In the book The Blessing, John Trent and Gary Smalley relate a story that the church needs to hear. A Christian woman had an unsaved husband who spent a lot of his time at bars. He became a Christian and started attending church regularly, but quit going and went back to the bars. The reason: he missed the fellowship and camaraderie he found at the bars.
There will be no place for excuses when we stand before God. No one will be able to say "but the church ignored me, so I gave up", and have God give them a free pass. We are responsible for our own relationship or lack of relationship with God. There is nothing that happens to us in this life that is reason for us to not be a Christian.
That said, it doesn't mean we are free from blame when people do leave the church or give up if we haven't done anything to encourage and help.
I have gotten to the place where I am determined to be a Christian even if the whole church ignores me and thinks I am off base. At this point, I am sort of on the other side of the issue of feeling deserted at church......it just isn't that big of a deal to me anymore. However, I can still see where the church is dropping the ball though and I can see need for improvement.
It is tough being single in a couple''s world. Even in the church, there is the expectation that you'll marry and have kids. If you are single, the church doesn't seem to know what to do with you. I know from personal experience what it is like. It didn't help that I was hurting, didn't think anyone truly liked me, was afraid people would find out the secret I had, and that I felt nothing like the guys I attend church with.....or any other "normal" guy for that matter.
There are a couple of Facebook groups I am in run by ministries for people who deal with same-sex attractions. People share, ask for prayer, and offer support to each other. One of the guys in that group, I'll call him John, messaged me yesterday.He wanted to know how I got to the place I am at, and how long it took, etc. I tried to answer the best I could, and then he said a couple of things which has resulted in this blog post:
"One of my biggest battles is loneliness.....everywhere I go and do...alone"
"After 20 years, I at times question if God really loves me or even cares...I really have this inate desire to be married, but to eat out alone is excruciating"
Here you have a man who I would say is a little older than me. He is unmarried, not because he wants to be; but because he is attracted to the wrong gender. He is serving God faithfully, going to church.....and is lonely with no one to hang out with.
I've been there. I used to dread going out to eat alone. I'd stand back after church wishing someone would talk to me. I'd go shopping and wish I had someone to go with me. I have gotten through that, and actually enjoy eating out alone - though I weary of the "just one?" question. Shopping alone is fun and cathartic, and I am even going on a 2-trip a week from Monday all by myself that I am looking forward to it. Sure, I wish I had more chances to eat out with someone, shop with a friend, or just hang out.... but I have become more comfortable in being just me and being with just me.
I am reading a fantastic book right now, and the author hit on something worth sharing here. He is a Christian guy about my age who has dealt with the issue of same-sex attraction. Over the years, he has befriended many men who have lived the gay lifestyle and became Christians, men who never lived it but struggle with SSA, and men who left the church to go into the gay lifestyle. He has had many men tell him that they tried to serve God, but after a while everyone their age got married and they graduated from the class or group they were in, and had no one. Many of these men went into, or back to the gay lifestyle to get companionship, love, and to not be alone.
There have been other unmarried - and I am sure some married people - over the years who left a church because they were lonely, felt overlooked, had no one to befriend them. Some change churches, but others leave the church, possibly never to return.
Again, I want to stress that we each have a personal responsibility to our own souls, and cannot give excuses to God at the judgment that others didn't help us enough.
But these stories bring up a few things to consider:
1) Are we responsible for or to our Christian brothers and sisters in any way?
2) If someone is attending our church and feels lonely and disconnected, are we doing church right?
3) If someone leaves the church and goes into sin or just never goes elsewhere, are we guilty of neglect and not loving enough?
4) Are we too busy?
5) Are we too caught up in foreign missions and the world outside the church doors, that we are neglecting those inside our church doors?
6) What does the family of God truly look like and involve?
7) Has the church so uplifted and emphasized marriage too much?
8) What is community, and do we have it?
9) What could we as Christians and as a church do to insure no one falls through the cracks.....whether they be married, unmarried, divorced, gay, clean, dirty.......
10) Do we have community?
11) Do you think unmarried people felt alone and disconnected in the New Testament church?
12) Should Christians have to go to Facebook groups or other online sites for help, encouragement, and community?
A young man walked into a Christian bookstore one day and wandered around for a while. He was contemplating suicide and was hoping someone would approach him and talk to him. No one did, so he went home and wrote a suicide note and took his life. How many people have done that who could have been stopped if a Christian in their life and/or church had taken the time to care?
The world is full of lonely and hurting people.... and they aren't all out there. Many of them are sitting in the church pew at your church and mine. Some of them may be about to switch churches, stop going to church completely, and some may be considering giving up and getting their needs for companionship met in unhealthy and sinful ways.
There is only one thing we can take to Heaven with us: people. We get so caught up in work, paying bills, entertainment, and other necessary and unnecessary things that we don't have time for what matters - people. Church should be so much more than a place we go a couple of times a week, sing, hear a message, and go home.
But that is what it is all too often. I feel disconnected from my church. If you're in the youth group, you have youth activities outside of the church. If you're a woman, you have the secret sisters/sisters of encouragement thing, If you are a man.......and if you are a single man....... there's nothing. You see your fellow church members at church only.
For the most part. I do occasionally see people during the week, and once in a great while eat with someone.
But we need more. We can't keep neglecting those in our pews who need us.
Thank God for those who do reach out. Thank God for online social media who can hook up people with others who can help and encourage them.
But what about offline? Are we doing enough? Do we care enough?
There's a song that was popular several years ago called "Who will be Jesus to them?" May we be Jesus to the hurting and lonely among us, and may they never have to leave the church to find what they need.
He came home from work last night,
To find that she is gone,
Now He's spending his first Sunday
Sitting in the pew alone,
There are whispers all around him,
His heart breaks in two,
He's wondering who will reach out
And help him make it through,
Who will be Jesus to him?
Who'll show the love that restores him again?
Oh he does not need a judge, he needs a friend.
Who will be Jesus to him?
She has a reputation like
The woman at the well,
The only love she ever knew was
The kind she buys and sells,
But her thirsty heart is searching
For a love that will be true,
The Savior cries for her to
See Himself in me and you,
Who Will be Jesus to her?,
Who'll show the love that's
Commanded in His word?,
Will she see in us the mighty God we serve?,
Who will Be Jesus to her?
Wounded People everywhere,
And when they look at us,
Do they see Jesus there?
Who Will be Jesus to Them?,
Who'll show the love that
Restores Them again?,
Oh, They do not need a judge,
They need a friend,
Who will Be Jesus to Them?