We need one another.
A common response to telling people I work in ministry is them telling me how the church has hurt them. I’m not blind to the reality that people have been deeply bruised and battered by churches. In fact, I’ve heard approximately a thousand stories of people who have been hurt by the church.
I’m one of those people—I’ve seen the dark underbelly—but I’ve also been radically and permanently changed by the love of local churches throughout my life.
The story of my life is that there are countless reasons I should have fallen through the cracks. Countless reasons I shouldn’t have made it. But for every reason, the Church showed up for me.
When I was a person most people wouldn’t give a second glance to, the church came running to my rescue. The Church has stood in the gap for me in a thousand places where family could not.
A local church member:
- Brought me school clothes shopping as a kid.
- Paid for me to go to a children’s camp the year I got saved.
- Took me prom dress shopping.
- Was the first to say they were proud of me.
- Told me I could be somebody and pushed me to be better.
- Brought me and my brother casseroles while mom was in school.
- Came to my high school performances.
- Helped me get into college.
- Fed me homemade meals in college.
- Drove me to the ER when I thought I had broken my ankle.
- Invited me over for the holidays.
- Got my Christmas decorations for my first apartment.
- Held me.
- Taught me how to cook and clean.
- Prayed for me & told me I’d make it through.
- Helped me get into counseling.
- Helped me get my first house.
- Pushed me to be better.
I could probably think of 100 more examples of how local church members have encouraged, loved, and shown up for me. Over and over.
When the people who were supposed to support me could not—the Church showed up. That’s my testimony, and I think that’s the testimony of countless others, just as many have a testimony of being hurt.
Church hurt is real—
But so is healing, family, and support. It’s worth not giving up on, fighting for, and showing up for, I promise. It's worth giving a second chance.
I saw the hurt in one hand and the million little things people did to help me in the other. I made the decision that I want to be someone who helps other people feel loved by the Church. I want to be part of the solution, not run away because of a problem.
The Church is not a building; it’s God’s people. People are flawed and hurt, but oftentimes God also does a work of love and healing through others. People have an incredible power to affect others, but to quote Uncle Ben from Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” God’s people should love, uplift, encourage, challenge, and support each other. We have a responsibility to do so. Life is not a solo act; God created us and wired us for community. We NEED one another. Author and pastor Rick Warren says it this way: “He created the church to meet your five deepest needs: a purpose to live for, people to live with, principles to live by, a profession to live out, and power to live on. There is no other place on earth where you can find all five of these benefits in one place.”
We see this modeled by the early church in Acts 2:42: "All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer.” These believers lived life together, spent time together, ate meals together, and learned scripture together. A few chapters later, in Acts 4:32-35, we see that they went even further than that, giving up possessions and taking care of each other. “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.” This church sounds radically different from the culture that we know today. In a world where everyone is fighting to get ahead and looking out for themselves first, the Church should welcome the needy with open arms. They should love each other as deeply and fervently as Christ loves them. While individual churches have flaws, because they are run by sinful people, they also make great differences in people's lives.
If you have accepted Jesus, you are now a part of the Church. How you treat people impacts how they see Jesus and the Church. You are now on mission to share the love and light of Christ with those you come in contact with. You are an ambassador of Christ to the world. God uses a variety of people to accomplish His purpose in the Bible, but there's a common theme of Him using people who are seen as sinners, inadequate, and less than. God can use you, too. You are a part of this amazing, worldwide body of followers of Jesus that are changing the world. You can help this Church by serving both inside and outside of the Church walls. You can encourage and pray for other people. You can get plugged into a small group. You can love others, love God, and share His light with the people in your community. You can be used by God! You can make others feel loved, challenged, and cared for!
There are three questions I’d like to leave you with to ponder today:
- How has the local church impacted my life?
- How can I be a part of showing the love of Jesus to others?
- How can I get plugged into the church?