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When The Church Was A Family [Paperback]

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Item Number 446691  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   234
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.9" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.7"
Weight:   0.76 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 1, 2009
Publisher   Broadman And Holman
ISBN  0805447792  
EAN  9780805447798  

Availability  44 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 27, 2016 12:56.
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Item Description...
A study of the early Christian church in the Mediterranean region and its emphasis on collective good over individual desire clarifies much about what is wrong with the American church today.

Publishers Description
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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More About Joseph H. Hellerman

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Joseph H. Hellerman is professor of New Testament at Biola University in La Mirada, California, and helps pastor Oceanside Christian Fellowship in nearby El Segundo. He holds degrees from Biola (Master of Divinity and Master of Theology, Old Testament) and the University of California (Bachelor of Arts in English and Masters of Arts in English and History of Christianity).

Joseph H. Hellerman currently resides in the state of California. Joseph H. Hellerman was born in 1952 and has an academic affiliation as follows - Biola University, California.

Joseph H. Hellerman has published or released items in the following series...

  1. Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A most important perspective on the church  May 9, 2010
Joseph Hellerman's When the Church Was a Family is one of the most important books I have read in a long time. It is a remarkable contrast to another book on the church I read, the highly acclaimed Why We Love The Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck. When the Church Was a Family (or WTCWAF) takes a very different look at the church body compared to Why We Love the Church and most other books on matters pertaining to the church. Rather than focusing on the organization, on the hierarchy, on the methods, Hellerman looks at the idea of familification, that salvation creates not just a sinner redeemed but a community formed.

"It is time to inform our people that conversion to Christ involves both our justification and our familification, that we gain a new Father and a new set of brothers and sisters when we respond to the gospel. It is time to communicate the biblical reality that personal salvation is a community-creating event, and to trust God to change our lives and the lives of our churches accordingly." (WTCWAF, p. 143)

Hellerman begins WTCWAF by building the cultural foundation the reader needs to understand the premise of the rest of the book. It seemed to drag on a bit but it made perfect sense once he showed how it applies to the church. It can be seductive to think about the church as we have come to know it in America and assume that it has always been this way. Hellerman makes a solid effort to show that what Christ and the apostles were speaking of meant something completely different from what we assume.

WTCWAF is a paradigm changing book, if I can use what has become a trite and overused term. It is a book that changes the conversation about the church from "I" to "we". By that I mean, the focus is less on "I am a member of this church", "I chose this church because" and "I need this from a church" to "We have a common salvation that binds us", "We have these responsibilities to one another" and "We are the family of God". I have rarely read a book that caused me to put it down to ponder what I just read on so many occasions.

I found some weaknesses in Hellerman's book. When he speaks of believers sharing materially together, I thought he gave this important notion short shrift. In three pages (pp. 145-147) where Hellerman addresses the topic, he gives a very brief and incomplete treatment of the topic and uses as a primary example the local church where he is employed giving his home a "make-over" that apparently cost $20,000 and included "all new top-drawer Pottery Barn furniture." I think there is a bigger point here that focuses on making sure that those among the Body have their needs met, while the idea of expensive name-brand furnishings probably wouldn't even show up on the radar of the early church. I found this example to miss the mark. I see the idea of familial relations leading to sharing of wealth more representative of the complete abandonment of what the world holds dear (personal property along with our myriad other rights we cherish). The early church shared not out of a desire for their pastor to have Pottery Barn furniture but because they no longer saw the value in their own possessions.

I also think that Hellerman places a little too much faith in the ability of a church of several hundred "members" and regular attendees to live together as a strong-group family. I am not convinced that the model that is effectively laid out by Hellerman can really exist in the traditional mold of Western evangelicalism. We don't hear much about the church where he is employed but based on what I have seen and even on what he writes, I just seems unlikely that a traditional church setting is going to be fertile ground for a strong-group family relationship among believers. Having said that, these small quibbles hardly impact my recommendation of this book.

