The first members of the first church birthed by God and led by the apostles in Jerusalem understood the idea of living in a tribe. Most of the first followers were Jewish and members of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. They understood tribal customs and traditions, most knew the land boundaries that had been established by Joshua, and most of them understood the importance of protecting the sacred distinctions and language given to them.
Tribe was a part of their ethos and that is one of the main reasons the early church survived and even thrived under intense persecution. Relationships, customs and the bond of family only grew stronger once they became followers of Christ and began living life in the tribe of the local church. After intense debate, they were even willing to include the Gentiles into their tribe which helped spread the message of Jesus around the entire world.
We tend to think that family and tribe are the same, but they are not. Tribes are made up of families who choose to live together, honor the same customs, speak the same language, and protect the interests of one another. Tribes are ruled by councils made up of trusted representatives from numerous families. Families are definitely the cells, but the tribe makes up the total body.
I realize we have to fix the family or we will never live in a tribe. Parents are supposed to teach us about God and about living in unity with each other and with other families. If all the families are fractured, there is no hope for a healthy tribe. Marriages must be strengthened, a biblical worldview must guide us in our homes and we must teach our children that no one person is the center of the universe. Only then can tribes begin to emerge out of the local fellowships we call churches.
I love the tribe that is emerging at New Life. We are breaking free from our independent, self-focused existence and starting to live in tribe. We have declared our absolute dependence on God and our need to live in authentic community. Our tribe believes Scripture is a light for our path and a lamp for our feet and we believe if we pray and live free lives, we can change the world.