Focus on the (true) Family
I have distinct memories growing up of my home being a Focus on the Family home. That is, my parents read James Dobson’s books on parenting, we went through Preparing for Adolescence together, listened to cassette tapes of Adventures in Odyssey, and newsletters from Dobson regularly arrived in our mail. This is etched into my memory. Jump ahead to undergrad when I read Rodney Clapp’s Families at the Crossroads. There (and elsewhere) Clapp makes the significant claim, “The family is not the primary vehicle of God’s grace and salvation for a waiting, desperate world.” Instead, “the church is God’s most important institution on earth. The Church is the social agent that most significantly shapes and forms the character of Christians.” This was a huge paradigm shift for me, to recognize that God desired the church—not the family— to be the instrument of shalom and salvation.
Reading Simon Chan’s Grassroots Asian Theology, many things crossed my mind—among them, recognition that what he develops in this text can be formative for Christians and the church in places beyond Asia; it’s relevant for us in the West as well. For instance, Chan challenges the institutional church to more humility, recognizing we have yet to attain fullness: “the present institutional church does not exhaust the meaning of the church as the body of Christ since it is still in via.” A primary theme, though, is the concept of the Trinity as family, with the church, therefore, mirroring it as family.
This has potential to be somewhat risky in contexts where the family is highly valued. On one hand, “a religion that radically disrupts the existing family structure will inevitably be viewed as a serious threat to society.” But on the other hand, it is the church—not the family—that “provides the antidote to structural evil.” Quoting Sri Lankan D.T. Niles, “The answer to the problems of the world is the answer that Jesus Christ provided, which is the Church.” The church must function both as priest (ritually extending the values and meanings which give life in a particular context—continuity) and as prophet (convicting and challenging the status quo—contrast).
The concept of church as family has the potential to welcome the stranger and alien to the kitchen table, the orphan into adoption. The concept of church as family recognizes the communion of saints, the connection between past and present (and future) and is able to honor, remember, and celebrate those of us who are already dwelling in God’s presence; thus providing a venue for contexts where ancestors are venerated (and for contexts like the West to do a better job of remembering those who have gone on).
I generally resonate with Chan’s development of common Asian theology, with his high and intertwined ecclesiology and pneumatology. Like the thesis posited in Adrian Thatcher’s God, Sex and Gender, Chan looks beyond sola scriptura to both church (present) and tradition (past) for development of local theologies. If we embrace the revelation of the Holy Spirit beyond scripture and permeating the people of God, then it is essential to do a better of job “listen[ing] to what God by his Spirit is saying through the laity.” Wisely, though, this does not occur in an individualistic vacuum, says Chan, but “from within the church, as fellow worshipers with the whole people of God.” 
In Chan’s theology, which recognizes the dwelling of the Spirit in each member of the family of God, we give and receive each other’s gifts and burdens. It is a corporate identity, which resists individualism. However, individual autonomy is excessively valued in the West, so for us to embrace this Asian expression of corporate spirituality is challenging; such that “bearing the cross in the body requires one to be limited by the weaknesses of another member.” We resist anything that holds us back from our “true potential.” But as Western followers of Jesus figuring out how to value our membership as the body of Christ, are we willing to listen to the prophetic challenge of our Asian siblings and allow the revelation of the Holy Spirit in them to shape us and enlarge our own understanding of God?
 My favorite memory of FotF is seeing The Strong-Willed Child book on my mom’s beside table. I figured she was reading it because of my sister.
 Rodney Clapp, Families at the Crossroads: Beyond Traditional and Modern Options (Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 1993), 67-68.
 Simon Chan, Grassroots Asian Theology: Thinking the Faith from the Ground Up (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014), 170.
 Ibid., 164.
 Ibid., 179.
 Ibid., 179, quoting D.T. Niles, The Message and Its Messengers (Nashville: Abingdon, 1966) 50.
 Ibid., 170.
 Ibid., 12.
 Ibid., 18.
 Ibid., 181.