This is a guest post by Shanda Oakley. Please check out her blog called “A Pause on the Path”. The topic of her post is an issue that I had been planning to write about myself. But I don’t think I could do any better than Shanda’s well written, honest, and heart-felt thoughts. Thank you Shanda. I have had similar experiences, and have also found “the church” to be a very cliquey place.
“Alone in the Church”
By Shanda Oakley
Since teaching a lesson on compassion for my ladies bible study this past week, the subject has been weighing heavy on my heart. The area bothering me is not compassion for the lost, the sick or the poor, but compassion for the lonely, isolated and hurting within the church walls.
Last night I attended an event with my twenty year old son who is lonely, hurting and hiding. There were many present from the college group at church, most of whom had no idea who my son was. The host was very gracious and engaged my son in conversation a couple times. However, no one else noticed that there was a stranger in their midst. Or if they did, they did not bother to leave their group of friends to introduce themselves or try to include him. This was the same lack of reaction he received when he attended the college group at church a few times. Before you get me wrong, let me clarify myself. Most of the blame lies with my son. In his insecurities and preconceived notions about ‘Christians’ he has isolated himself and does not give out good vibes. Yet it is often these people that need the church to reach out to them the most.
This isn’t only true of young people. What about the person on Sunday morning who arrives alone in their car, walks in alone, sits by themselves, receives a ‘good morning’ with their bulletin and a handshake during welcome time, but no other one-on-one interaction. They leave as lonely as they arrived. Or what about the individual who arrives looking like they came from the wrong side of the tracks, or whose sexual orientation is in question.
The definition of compassion is ‘a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.’ So feeling sorry for someone is not the same as showing compassion. We may feel bad for someone because they don’t have any friends but if we aren’t willing to be that friend we are not compassionate.
The reality is, only a small percentage of people are popular and that is alright. Most people only need one or two friends. But they do need Christians to be friendly, supportive and compassionate.
Sadly the church often resembles the world when it comes to clicks and selfishness.
What weighs on my heart this morning is that I am guilty of the same. I notice ladies arrive alone at bible study yet I often do not seek them out. These are often the women who leave as soon as study is over, often noticing the groupings of ladies discussing where they will go to lunch. Do they yearn to be invited? On Sunday mornings I seek out my life group instead of those either new or avoided by others. I am guilty of ignoring the people I don’t want to get caught up in conversation with.
The tune and lyrics of “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me…” are playing through my subconscious as I write. I can’t change how others think or act but I can change myself. My heart is softly crying for the hurting individuals who dare to enter our church walls, needing not only a word from God but a touch from His people.
Right now my cat is crawling into my lap and pushing my computer aside in her desire to be stroked and loved. It is an inconvenient time to ask for love as I am trying to verbalize my feelings. Yet I push my computer away to pet her and scratch her head. As I stroke her, I ask myself, “Will I do the same tomorrow on the church campus? Will I stop what I enjoy doing, end conversations with people I love, and take time to show compassion to whomever the Lord lays on my heart?”
“For whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” That means that every lonely, unconnected person at church tomorrow should be ‘Jesus’ to me. So I pray that God will lay on my heart who He wants me to touch and take away any selfishness, fear or insecurities, so that I will reach out. Let there be change in the church and let it begin with me. Give me a heart of compassion for the ‘alone’. – (Link for this original post is here.)