I don't want to engage in hyperbole here but this book is putting forth ideals, a radical reshaping of our priorities in the church and how we look at the church. If these principles were to gain a widespread audience and acceptance, I think we could be see an impact on the church that is analogous to what Luther's 95 Theses had on Christianity. While Luther's Theses were pivotal in regaining the Gospel itself, the understanding of the church as an adoptive family unit has the potential to impact the vital "Now what?" question that the church has struggled with for so long.
well written and important subject matter  Jan 3, 2010
Hellerman does a great job of reminding us that the New Testament church was a family. The New Testament culture was also group oriented. We in the WEST are individualistic, non-group oriented, and mostly do not practice the family values of the Christ's New Testament church. We must allow the Holy Spirit to change us. Hellerman gives practical illustrations from his own church experience that show us how to live out NT family values in today's culture.

I did not agree with Hellerman that we should place the family of God above our own nuclear families. He doesn't believe in that distinction, but I believe it's an important one. In my case, each one of my own nuclear family is a strong believer. So yes, each one is also my brother and sister in Christ. Yet, I believe Scripture teaches that I must prioritize my nuclear family above the general family of God (or more specifically my local church family). Hellerman blurs this distinction and even says it's not biblical.

Apart from this disagreement, Hellerman has uncovered an important truth about the church as God's family. He's exhorted us to return to the church as family. Here are some excellent quotes from chapter 8:

"We pay a tremendous emotional price for the freedoms in decision making that we exercise in our radically individualist society. God has not equipped us to operate as isolated individuals, especially where the most important decisions of our lives are concerned. God has created us for community, and it only makes sense to think that we will be healthier psychologically if we make important decisions in the context of a loving and caring church family" (170).

"I find it immensely encouraging to remember that this is God's project, not ours, and to remind myself that the Holy Spirit truly longs to knit us together in community as God intends it. God is more than ready to come alongside those who are willing to do the hard work of living life as the new covenant family of God" (176).

"The one event preeminently identified with the word "church" in most congregations find our people seated side-by-side, facing forward, with little or not interpersonal interaction with persons to the right or to the left. A fellows sitting next to me in Sunday church might have lost his job--or his spouse--that very week. Tragically, however, I would never know it." (177).

"You might try what I did on a Sunday morning some time ago. I preached a sermon entitled `why Sunday A.M. is Not the Church' in which I compared early church family values and practices with the way that we do church on Sunday morning. The application was challenging but quite straightforward. I proceeded gently but firmly to inform my people that many of them--some of who had attended on Sunday for years--had never been to church! Then I encouraged them to begin going to church, that is, to start attending one of our home-group settings where they could cultivate the kind of surrogate sibling relationships that God intends for his children to enjoy with one another" (178).

Excellent and Much Needed Critique of the Radical Individualism that Permeates too many Churches  Nov 26, 2009
Hellerman's book is a page-turner that will not disappoint. Written clearly and argued persuasively, Hellerman paints an incredible image of how the church should function based upon the clear teachings of Scripture. Rather than succumbing to the pressure to live in a weak group, radically individualistic fashion, Hellerman calls the church to live in a collectivist manner as modeled in the New Testament. Much more could be written to positively commend this book.
When the Church Was a Family  Sep 2, 2009
The book depicts the author's vision of what a church family should be based on life in the first century church. The author documents through Bible stories and scripture verses the hierarchy of family relationships and loyalty. Through this family relationship, the church family is adopted in.

The book is interesting, thoughtful, and well written. The author believes that the Bible shows that Christians should be accountable to the church family not only for his/her behavior, but also for vocation, spouse, and residence. The author believes that a Christian's loyalty is to the church family over the spouse and children, based on the blood-based orientation to kinship. This Mediterranean-style family would require the male to be loyal to his brothers over his spouse and children (the church family being the adopted brothers and sisters).

Pastors, church leaders, and those wanting to learn more about the first-century church will enjoy this book.

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