It seems so many of us deeply long to be known… to be heard… to be understood. A significant aspect of this is wholly wrapped around a greater being – our Creator – but no matter where your beliefs lie, I mean with relationship to others.
I wonder – do you have others where you feel known, heard, understood, and loved? How did you get to know these people? Can groups be brought together under the premise of similar experiences, such as fatherhood, motherhood (or let’s get specific like stay-at-home moms), or those who parents have recently died, etc.? It seems so strongly right now that many of us long to be really understood and valued … not for what we want others to think we are. And lonely.
I read back a prior post that talked about my growth group moving towards concepts of ‘accountability’, and I linked to this article called “the heart of ministry” and as I read it again, I really, really, REALLY resonate with that… I want to be part of that, I want to drop everything else in terms of ministry/church work and move in that direction. So what would that look like? I’m far from sure but these terms come to mind:
- Facilitating the bringing together of others,
- so that they can experience genuine caring, concern and love for each other.
- Not through groups that primarily study the Bible or other books,
- but through acts of service directly to each other and the community.
- Being part of each other’s family – not just adult-to-adult but with the kids along with
- dinners/cookouts with each others’ families, but also
- enjoying various things together, like games or movies or going to the park … anything really.
Let me take a big chunk from that article that in particular jumps out at me tonight:
Many small groups are just another event which at their very core function much like Sunday service. They are primarily leader led with only modest participation from the group. People find it very difficult to be transparent and open. The best small groups go beyond this, embrace broad participation where people are given freedom to use spiritual gifts. These groups touch people on relevant issues in their lives. These types of groups do all a small group can do but we need more than what a small group can deliver.
We need connections with people that are forged with a deep level of trust and commitment. Relationships that can endure flaws and mistakes and even hurt feelings. Relationships with people that can extend grace and unconditional love when we reveal the dark corners of our soul.
One of the reasons why so many people find their way out of conventional churches is that they are lonely and disconnected in a sea of activity. For a long time they believed that sitting and listening was participating in community. They believed that being in a small group was being supported and loved. They come to sense a huge disconnect.
I’m in a community but I’m all alone. I’m in a small group but I’m going through the motions. I recognize there is more I could do, more I could try but I have tried for 20 years and I realize that so much of what I do is empty. I know I’m supposed to be committed and be a part of the church but I am surrounded by church and I don’t know if I’m a part of anything of substance.
So they leave. Some people leave and give up on faith altogether. Others start looking for those connections they longed for and find them. While they aren’t part of any formal organization they discover an essential aspect of church life they have only had small tastes of up until now. It can be rightly said that these folks are missing out on other essential aspects of church life. However they are getting the an element of church life that is no less essential and powerfully transformational.
It is sad that these people are trashed from the pulpit so often. I’ve seen it. So many of the people who filter out the back door of churches are not seeking to leave the church but to find it. So many of those who sit the pews cheering on those preachers don’t realize they are missing it.
The heart of ministry is to be Jesus to one another. Too often we overload ourselves with activities that have value but have so captured our attention that they insulate us from each other. We avoid the heart of ministry because it is too hard. We can’t flee from commitment to each other, we must give grace when we are harmed, and we must love when it is inconvenient. Becoming like Jesus is a sacrifice that most of us are unwilling to make and that is why we lack so much.
I’m completely not sure where I will end up but really pray that I can just be fully led by Jesus; to strive to become like Jesus. To know others and relate to others in a meaningful way, in an appropriate way, for their sake. No matter what might fall to the wayside either.