Monday, January 9, 2012

Thinking about....loneliness, relationships and the purpose of church

I had a conversation last week with someone who is a relative newcomer at our church (she has started coming along in the last twelve months). It got me thinking about how people can feel left out in a church community.

So I did a bit of googling on the topic and I was reading this earlier today on another blog. Interesting:

We need to think of churches as moral rather than social communities. When I go to church I need to have ethics on the brain and not intimacy. This, I think, is a huge problem with many churches. People go to church to have their relational needs met. They don't go to get morally challenged or changed. Thus, if I have a good social time at church then church is great and fulfilling. Conversely, if church is a lonely affair I stop going and think it sucks.

The goal of church, to my mind, is to be better, not to be known. Of course, in the effort to become better I become known. I'll need to confess and ask forgiveness. I'll need to give an honest moral accounting of myself. And so on. These things promote community and camaraderie and even friendship.

Again, don't get me wrong. Relationships are important. Feeling known and connected is important. But if these things become the focal point then church is just a club and people will start evaluating it like a club. Worse, once you get "inside" the club there is little incentive to let new people into your church, clique or circle of friends. Once you find your "group" you relax. You are no longer lonely! You've finished the race. Won the price. And fought the good fight. Well done good and faithful servant!

And best of luck to those people left on the outside.

Not sure I'm entirely in agreement with what this guy has to say. But it did make me think. As someone who has felt "on the outer" at times in our current church, there was something about this that rang true to me. We need to be careful that we don't get so caught up in our own circle of friends that we see new people as possible disruptions to the existing comfortable rapport we share. This leads to disunity. And people who come along a few times to our church, and then quietly disappear.

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