by Rachel Hughes, co-Lead Pastor of Gas Street Church in Birmingham UK

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

I can vividly remember the moment in March 2020 here in the UK when the realisation fully sank in that we wouldn’t be able to gather in church for the foreseeable future. I am a hopeless optimist and I felt convinced that it would only be a couple of weeks and then “this covid thing” would all blow over. Then weeks turned into months, and months became a year, a finally we were able to gather at church in a way that vaguely represented normality.

Before I say what I’m about to say; I should preface it with the proclamation that I am passionate about our church. Since Tim and I planted it 6 years ago, I have shed blood, sweat, and tears over this church. And yet, if I’m honest, something happened temporarily to my view of church through this season of lockdown.

At first I thought I wouldn’t cope not being able to “go” to church. I thought my Sundays would be totally bereft (and they were in many ways). When we first had to shift church online we didn’t have the technology to stream it live on a Sunday like we do now. Tim and I would record our messages for Sunday during the week. Invariably something would go wrong and there were plenty of weeks that we’d be up late into the night trying to get it finished. But… it meant that when Sunday came around our work was done! 

For the first time in our married life we would wake up leisurely on a Sunday morning. We took our time. It was not uncommon for us to stay in our pyjamas all day! We’d take walks to the park with our kids. And then we’d tune into church online (of course), but it was done in little over an hour. There was no parking space to fight for. No children to coax out the door. No one to chat to after the service. No sense of responsibility, no pressure. It was bliss!

And then the lockdown lifted and I thought I’d be desperate to start gathering in church again. And for the most part I was. But I have to confess that it did cross my mind that we could just carry on like this! We could all just tune into church online each week and stay in our pyjamas every Sunday! And guess what!? We wouldn’t need to be inconvenienced by annoying things like… other human beings. And let’s be honest, human beings can be really annoying. Christians can be particularly annoying! 

But as vividly as I recall going into lockdown for the first time. I also vividly remember the first time we were able to gather back. To worship in the same room together after all that time. Something in my heart came alive. I was conscious that I didn’t want to lose hold of everything that God had been teaching us in this season, but gathering together felt like coming out of hibernation. It was seeing people’s faces, it was experiencing God’s presence together, it was that feeling of camaraderie as everyone played their part. It was the sense of family.

One of the overriding images of the church in the New Testament is ‘The Family’. We are meant to view church through the lens of family. A functional, loving family. I wonder if the pandemic has affected your view of church? How easily do we forget that church isn’t a building, it isn’t an event, or a product. It’s not a brand or a TV show…

Church is family. 

Throughout the lockdown, we had all had to adjust to connecting with our relatives online. I would regularly make video calls to my parents and my sister. And even though ‘zoom’ became a godsend, what I really wanted was to give my mum a hug or to sit at the table with my sister and talk over a coffee. 

And if church is family then there comes a point when physically being in the same room together (as far as that is possible) really really matters. Actually if we’re serious about following Jesus then it is absolutely futile to try and do it in isolation. It’s futile to do it outside the context of the church family. 

Because church operates best as family.

It’s also important to remember at this point that you will never find the perfect family. And you are never going to find the perfect church. In fact, if you do find the perfect church, please don’t go to it, because you’ll mess it up!

Gas Street Church is not perfect, Tim and I are NOT perfect. But we do want to be as intentional as possible about our church feeling like family. We’ve discovered that that can be challenging as the church gets bigger. But in order for our church to feel like family, it won’t happen because we stop the church from growing, from getting bigger. It won’t happen because we keep making our church services better and better. It won’t happen because we run more and more programs. For our church to feel like family, it will take each person who calls this church ‘home’, to make the decision to view this church as family… I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said “as soon as I walked through the doors I felt like I was coming home.” What a privilege.

The way we view church really matters.

It’s a bit like the difference between having dinner at home and having dinner in a restaurant. It would be weird in a restaurant if the waiter approached you halfway through your meal and said “I know you’re eating, but there’s actually loads to do in the kitchen right now; onions to chop, pans to wash. Could you please put down your cutlery and come with me and help?”

It would be weird because it’s not family. In a restaurant you’re paying for a service.

We view family differently.

