Kingdom Family: The Place and the People

Written by Carl Greene

January 19, 2022

When people ask me to talk about my family, I invariably talk about where we live, but I focus most on who we are. Do we do the same when we are asked to describe our church family? An important identity marker we strive for as a network of churches is Kingdom Family, where “we will communicate and treat each other as if we are family because we are brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ. All people will feel welcome and valuable in our churches and Conference.”[1]

I would like us to describe our churches more and more as Kingdom Family rather than geographic location or ministry context. A concern for me here is, do we choose to describe the church as a “place” of ministry because we are unable to describe the “people” of the church as Kingdom Family—including myself? In order to discover if we are part of a definable church family, let’s see what we can learn from subculture theory. This will be more interesting than it sounds (hopefully).

Subculture Theory

Subcultures are not purely bounded, exclusive groups, yet there are some important boundaries in place.[2] A subculture consists of people who: mutually possess or practice a distinctive trait, hold a unique set of values in common, share a common way of life as expressed through behavior and artifacts, are identified as a group, and/or interact with one another within their group more than those outside the group.[3] This definition has us well on the way to observing how our local church is something of a unique subculture.

The early church tipped her hat to geographic location when identifying groups of believers, but the focus was on the people. Did you ever notice how much attention Paul gave to people in his letters versus assessment of place? He was concerned about more than place, he was interested in Kingdom Family. If that is the case, subculture theory, which focuses on people, has some light to shed on the subject.

In Acts 11:19-26, we see subculture theory at work. As public witness of Christ followers grew in distinctiveness and unity, the people were given a label. “. . . For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.” (Acts 11:26) The people were clearly a part of Kingdom Family in a way that set them apart.

Questions for you today: How would you describe the people of your church? Would you describe this group as Kingdom Family? Are you quicker to describe your church as a place or as people? Why?

Next week we will examine a few more frames around a subculture that helps us refine what healthy church membership might include.

[1] https://www.seventhdaybaptist.org/vision-map/

[2] Fine, Gary Allen and Sherryl Kleinman. 1979. “Rethinking Subculture: An Interactionist Analysis.” American Journal of Sociology, 85 (1): 1-20. 8.

[3] Fischer, Claude S. 1995. “The Subcultural Theory of Urbanism: A Twentieth-Year Assessment.” American Journal of Sociology 101 (3): 543-577. 544.

Gelder, Ken. 2005. “The Field of Subcultural Studies.” In The Subcultures Reader, edited by Ken Gelder, 1-18. New York: Routledge. 1.

Fine and Kleinman 1979, 18.

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