Jesus Redefines Family - Part 3: Stephanie Devincenzo

Seeing Jesus challenge our definition of family in Mark 3:33-35, we've asked a few members to write about what this means for the church and for their daily lives. Check out Part 1 by Justin Almas here and Part 2 by Meredith Knodel here.


Being a member of the Summit church has radically transformed my view of the word ‘family’. I didn’t grow up in a tight-knit home, so family was not something that I initially valued. I used to pride myself on my independence and never asking for help.


While still living in North Carolina, I remember Bryan Barley speaking on Acts 2 and the formation of the church. This group of people had all things in common, shared when others were in need, broke bread together, and devoted themselves to learning about God. It was an appealing concept, and I had seen glimpses of this growing up in church, but it wasn’t until I moved to Denver that I genuinely began to understand the church as my family.


There was a group of us recent college grads that moved from the east coast to be a part of the church plant in 2011. We didn’t have much, and I remember so many instances where the people in our church graciously helped us to get on our feet as we transitioned from college to real life. I moved out with one suitcase and a couple hundred dollars in savings. I had a place to live but no furniture, no car, and no job. Within the first two days of arriving in Denver, a woman at church heard I was in need of a car and generously lent her second vehicle to me without expecting anything in return. Incredible stories of generosity like this occurred over the next couple years as our group settled and made Denver our home. 


We shared and experienced so much together- struggling to pay rent, juggling multiple jobs as we sought out careers, dating, breakups, heartaches, joy, exploring the mountains, and learning to be more like Jesus. We celebrated together, wept together, and helped take on each other’s burdens.


One of my favorite moments where God showed me how to rely on the church as my family was when my mom was very sick. I was told she had months to live but she was on the east coast and it was during the holidays, so flight prices were beyond what I could afford. My pride prevented me from asking for help, but my Denver family knew my need and bought tickets so I could see my mom one last time before she passed. The love I felt in that season of my life was overwhelming and unforgettable. The Summit comforted me and pushed me to draw nearer to Jesus in the midst of my sorrows.


Countless experiences like these have helped me to realize the importance of family and how beautiful it is to need people in my life. I live halfway across the country from my biological family, but have never felt in want or need. As God showed me the value of true community in Denver, He even restored and strengthened my relationship with my biological family. The church has been a genuine depiction of Acts 2, and has pushed me to invite others into this movement and share the joy that inevitably follows.

 

Jesus Redefines Family - Part 2: Meredith Knodel

Seeing Jesus challenge our definition of family in Mark 3:33-35, we've asked a few members to write about what this means for the church and for their daily lives. Check out Part 1 by Justin Almas here and don't miss next week's post by Stephanie Devincenzo.


I have discarded the notion that life holds a point of arrival. Accepting the invitation to share my heart for this community that I lovingly call family, I sit amazed at the great changes God has made in my life through The Summit and am encouraged to know He isn’t finished.

It has already been, and at the same time, only been 3 ½ years since I have attended church at The Summit. Throughout college and my first couple of years in Colorado I didn’t have consistent Christian community. I did begin “church shopping” once relocating to Denver, mainly to appease my mother and her persistent requests. I committed to visiting numerous churches multiple times and quickly became discouraged. My efforts to find a church dwindled, as did my belief of one’s existence where I could experience both growth and alongside a congregation that I closely related to.

The Summit kindled a fire almost instantaneously. I remember being asked by the pastors after my first visit to come again. In my mind I was already hooked. I felt my eyes had been awakened. The Bible’s teachings had never seemed more evident with the gift of discernment shared by the pastors. The Scriptures were free from disconnect that I often felt and the belief that it was filled with ancient advice that held no merit today. 

The challenges of application had been issued and I realized I was being called to obedience. True to form, stubbornness set in. I felt uneasiness as an internal war was being waged on my soul. God refused to stay confined to Sundays, my attempt to compartmentalize and keep order. I was getting territorial. As in any relationship, I felt there was need of compromise in order for us to both to have satisfaction.

While busy negotiating the call on my life, he was drawing me close to the stories of those living a surrendered life. They sounded familiar. I found myself relating and empathizing with people of my city group, where brokenness was shared and reconciliation was celebrated, all to His glorification. My knowledge of God and His word increased and my desires began shifting focus; a gaze that was so naturally and selfishly inward was being redirected upward.

The expectations I had had for my life and those in it are lost. My friends at The Summit have become brothers and sisters, offering enrichment with their grace and wisdom. Though there was a period of mourning, I have found fulfillment in the roles He has placed me in to serve and comfort in the community of people and city of Denver where He holds me.

Jesus Redefines Family - Part 1: Justin Almas

Seeing Jesus challenge our definition of family in Mark 3:33-35, we've asked a few members to write about what this means for the church and for their daily lives. First up, Justin Almas talks about what Jesus is doing in this passage and what it means for us. Don't miss next week's posts by Stephanie Devincenzo and Meredith Knodel on what this has practically looked like for them.


Recently, Bryan talked about a particularly difficult teaching of Jesus: Family. Specifically, Bryan talked about how Jesus redefined family in Mark 3:33-35 when he answered the crowds with, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Throughout his ministry, Jesus repeatedly challenged the cultural understanding of family. He made statements like, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead,” (Matt 8:21-22), and “The person who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; the person who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me," (Matt 10:34-38), and “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brother and sisters…he cannot be My disciple" (Lk 14:25-27). But here in Mark, we get a picture of Jesus actually modeling the very behavior he had been teaching with his own biological family.

Often, these “anti-family” teachings of Jesus are explained away in an attempt to domesticate Jesus. We don’t know what to do with passages like those above because they don’t fit well with our cultural ideas of family, so we find creative ways to make them mean something less harsh, more family-friendly. To repeat what Joseph Hellerman said, “We cannot domesticate Jesus and remain true to His call to discipleship.” We have to deal with these hard teachings as Jesus intended, and conform our understanding of family to His.

So what exactly is Jesus teaching, and what does it practically mean for us? In this scene in Mark 3 and others like it, Jesus is doing two important things:

1) Jesus is establishing a new group - a new family of spiritual brothers and sisters.

2) Jesus is redefining family by reorganizing priorities.

For those who follow Jesus and claim to be His disciples, we have joined a new group, and our primary allegiance is no longer to our biological family, but our eternal family. As followers of Jesus, as His church, this reality holds tremendous implications for us. Here are a few practical ways we as The Summit Church can behave like a family. 

1) We share our stuff - We recognize that our time, money, and resources are not given to us for our own benefit alone, but to meet the needs our church family.

2) We share our hearts - We not only meet the tangible needs of our church family, but the emotional and spiritual needs as well.  

3) We stay, embrace the pain, and grow up together - When conflict arrises, as it inevitably will, we choose to fight for the redemptive relationships God has placed us in rather than abandon them. 

4) We believe that family is about more than me, my spouse, and kids - We invite our church family into the life and rhythms of our nuclear families as we raise kids, make geographical and career moves, and make other major, life decisions together. 

 

*Much of the content of this post was adapted from my sermon on Community, which was largely influenced by Joseph Hellerman’s excellent book When the Church Was a Family