Imagine if in the middle of family dinner at home my 8 year old son called me over to the dinner table. Imagine if he just obnoxiously clicked his fingers and gestured for me to come over immediately (it’s actually not out of the realms of possibility for him to do that!). And imagine if he said to me “These fish fingers, They’re not up to scratch… (again not totally implausible that he might do that!!), they’re burned on the outside and tasteless on the inside. I need to speak with the manager.”

That would be weird because…

We view family differently. 

In a restaurant we’re entitled, but in a family we’re responsible. 

The way we view church really matters. 

Is it a service we’re consuming? Or a family we belong to?

When we choose to view church as family 2 things happen: We grow up and we show up.

When we’re part of a healthy family, maturity isn’t an option, maturity is a by-product. It’s naturally what begins to happen when you’re immersed in a healthy family.

We have 5 children, and one of the joys of being a mother is watching them grow and mature. It felt like yesterday that my 12 year son needed me to tie his shoelaces and pack his lunch. I had a ‘proud-mum-moment’ the other day when I came down to the kitchen early to find him dressed ready for school, tucking into a Full English breakfast that he’d cooked himself!

When we view church as family we grow in maturity as followers of Jesus. In a healthy family we shape each other, we encourage each other, we sharpen each other. In family we learn patience. We discover the importance of “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you”. We learn discipline and perseverance, collaboration and compromise. We experience the value of constructive criticism and conflict resolution. We learn how to celebrate other people. We’re taught how to laugh together, to cry together, and how to serve together.

When we view church as family we grow up…

But we also show up.

We commit.

We make the decision to “jump in” to “roll up our sleeves” and get involved. We had a email from a guy recently who wrote “We’ve been coming to Gas Street for a couple of weeks now and we’ve decided ‘we’re in’. How can we serve?” We love emails like that! When we view church as family we show up. We chose to make a contribution to the life of the church.

Sometimes we’ve heard people say about Gas Street “when is the church going to DO something about community!?” or “when is the church going to DO something about mission!?” or “…DO something about evangelism!?” And as a church we are, and we will create lots of opportunities for people to get involved in centrally run programs and initiatives that facilitate community, and mission, and evangelism. But when we view church as family we initiate. We take responsibility. We don’t wait for someone else to fix the problem we choose to be part of the solution.  

At the time of writing this there is only week to go until Christmas.

One of my favourite memories growing up was Christmas time. My mum is the absolute pro at hosting Christmas. She’s one of those effortless hosts. Unflappable, always smiling, and constantly producing a steady stream of delicious food. Growing up we always had people at our home, especially in those weeks leading up to Christmas and my mum never seemed fazed by how many friends, relatives, neighbours, and sometimes strangers there were to cater for.

But the thing I remember most was Christmas lunch because everyone had a job. My first job was ‘setting the table’. Then once I was responsible enough to handle a sharp implement, I graduated to ‘peeling the potatoes’, but ultimately I found my sweet-spot in the ‘Brussels sprouts’ department. My siblings had jobs too, so did my Auntie & Uncle. We all mucked in. I don’t ever remember resenting having to prepare those Brussel sprouts, it was what made ‘Christmas Lunch’, ‘Christmas Lunch’, it was what made family, family. In fact when we all tucked into that Christmas feast I felt this satisfying feeling of ownership which somehow made those Brussel sprouts taste even sweeter! (Actually that’s not true. I hate Brussel sprouts; they’re disgusting.) 

But there was something I noticed over that festive season with all that hosting. Looking back I observed that, apart from the immediate family members who all had jobs to do, there were 5 different kinds of visitors. All the visitors received the same warm welcome. They all got fed, they all got loved. But they were all different.

The first group was the ‘INVITED’…

These were people that hadn’t been to our house before. There was no way my Mum was going to let them lift a finger because they were “invited guests”. Our job was to host them, and to serve them.

The next group were the ‘INFANTS’…

These were the little kids. There was no expectation that they could or would do anything constructive to contribute to the workload. They were appropriately immature.

Then there was the ‘INEXPERIENCED’…

These were the ones who, for whatever reason, weren’t used to being in a healthy family. They didn’t know how it worked. It wasn’t necessarily that they didn’t want to help, they just didn’t know how. All they needed was a bit of guidance, and a bit of encouragement.

