“The Lord sets the solitary in families.”

Psalm 68:6

Q: Lots of multiplication and reproduction. What do you call that?

A: The answer is two-fold. You can call it a movement or you can call it a growing family.

When lots of kids are born – it’s a great thing. However, if families aren’t set in place, with spiritual moms and dads walking in their responsibility, the results aren’t so good.

In the natural, when there is rapid reproduction and multiplication of children without fathers and mothers in place, children are born into an environment without healthy families to grow up in. Lots of reproduction and multiplication with healthy families and dads and moms in place produces an environment for children to grow up and change the world.

The last several months, my heart has been moved to talk about spiritual family among the student/simple church movement. It’s time to talk a bit less about movement and talk more about growing spiritual families.

There is a broader, decentralized movement of ideas occurring in North America regarding church planting movements. However, I’ve watched people try to build churches around ideas and trainings end in exhaustion and frustration. A shift is coming we must respond to. If a church planting movement doesn’t grow healthy families – both natural and spiritual — we’re producing a skewed version of the church.

We cannot be a movement built on ideas and trainings. We must mature into spiritual families built on relationships. By spiritual family, I mean groups of people with spiritual fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins – a growing family with a sense of shared DNA and destiny, relational history of overcoming struggles together, shared values and love for one another, and a wealth of experiences spending time together and doing life together.

Spiritually speaking, a movement without the values of family produces orphaned children who struggle to know their place and identity in the world. It produces kids who “know all the answers” but end up disillusioned and feeling out of place in the world. In a spiritual family, spiritual fathers and mothers give guidance to the next generation as they go out to tackle the great dream of seeing the nations filled with God’s glory.

The metaphor for “spiritual family” has sometimes been an instrument for control in the church – an attempt to hold on to spiritual kids to keep them from leaving home. God’s normal process of maturity in a family happens when kids leave and start their own families. The family grows when kids are not dependent on their fathers and mothers any longer. The relationship doesn’t weaken between parents and their children – the parents get to be grandparents now. That’s how the church is supposed to work.

As a father, there would be nothing honorable about having 20 and 30-year-old children who are still dependent on me and living in my home. I dream of my children pursuing their God-given dreams, starting their own families, and always trying to get home for Christmas visits and family reunions. (They’re all under 8 years old, so hopefully that goes like we believe for!) Oh and by the way, I seriously doubt we will ever have trainings in our family about “how to grow the Fish family.” Family happens by shared DNA, experiencing a sense of shared destiny together, overcoming struggles together, loving each other, and spending time living life together.

In the process of growing movements and spiritual family, it’s quite similar.

God’s plan for the earth started with a family. Family is the model through which we understand God the Father growing a family in the earth. In Acts, Paul promises the Philippian jailer “you and your whole family will be saved.”

An overview of the life of Paul the apostle shows his deep network of relationships he had built. Sometimes we tend to think Paul just traveled and sparked church planting movements. Well, he did. But he invested deeply into the lives of those he touched. Some later deserted him, but in the latter years of his life we see him writing deeply vulnerable letters to people he had spent years with, traveled with, suffered with, and loved with.

God’s movements start and end with the idea of family – connected relationships. God told Abraham, “I will bless you and all the families of the earth will be blessed through your descendants.” (Genesis 22:16-18) God’s plan for growing covenant community (the church) is never separated from bringing blessing to the multiplying relationships our life produces – both naturally and spiritually.

Family is God’s primary idea, not ministry.

Ok, I’ll take it a step further.

Family is God’s primary idea, not the Church – at least not the church operating without the primary metaphor of family. Paul said, “When I think of this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, from whom every family in heaven and earth takes its name.” (Ephesians 3:15). Jesus’ Church is the representation of God’s covenant family as it walks in it’s destiny to honor our Father in heaven and bless the nations of the earth.

I look through scripture and I can’t find the word “movement” anywhere. Movement is a word we use to describe what happens when we grow and expand God’s family in the earth as He intended us to.

We believe God is calling us to build church planting movements through evangelism and discipleship. However, we are not wired by God to walk together with people because we share the same ideas and attend the same trainings. We are wired by God to walk with others with whom we share DNA, relational history, and a sense of calling and destiny together. What if you and other students you’re walking with right now on your campus will one day form Paul and Barnabus-type teams to spend two years backpacking the Silk Road, looking for persons of peace, praying for the sick, and proclaiming the message of God’s kingdom?

We mobilize a movement by growing spiritual families with committed relationships. We build churches by growing our relationships. Relationships and family happens by shared DNA, experiencing a sense of shared destiny together, overcoming struggles together, loving each other, and spending time living life together.

We’re not just a movement of student churches. We’re a family. As you make disciples on your campus; as you pray together, as you overcome relational struggles and learn to love each other – you may be building spiritual family you just might walk with the rest of your life. Let’s talk about growing spiritual family that can grow and multiply and bless the nations. Let’s strengthen our relationships and grow our sense of spiritual family at the center of this movement. The nations await us as we do.

SO… dream big, keep reaching people for Jesus, and let’s grow spiritual family together to bless the nations.


Erik and Jen


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