Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Finding Community in the Body of Believers

A few years ago, we moved here to the community where we now live.  We happened to move two weeks before I had our second daughter.  I was very isolated and alone.  We tried to find a church, but in the midst of experiencing post partum depression and other suffering in my life, I struggled to find someone to turn to.  I wrote this free verse poem after I had sought help from someone and they shut the door.  I believe now that the woman had no idea how deep my struggle was or how deep the pit was that I found myself in.  She had reasons for shutting the door, but it sent me to my knees.  I don't think she meant it out of ill will, but would she have done something different if she'd known how truly I was in need?  Sometimes I think people say no without considering helping them find another source of help.  I was left questioning what the church is supposed to be and what it is.


The church
Community or Clique?
Filled with boundaries or open doors?
Reaching out or isolated?

The body of Christ
Only in one building?
Only in one church?
Only in one denomination?

The community of believers
Is there such a thing?
Does it exist anymore?
Or do people only take care of their own?

People are falling down
Who is going to pick them up?
Who is going to help them walk?
Who is going to help put the pieces back together?

Remember the Good Samaritan…
Aren’t we supposed to love others well…
Even if they aren’t in our church?

Tonight my heart hurts
I’m falling down
I’m not in a church
I love the Lord

But I turned for help…
and the door was shut…

in the name of community
in the name of taking care of one’s own

Where do I go?

Lord, Help me to love others well and reach out again.  Help me to believe that help will come someday.  Help me to know that I am not alone.  
I love you, Lord.

...  It took several years, but we finally did find a church home.  We settled for a time in a church where we heard grace preached.  But, we realized that we deeply needed and longed for community.   To me, a community of believers is one where people encourage one another, folks support each other with acts of service when needed, check on one another, hold each other accountable, and love the people in the body of Christ.  Last year, when we began attending the church we go to, I felt like I'd finally found a church family.  I can't think of my church without being thankful for the body of believers there. Honestly, tears often come to my eyes because of how thankful I am.  It is not perfect, but I know that I can turn for help there and I know that every family in my church is actively supporting other families in and outside of our church.  I have found that it is our suffering and pain that helps us learn to love others best.  And that is my heart--that no one would come to our church and not feel welcome.  Being an outsider can make one bitter and hard hearted or it can help one trust God as one finds a new place to belong.

There are some pastors that feel they are simply to be preachers.  They cannot be expected to be shepherds.  I know this because two pastors said this directly to my husband and I.  At one church, I asked an elder who I could ask for help while my husband was away for work and he didn't know.  He told me he'd have to think about it.  I was shocked to hear these things.  We only live in a tiny corner of the world and I fear that there are other pastors and elders who feel this way.  This belief deeply grieves me.  As much as we value independence in our nation, accountability and wise counsel are critical.  

I Peter 5:1-2 NIV 

1 To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve

A church is led by its pastor and elders.  Though I doubt any pastors or elders will read this, I would want to encourage them to shepherd the flocks God has given them.  If you go to church, I'd like to encourage you to look around on Sunday morning and see if you see anyone like me--the woman who is hurting but holding it together enough to not let anyone see it.  If you see someone who isn't talking with anyone, take a risk and go talk to them.  Find out who they are.  They will see God's love in that small, kind gesture.

1 John 4:12 NIV

12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

We have the chance every time we walk out our doors to love others and share God's love with them.

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