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.