Church, Gender Roles


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I know its silly but I love this little clip from Back to Church Sunday… In many ways Mothering Sunday was the original back to Church Sunday, a chance to return back to Church.The whole concept of Mother Church is something that has developed through out Church history, although not a biblical concept, although the Church does have female imagery being called “the Bride of Christ”.

Thinking about this image of the Church, the mother, its a nurturing image, the idea of being ‘raised’ or brought up in the faith is certainly a biblical idea of what the Church should be about… It is a loving picture, too, for many the Mother image speaks of love, commitment and self sacrifice which are characteristics we should see in the Church.

Yet more than this I think the Mother image of Church is actually all about birth and birthing. The Church is called to see people born again, or re-born, it is meant to be constantly not only seeing individuals saved but moving out into new areas and communities, it is a missionary movement, the writer of Acts keeps using the phrase “and every day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved”.

Yet many of our Churches in the UK rarely see people saved, and really see new Churches planted from existing Churches, we’ve forgotten that we are here to bring about birth.

The aim of the Church is not just its survival in its one location, but to see the Kingdom of God birthed in and around our neighbourhood.

The book of Acts narrative is about the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy to be his witnesses in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samara and the ends of the earth” and the narrative unravels to show the Church planted not just locally, nationally but across the (known) world (that is why the book of Acts ends in Rome).

One of the wonderful things about Mothers is that their primary motivation is not their own survival but the survival of their young, and yet we see the opposite in many Churches, their survival matters more than the survival of the next generation of Christians, or of the Church they have planted.

Yet in Spiritual terms, the birth of new Churches, is actually the natural progression of things, in the human story after birth becomes nurture and growth until eventually independence and eventually continues the pattern of reproduction and new life, its meant to be cyclical rather than liner.

Perhaps that is why they call Churches Daughter Churches, the idea again of potential fertility and possibly more fertile than its older mother.

Interesting too, perhaps this is why we see Churches which have planted more than once, sometimes we see sibling rivalry and throwing their toys out the pram at another child coming on the scene?

Also, birth is sometimes messy, painful and costly but worth it (without it none of us would be here!)… And carrying a baby is often an uncomfortable time of sacrifice and weird unpredictable cravings, yet worth it to see a healthy baby at the other end, and looking after a new born is full of sleepless nights and (so I’m told) teenage years are even more challenging!

Yet this picture still works with the Church and its maternal image, often the mess, pain and cost of birth sometimes isn’t something that is embraced but without it out Churches wont be here (or at least wont be here for much longer), carrying the baby (or seekers) is sacrificial and unpredictable with odd cravings, and seeing new Christians coming to faith is the start of a great challenge of discipleship (and maybe some sleepless nights) and then the nurture of the teenage years seeing people released to be all they are called to be, is a great challenge (often difficult and painful but also wonderful),

So, thinking of Church as Mother, is a call to mission, a call to nurture and discipleship, and a call empowering and releasing.

Its a costly, sacrificial, uncomfortable call (where siblings can play havoc) and yet the greatest challenge in the world and is the very heart beat of Christ.



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