Last week, I had the privilege to visit my friend and sister in Christ. She is struggling with a very rare cancer, for which there has never been a healing to date, and is in late stage 4. As I visited with her, she began to mourn the many heartaches she felt, and I found my own heart breaking with hers.
I think the saddest lament she had was for the lack of visitation by her church. She said she felt abandoned and rejected by her "church family." By this wording, she meant the "organized church" she and I had once attended together. My family departed a year earlier due to several terrible issues, the last one irreconcilable because my faith in Christ would not compromised to accept a lie for the sake of "unity." Although I had left that church, I still maintained many friendships I had built, like the one with this dear sister. My friend had been diagnosed with cancer in March 2017 and hadn't been able to attend in person often as a result of surgeries and lack of energy. While last year, a couple from leadership had visited her in the hospital and checked on her once or twice after that, my friend shared no one in leadership had been in contact with her since early spring 2017. She'd received no encouragement, no comfort, no prayer time with those in leadership for many months now. What could I say to the broken heart of a forgotten sheep? All I could offer was my love, which may not be enough to replace the love she felt she lost. So, I just stood there holding her, hugging her, and praying over her.
My heart ached for my dying friend, and to be perfectly honest... I was also really pissed off at the church's neglect of her. Sadly today, this is all too common among churches. The friendliness you feel when attending on Sunday falls away quickly after you stop attending on a regular basis, even if that lack of attendance is related to an illness that makes you bedridden or other circumstances beyond your control. A fact, I learned caring from my mother-in-law. I was often unable to attend church, and I cannot recall a single person in leadership ever calling my house or visiting to check up on my family. Worse, most in leadership never even know you've stopped coming to church until several months go by, and even then there are few who will reach out. Only those in the "Inner Circle" of the church are truly noticed. The ones who are in the "Inner Click" matter; the rest of us are simply fringe on the edges it seems at times. Our presence doesn't truly matter, because our absence doesn't matter.
This seems to be the way of even the most well-meaning churches. I'm sure most don't even realize it. Sadly, when it's brought to the leadership's attention, denial and defensiveness reign supreme and excuses abound. Don't get me wrong, I understand everyone is busy. Life is busy and complicated for almost everyone. But when it comes to organized church leadership, THE Church is missing something the early Church never did. The first Church never had the organized structure we have today; instead they realized how important each member of the Body was to the wholeness of the Body of Christ. They took time to visit each other's homes, built personal relationships, and the strong reached out to those who were weaker. Do you remember when Tabitha died? The disciples in the next town over sought help from Peter who was traveling nearby... and Peter came immediately because of the request. Peter did not go because Tabitha was more special than any other Christian, though her deeds of generosity were many. Peter went simply because she was one of the sheep, a part of Body of Christ.
Today, our organized "church" structure is turned upside down. We've forgotten that we are all equals before Christ, all students and all witnesses with lessons to share. Now, the church is designed to rely on a few people to do everything, which is why there is that Inner Click at church. It's also why that Inner Click is distanced from the fringe and doesn't truly have strong relationships with most of the people of the pews. Many in leadership are being overworked and over relied upon. Of course, they put themselves in those designated positions and most of the congregation are happy to keep them there. But this was never to be the design of God's Church.
As I hugged my beautiful friend, I told her the truth... Jesus' Church had come to her and was with her even now. Of course, it was not necessarily her "organized church" or her "church leadership," but Jesus had sent His body to her. He had sent His finest leaders, those serving her in her hour of need. She was not abandoned nor forgotten. She had been in the company of many Saints who encouraged, supported, helped, and even prayed with her. We loved on her. THE Church had come!
The longer I am involved in "church," the more I truly believe the organized church is one of Satan's greatest lies. It isn't structured according to truth or the Lord's will despite the twists of scripture used to justify its existence. It has religious demands for all. Most congregations have bought into the lie and that's why the laborers are so few. Jesus said there would be no rulers over us but Him. He said we would be equals, serving together (Matthew 20:25-28). Many organized churches say they believe this philosophy, but honestly they don't live it. When push comes to shove, you'll hear it said, "not in MY church." Well, Thank God we do not belong to their church!
We belong to God's one, true Church: the Church of Jesus Christ which is neither divided on this side of Heaven or the other side. It spans denominations and local church bodies. It is universal and world-wide, yet is is united and singular in it's design and mission. There is only 1 body, and the Lord's body is not divided. We may not all agree all the time as we are limited by the knowledge we have gained in our walk and our faith, but we should all be moving in the same direction under the power and guidance of the Holy Spirit. Everyone was brought into THE Church to serve others, to help bare other's burdens, to encourage and edify the whole Body of Christ. If you aren't serving at some point each day to spiritually, physically, or emotionally edify others, than you have missed the entire point of BEING the Church.
It's not too late. Don't be afraid to step up into the position God has called you. Let no person limit your expression of God's love in this life. You were never meant to sit in a pew, sing a few songs, and be lectured for an hour on Sunday and walk away believing that you went to church.
Church isn't something you do!
It's WHO you are and WHOSE you are!
Christians cannot wait for organized church leadership to do everything, nor should we ever give anyone that much power over our walk with Christ. We must step up to comfort those in need. We must start recognizing the Truth. We are THE Church and our walk in Christ Jesus is 24/7/365. It is our appointment as the Church to serve others, just as Jesus served us.
We are literally Jesus' hands and feet on this earth,
We represent billions of physical opportunities to show God's love.
We are THE Church!
"Comfort Ye, Comfort Ye My People Says Your God..."
An Alaskan Author, Prospector, Homeschool Teacher, Ordained Minister,
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