individual Hellerman gives some great examples of the Mediterranean Family Values and shows their correlation to the New Testament church. He makes the argument that the church family today does not uphold many of these values the way they once had. The Mediterranean family had a group mentality and it reflected in the New Testament church. The church we have in America does not always reflect this mentality and it even shows that we have an individualistic society. Hellerman believes that each individual in the church can get the most out of their church family and the support it has to offer through a group system. In addition to this, Hellerman also gives some advice on how the group can be used as a great support system, spiritual mentorship and a loving family community. It's a great read for anyone that may be in any kind of leadership in the church, any spiritual organization or plans to be.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brooks Lemmon

    This book was a tough read, but a great read! I've never read a book like this one. This book took a deep dive into the life and teachings of Jesus and 1st Century Mediterannean family values to bring context to those teachings. In this book, the author provides ample arguments for why the Church was originally and should still be a family unit. He makes the reader think deeply about what it truly meant when Jesus called people his brothers and sisters. He also makes the reader ponder what it me This book was a tough read, but a great read! I've never read a book like this one. This book took a deep dive into the life and teachings of Jesus and 1st Century Mediterannean family values to bring context to those teachings. In this book, the author provides ample arguments for why the Church was originally and should still be a family unit. He makes the reader think deeply about what it truly meant when Jesus called people his brothers and sisters. He also makes the reader ponder what it means for us to call fellow Christians brothers and sisters. I have not done any reading in the area of the early Church so it was very interesting to read accounts from that time period. The author has started a conversation in my head about my current relationships with my community and how I am actively living out these Kingdom of God family values and how I am not living up to them. I think this would be a phenomenal book for churches to require all new members to read!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rex Blackburn

    Some GREAT considerations in this book concerning just how close-knit the members of a modern Christian church should be. Hellerman draws largely from the concept of a "family" as it was perceived in the New Testament context. After demonstrating the contrast between the "strong-group" dynamic of NT times with the autonomous American individualism of modernity, he connects this dynamic (pretty convincingly) to Jesus', Paul's, and the early Church's notion of what the Church is to be. I foresee th Some GREAT considerations in this book concerning just how close-knit the members of a modern Christian church should be. Hellerman draws largely from the concept of a "family" as it was perceived in the New Testament context. After demonstrating the contrast between the "strong-group" dynamic of NT times with the autonomous American individualism of modernity, he connects this dynamic (pretty convincingly) to Jesus', Paul's, and the early Church's notion of what the Church is to be. I foresee this will be a helpful book in helping to create a vision of life in the Christian family, God's family. CONS: He does seem to be a bit cozy with the emergent movement; and he unfortunately downplays the importance of the Lord's Day gathering, making it subordinate to small group meetings during the week.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Andy Huette

    I love Hellerman's take on the church as a family as well as his other book, Embracing Shared Ministry, about plurality in leadership (based on the book of Philippians). The work is not written for ease-of-access, as he navigates through some church history. Admittedly, I skimmed parts, but was able to track with his overall point which was solid. Western attitudes of individualism have undermined the biblical picture of what the church is to be and do. Hellerman attempts to show through the Bib I love Hellerman's take on the church as a family as well as his other book, Embracing Shared Ministry, about plurality in leadership (based on the book of Philippians). The work is not written for ease-of-access, as he navigates through some church history. Admittedly, I skimmed parts, but was able to track with his overall point which was solid. Western attitudes of individualism have undermined the biblical picture of what the church is to be and do. Hellerman attempts to show through the Bible and history that the church is to be a family and then offers some, though not many, practical suggestions about how to steer the ship in a new direction. I like this guy and I give a hearty Amen! to the book, though it's not exactly a page-turner.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jake Thurston

    Absolutely superb book that deeply exegetes and analyzes the New Testament and early church culture that defined what it meant to be in authentic Christianity, all while engaging with issues that the modern-day Western church faces to try to recapture such a community in a drastically different worldview. Highly recommend! Only complaint is the lack of feminine language and bias towards men solely being in ministry. Beyond that, the content is superb and presented excellently.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Hamblin

