Church can be an incredibly lonely place, even when full of good-hearted people with friendly smiling faces.
We can and should greet each other on Sunday morning, ask how people are.
This is right and good.
We can and should enjoy church meals with one another.
This can lead to fellowship, and is right and good.
We can and should bring meals to those who need them.
This is service of those in need, and is right and good.
We can and should meet outside of church for fellowship, meals and projects.
This is life together in the church, and it is right and good.
We can and should have all the right theology and even meet to discuss the Bible and or articles about our faith or other topics.
This is part of how we grow in our maturity and faith, and it is right and good.
ALL of those things are good, and right, and necessary.
But it cannot stop there.
Stopping there is like taking communion, which is good and necessary, and thinking that’s all we need to live the Christian life, together.
We need deep and abiding love for one another.
We need depth of relationship.
We need true community.
We need to know each other. We need to know each other’s struggles, and be vulnerable enough to share our own struggles, both for the purpose of encouragement and prayers, as well as giving praise and thankfulness when we see God at work in those places of struggle. Not being busy-bodies…truly getting to know each other and being involved in each other’s lives in a real, and purposeful way.
We need “safe people”, and we need to BE “safe people” in the body of Christ. (An excellent source on that topic, is the book Safe People by Drs. Henry Cloud and John Townsend). We need people who will invest time and emotional energy in us, to listen without judgement, but also give honest, loving feedback, and we need to be those people, as well. We need to go beyond mere niceties and the surface of our daily lives. Complimenting someone on their outfit, talking about a book or a movie you’ve enjoyed – there’s nothing wrong with those things – but if we never go beyond that, we’re the poorer for it.
We need say “how are you” and be prepared for a real, hard answer, that may need to go past a brief Sunday morning greeting.
We need to be prepared to both give and receive loving truth about sin issues people see in our lives.
It will be uncomfortable at times – we may hear things for which we don’t know how to respond. But sometimes we don’t need to respond – sometimes someone just needs to be heard, to know that someone cares, and to have someone pray with them, and then follow up. Or it may be uncomfortable because we’re the ones opening up and sharing something that is hard to talk about. But we need that.
It will take being open to getting to know someone who we may not “click” with – they may not be people who would otherwise be part of our natural social circle due to differences in views on certain issues, background, or other reasons.
It will take time – time that sometimes, frankly we might rather spend doing something else.
It will takes intentionality – it won’t happen unless we actually take action to make happen.
It will take commitment – it’s not something we can do once, pat ourselves on the back, and consider done. We can’t pick one person, or even a small group of people to do community with, and consider it done. This is what life in the body should look like, and it should encompass the entire church.
But it needs to happen, because there are people among us who are starving spiritually and relationally, to the point of despair, and they may seem like just another friendly smiling face on Sunday morning.
It won’t happen immediately, and can seem a daunting and overwhelming task, but it can start small – say, picking one person to call, or email and ask how you can be praying for them. Seeing if someone will get coffee. Following up with someone who shared something in the past, to see how they’re doing, and then building from there, as you get more comfortable. That first step may seem small, but it can be HUGE for someone who has been desperately needing it.
If we each purpose in our hearts and ask for God’s help in our endeavor, our churches can only benefit.