Church Is A Lonely Place

If I were to take a poll of the saddest stories you’ve ever heard about the happenings of the Church, you’d probably come up with a few familiar tales… pastors abusing their power, finance directors embezzling funds, etc. But these are only the symptoms of deeper issues that desperately need to be dealt with. Byproducts of a kind of isolation that leaves any person vulnerable to becoming the prey of sin.

By far, one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen in today’s Christian church is not the mishandling of funds or sexual indiscretions (sad in their own rite) but rather when cliques form at the expense of those on the fringes. Following Christ is meant to be done together, for sure. But somehow our affinities isolate others. This isolation it’s especially evident on Sunday mornings. The regulars pool together and the new folks sit alone. Without a connection, would they continue to come back? They already feel vulnerable and out of place. So why so often do we leave them to fend for themselves on the outside of our circles? Have we left them for the proverbial wolves?

There are three groups of people that attend our services any given Sunday: the Cynic, the Seeker and the Servant. If you find yourself in either of the first two groups of people, this article isn’t about you. We welcome you to continue to explore what it means to follow Christ within the context of a community of other Christ-followers. But if you’ve been around this community of Christians for more than a couple of months, I’d like to invite you into the third group.

I’ve heard some people within this third circle–members of this church, in fact–comment that they didn’t get anything out of the service. I’ve heard comments like, “Last Sunday morning was a waste of time.” Or, “Why did I put forth the effort to get out of bed, get my kids ready and make the drive to experience something so flat?” Sometimes I think people wish we could somehow make personal calls on Saturday night to say, “Listen, tomorrow’s not gonna do anything for you, so why don’t you just stay home.” Now, I don’t think that this is a majority attitude (at least I hope not), but I’ll bet some of you have thought this at some point.

The problem with this attitude is that it’s nothing shy of arrogance. It’s pompous and self-serving. This attitude fosters the mindset that the reason we gather on Sundays is for you. If you’ve found yourself at the Grove for more than a couple of months, maybe this is the first time you’ve heard it so let me be clear… if you are a regular of this place, Sunday is not designed for your listening pleasure. The songs. The message. The provisions. Not for our members. We expect our members to attend and find a way to serve on Sundays and then participate in Small Groups throughout the week. Sunday is largely designed for our guests. And your presence on Sundays is for our guests, for the people who are looking for a reason to connect to the church. You are not merely just a body filling a seat, you are a connection point for someone wondering why they should stick around. That new couple sitting beside you is wondering what makes you want to come and be part of this community. And more often than not, you keep quiet and people move on in search of a place to belong.

We have a Connecting Ministry at our church. And you’re in it. You may not have been formally recruited. But you are the reason people decide either to stick around for another week or to move on. It’s not the teaching or the music or the kids program. Those are secondary for most people who are looking to connect. People choose to stick around when they feel like they matter. If you’re a member, a servant, you are the connecting point. It’s through your invitation that people move from one circle into the next.

But Sandwich

We’re home now, which is better than being stuck in a hospital. We get to shower and put on clean clothes, cook a meal and sleep in our own beds. We’re able to enjoy the lights on our Christmas tree and the garland stretched across the mantle over the crackling fireplace. We’ve watched holiday movies with our kids and kissed the grimy-faced little boys we’ve been apart from for more than a week.

But we’re not healthy still. Grady’s got a version of what Rosie has. Fortunately, it only affects toddlers mildly. Eli’s appetite is low and he has been a little sniffly. Not a big deal under normal circumstances but considering what we’ve been though lately, we don’t take anything lightly.

Kelley and I have both come down with probably the same thing. For us, it’s a head cold but with Rosie’s RSV in its history. We’re both getting better but it makes it a challenge to care for a baby with nasty chest congestion and breathing impairment, a toddler and a six year old with a cold and try to make Christmas memorable for them.

What you will not hear from us is complaining. No matter how challenging these days, we are glad to be at home walking though this together.

As most of you know, our family is the center of our lives. And for us, when we are apart we feel it. So to be together, regardless of what’s going on within and around us, is more fulfilling than any other option. Especially during the holiday season.

I know we still have a week or so to go before Rosie is actually cleared. She has to sleep elevated for awhile until we are certain her O2 levels stay in the safe zone while she sleeps. To do this she is strapped into a specially designed wedge that helps her breathe and keeps her oxygen where it needs to be. The problem is – she hates it. It scares her. And her voice is gone from all that she’s been through, so when she cries we don’t hear her. It’s heartbreaking, really. She wakes up alone in a contraption she can’t escape from and can’t tell us she needs us.

Best I can relate, it’s like the dreams I have where I’m being chased and can’t produce the sound from my voice to scream for help.

Last night, we put the wedge between us in our queen-size bed so that if she woke up, we’d be there with her and maybe she wouldn’t be so scared. But due to its size, Kelley and I each have less than two feet of space in the bed for our adult bodies. Which only allows for one sleeping position; I call it the coffin pose. Toes up. Hands crossed across the chest. No movement allowed. Some people may like this. It’s a bit restrictive for us.

We’ll work it out somehow.

We have become more aware recently how connected we all are to each other.

You and I.
We and them.
All of us.

Your prayers over the past ten days have been enriching, empowering and enlightening. We have begun to discover more of the richness of how our prayers connect us not only to our Creator but to the spirits of each one of you. Please know that we are deeply grateful for all the ways you have given to us. Not just the last week and a half but in ways that we are very likely unaware.

We are thankful. There is more good news these days than bad.