There is a concept called the ‘Friendship Factor.’ The Friendship Factor says that some 70-90% of people who join a church join primarily for the reason of friendship. The power of friendship and kinship tends to be a primary reason or opportunity for assimilation of people into the church body. I appreciate and think it is a wonderful strength to allow ministry to happen through the natural ‘oikos’ or family. Furthermore, assimilation does happen as friendships are made and established and people are incorporated into serving in the church body. However, is this what ultimately unites the church… friendships and family? Or is there something more profound that unites the church than simply a blood relationship or common interests?
The downfall to the Friendship Factor of Assimilation is that this way of integrating people into the church does not go far enough, or it might simply be the wrong way of assimilating to begin with. For example, if people are assimilated into a church on the basis of the Friendship Factor, then the assimilation is only as good as the relationships are. Furthermore, church unity is then hinged upon friendships and family. From personal experience I have seen how assimilation into a church can happen on the basis of the Friendship Factor but dis-assimilation can also easily occur when those same friendships destroy assimilation and end up in people leaving the church on the basis of personalities. I have also seen in where a new individual tries to connect to a church body only to fail because he/she does not have the right family ties or the right interests to conjure up a fruitful friendship that would connect him/her to the church body.
Thank God that assimilation can happen in a very different way. Praise God that what binds us together as a church body is something eternal and non-perishing. An eternal assimilation happens as ‘our’ unique personal stories are assimilated into a grand and divine story; God’s story of redemption in Jesus. God’s story doesn’t become a part of our story; rather we are assimilated into the grand meta-narrative of God’s redemption. As members of the church we join together ‘into’ the bride of Christ; as common sinners with a common bridegroom, Christ. We grow into the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Our assimilation into the church does not come through a blood line but comes through faith in the promised words of scripture. The Word does not change and is an objective standard and a rich source for all to be incorporated into. Think about the foundation of being assimilated into Christ! It isn’t that friendships and family are not important, rather, the body is joined together in an eternal perspective that runs much deeper than common interests and family ties. This kind of assimilation provides a much greater foundation for the church body and grants the church with the ability to weather the storms of personality struggles and inter-personal conflicts to a much greater degree than simple Friendship Assimilation because there is unity and assimilation in Spirit and Truth. Therefore, Friendship Assimilation can be put into proper context and thought of as a way of connecting people to a much richer assimilation, the grand story of God’s redemption in Christ.
Thank God that our assimilation is in Christ and not BFF!