    Many in the church approach Christianity from an individualistic standpoint without looking at how to practice the one anothers of Scripture. This book is a call to the church to treat its members as if they are part of the family and not live in isolation from one another. While I wouldn't agree with everything he says his overall point is vitally needed within the church today. Many in the church approach Christianity from an individualistic standpoint without looking at how to practice the one anothers of Scripture. This book is a call to the church to treat its members as if they are part of the family and not live in isolation from one another. While I wouldn't agree with everything he says his overall point is vitally needed within the church today.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    4.5/5. Loved reading through this book. Repetitive at parts but I think for good reason. Hellerman paints a picture of God's design for his church that my western individualistic cultural eyes had not seen, but longs to experience. The church is our family! Grateful for this book. 4.5/5. Loved reading through this book. Repetitive at parts but I think for good reason. Hellerman paints a picture of God's design for his church that my western individualistic cultural eyes had not seen, but longs to experience. The church is our family! Grateful for this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Doug Hanna

    A bit of a slow start, but an incredible read. Extremely helpful for understanding the potential Christian community can have!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lindsey

    It was harder to read than I thought it would be, but only because it's definitely not written in laymen's terms. It is a fascinating read, though. Highly recommended! It was harder to read than I thought it would be, but only because it's definitely not written in laymen's terms. It is a fascinating read, though. Highly recommended!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eric Fults

    Great book with enlightening perspective. A little repetitive with the writing but definitely drives the point home.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Caleb Nedimyer

    Good overall thoughts concerning the church as a family. Many of his supporting illustrations and theological underpinnings are weak. Be discerning and build relationships.

  24. 4 out of 5

    James

    A very challenging book on what the community of the local church.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ben Connelly

    Needed text in an individualistic culture

  26. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Bandy

    The title says it all! A must read!

  27. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Shurtz

    A great introduction to family model of the early church and society.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dorington Little

    Super helpful and insightful corrective to the highly individualized spirituality of Evangelicals.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    I had high hopes for this book but was mostly disappointed in it. I agree with his over all conclusion, and his biblical arguments are absolutely spot on. If he had stuck with that then the book would have been much better and far less of a chore to read. But as it is, the initial chapters are very difficult to get through due to illogical argumentation and the end of the book is one unnecessary anecdote after another with the apparent goal of REALLY trying to prove his point. In one of the endi I had high hopes for this book but was mostly disappointed in it. I agree with his over all conclusion, and his biblical arguments are absolutely spot on. If he had stuck with that then the book would have been much better and far less of a chore to read. But as it is, the initial chapters are very difficult to get through due to illogical argumentation and the end of the book is one unnecessary anecdote after another with the apparent goal of REALLY trying to prove his point. In one of the ending anecdotes the author even supports the pragmatic practice of permitting unbelievers to lead the worship of God in the church. This is not only contrary to scripture but even the authors thesis that the church is a strong surrogate family which is founded on it's union with God. Ultimately I can recommend the book but only with the caveat that the middle chapters, where the author tackles the scriptural arguments for his position, are the main ones to read. Feel free to ignore the rest.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Choi

    Hellerman unpacks the significance to an often overlooked but extremely powerful metaphor for Christ's Church: the Family. I heard the contents of this book delivered in Dr. Hellerman's lectures during my time in seminary. The implications of recognizing the Church as family was paradigm-shifting for me then and so I was happy to see that this book had finally been released in published form. Reading it now has only refreshed and reinforced my opinion that this, together with Leeman's "The Churc Hellerman unpacks the significance to an often overlooked but extremely powerful metaphor for Christ's Church: the Family. I heard the contents of this book delivered in Dr. Hellerman's lectures during my time in seminary. The implications of recognizing the Church as family was paradigm-shifting for me then and so I was happy to see that this book had finally been released in published form. Reading it now has only refreshed and reinforced my opinion that this, together with Leeman's "The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love," are the most important contemporary works on ecclesiology available today. I'm convinced that reading this book will change your mind forever about what you think of Christ's Church, as well as your local church.

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