There was also the ‘INJURED’…

There were always one or two adults who were hurting during that Christmas. Whether it was physically or emotionally, they were struggling that year. And we knew that if they were well they’d be eager to help, but at that particular moment what they needed was extra care. They needed to be served and that was ok.

The last group was the ‘INACTIVE’…

These were the ones who came every year. They were perfectly capable of helping out but they were more interested in heading for the most comfortable seat and waiting for everyone to serve them!

When we view church as family there will always be invited guests. At Gas Street Church we LOVE invited guests. Tim & I are continually encouraged by how many people feel confident to invite their unchurched friends to Gas Street Church. Our desire is that every invited guest would get the warmest welcome and be made to feel at home from the moment they walk through the door. I remember chatting to one women who said to be “I love the worship, and I love the talks, but the reason I decided to come back to this church was because on my second week someone remembered my name.”

Other people who come to church are appropriately immature in their faith. They might have only been coming a few weeks. They’re just exploring faith. They’re still figuring things out. That’s great. 

There will also be those who walk through the door and they’re hurting. They’re navigating a season of pain and loss. They’re disorientated, or burned out and in need of rest and healing until they feel better. And that’s ok too.

Then there are the ones who come and the want to spectate, to consume. And that’s ok too… for a time. Whatever the reason people walk into a church gathering on a Sunday our desire is that everyone is made to feel loved and welcomed.

But there’s a sixth type of visitor. These are the people who arrive as ‘guests’ but leave as ‘family’. They are the ones who come to your house and they don’t expect to be served. They’ve worked out where everything is in the kitchen. They don’t need everything to be clean and tidy. 

Ever since Tim and I have been married we’ve always had people live with us; usually a young adult needing some rent-free accommodation! One young man who lived with us was a family friend called Noah. When he moved in it took him a while to adjust to living away from home, but as one of 6 siblings himself he understood the value of ‘everyone mucking in’. Within a few weeks he just started seeing what needed to be done. He didn’t need permission or persuasion to help out. If the dishwasher needed unloading, he did it. If the table needed wiping down, he did. He arrived as a guest, but 3 years later he left as family. 

The way we view church really matters. The more we show up, the more we grow up. And the more we grow up, the more we show up.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10

“Let us not BECOME WEARY…” I think it’s fair to say that lots of the people I have spoken to recently are carrying a sense of weariness as we face the ongoing effects of a global pandemic. In many ways we need to be kind to ourselves. But the danger is, if we’re not careful, our ‘weariness’ can morph into apathy. Our ‘weariness’ turns into a desire to stay comfortable and safe. Our ‘weariness’ becomes an excuse to merely “look out for number one”. 

“Let us not become weary in doing good.”

I was chatting to a friend this week who said he had been really struggling. This friend is a highly capable and outgoing guy, but he’d sunk into a depressive state. He’d rightly taken some time off and found himself dreading his return to work. A vocation he felt called to, a job that ordinarily he loved. He said that, to his surprise, as soon as he got back to work and re-engaged with his sense of purpose he felt refreshed and revived. We are called to ‘do good’. We are designed to “do good”. It’s in our DNA as children of God to ‘do good’. 

There’s a reason Paul implores the Galatian church not to grow weary of doing good. Because there’s so much at stake. There’s a much bigger picture for us to be aware of.

“For at the proper time we will reap a harvest”. When we view church as family, when we step out from the shadows of merely spectating and consuming, we discover that we get to be part of the story that God is writing not just within our church community, but our city, our nation, and across the whole earth. 

Maybe’s it’s time for you to pick up the metaphorical potato peeler and get involved where you are.



CLICK HERE to watch the sermon Rachel preached at Gas Street Church on which this article is based. The sermon begins at 35 minutes into this Sunday Worship Video

CLICK HERE to watch a beautiful Christmas Carol Service at Gas Street Church

Tim & Rachel Hughes are the Lead Pastors of Gas Street Church in Birmingham England, with a vision to be ‘Light for the City’. Tim is an internationally renowned worship leader and songwriter and founder of ‘Worship Central’. Rachel has recently pioneered a national ministry to empower women called ‘The Orchard’. Their greatest joy comes from leading Gas Street together, creating space for people to encounter God’s presence, communicating God’s truth, and seeing God’s Kingdom come across the city by raising up the next generation of Kingdom-leaders. They have five wonderful children by birth and adoption.


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