A friend reached out to me the other day with a very kind offer. It was along the lines of “I am not sure if you need this, but just know that if you ever need a listening ear or somebody to pray for you, I would be willing to do that.” It was very timely, very thoughtful and much needed, so I took them up on their offer. Maybe as you read this, there is a little tug inside you. Maybe that tug is, “Yeah, I should reach out too.” Let me encourage you to do that. Or maybe that tug is, “I wish somebody would do that for me.” Me too. I wish somebody would do that for you and I will be praying that it happens.
The reason for that tug is that we kind of know that’s a big part of what church should be all about, and we realize that often it isn’t. Most of us know the jokes. The most common words spoken at church are “I’m fine thanks” or some variation of that because we think the person asking doesn’t really want to know how we are.
The truth is some of the loneliest people sit in our churches every Sunday. Even some of the most involved folks wish somebody would care enough to ask them how they are really doing and would listen for the answer. Often the thing that God uses most to remind people of His presence and His love on a Sunday morning is not the sermon or the music or the prayer, but the warm greeting and genuine care of a fellow church attender.
We need to pay attention to this as the church, not as the board, not as the pastor, and not as the denomination, but as the church (which is you and me). We can run the best programs, but it won’t matter much if we don’t care for one another. We can have the coolest music, but it won’t have as much impact if we don’t love one another. We can have the most small groups, but they won’t accomplish God’s purpose if we don’t cry with those who cry and laugh with those who laugh. We can have the best greeting time and nicest visitor gifts, but it won’t matter if we aren’t actually building the kinds of relationships that will help each other become more like Jesus. You know encourage each other, hold each other accountable, spur each other on to love and good deeds. To paraphrase some well-known Scripture – we can have everything a good church should have, but it will not matter if we don’t love.
You know I am not just talking about another coffee time (although those can be a good start in terms of building the types of relationships Scripture requires of God’s people). As the people of God, we need to be committed to the “one anothers” of the New Testament (those words to the church on how to do life together). We need to ask God to help us have His heart for people so that we can open our hearts and homes and love and care for and serve people the way He calls us to.
We need to do it. We need to make the call. We need to invite. We need to start because that’s where this gets stopped so often I believe. We wait for it to happen for us or we expect somebody else to take care of it, but we can’t just sit back and wait. There is a brother or a sister who needs your ear, your shoulder, or your encouragement. Let’s work on being that kind of church.
Director of Leadership Development and Church Health, the Free Methodist Church in Canada.