I try not to talk too much about my experiences with churches. I guess I’ve been conditioned to believe that in revealing what is wrong, I am somehow hurting God’s work. However, it occurs to me that addressing obvious issues (and not so obvious ones) would probably be a much better, and much more civilized way to advance the cause of Christ. After all, wasn’t that exactly what He did so long ago when He visited us here?
There is a Bible study I attend once a month. The people are very nice. Most of these New Jersey church operations are very nice at first. But when one needs a friend, a confidante, a mentor, a true leader, one is left empty-handed, and nonetheless goes home alone, with no true connection to the ministers. It is obvious the people who serve here care about serving God. But we, the ones being served, are intentionally kept at a distance. It is my nature to become committed and involved, and thereby to feel I am a part of such things. But this involvement has clearly been denied to those of us who are not a natural part of the family. I have not yet found out why.
I see a great error here, which I have seen before. Frequently in the body of Christ, a church organization is content to serve God, but seems to stop short of true self-sacrificial love. It reminds me of the Christmas present my sister and I received one year from someone who didn’t know us enough to even get us separate gifts. The duplicate gift, a cheap outdated hat which no teenager would actually wear, was to our keen and perceptive young minds an insult. It was not given to us out of love, or by someone who cared to find out what we would like, but by someone who wanted to appear to give us a gift, and thereby appease a connection with our mom. In short, this gift was an insult, and it hurt to have someone feign a connection for some other purpose, at our expense.
I recall a church fair where they had burgers for everyone, but no condiments, and not so much as a slice of cheese for the burgers. The receiver, while attempting to be appropriately gracious, cannot help but to miss what more could have been.
Churches which “pretend” to serve, by only going half way, but not ever giving all, only cheat themselves out of the joy of full Christian service.
The Apostle Paul addresses an appropriate approach to ministry in I Corinthians Chapter 13:
“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing” (I Cor. 13: 1-3).
In the Bible study which I am addressing, we receive a great message. We are given great food. They may even pray for us before we get there, and they always say “Hi.” But have they considered how they may get to know us individually, discover the call of God upon our lives, pray specifically based on the desires of our hearts, try to find a ministry in their camp which will help develop our gifts?
Perhaps they have tried in the past and gotten burned, maybe we have proven to be problematic, maybe they have found our group of single people over 40 to be strange and non compliant. Maybe we don’t look or smell good enough. Maybe we are too odd.
I don’t wish to be guilty of not understanding where they are coming from. But I do believe a greater blessing could be had by giving more instead of less, by being bold rather than cautious, by not being content to give a little and consider it to be enough, carefully measuring out how much will be sacrificed. Perhaps a greater sacrifice is intended where we do ministry with all our hearts, thereby laying down our lives. For Jesus Himself, as we all know, laid down His very life. Jesus also said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Can a ministry really claim to be a ministry without having the approach of really giving up something? Will we stop at half way and think that God can be fooled into blessing us anyway?
I am in no place to judge, and of course have no idea what the leaders of any ministry are truly up against. But it is hard to not see what more could be done to embrace and nurture the recipients of such assumed church ministries.
The evidence is in the ache, the unfulfilled needs, and the nonchalance extant in those with the power to at least in part fulfill them.