Consider Ephesians 2:1-10 and Romans 5: 6-8. Christ loved us and died for us even though we were ungodly, sinful, and dead in our trespasses. We were unworthy, yet God reached out to us. I believe God is omniscient, and knew ahead of time that some people would reject Him. Yet, God reached out still, and did not place demands or expectations on people. That is grace!
Or…Have you ever considered that Jesus washed the feet of Judas KNOWING that Judas would betray Him (John 13)? Really think about that. Would you humbly perform an act of service for someone that you KNEW was going to double-cross you or stab you in the back? I doubt it. I should be able to imitate my Savior in this way, but I don’t think I’d be able to.
I think as Christians we too often only care for and love people….who we like, who are already a part of our circle, who are easy to love, who are receptive, who can give back in some way, who will properly appreciate what we do for them, etc. But that is not the Christian way. We are also to love the unlovable and the undeserving. (In fact, sometimes people like that are precisely the ones who really need our love!)
Now I am going to take this in another direction. The church setting. We are not only to love those outside the church, we are to love those IN the church as well.
Do we love people at our church simply for who they are? Or do we place demands and expectations on them?
Sadly, I think we often do the later – but perhaps indirectly or without quite realizing that is what we are doing.
Often when you visit a church, it is emphasized that in order to get “plugged in” you must start volunteering and join a small group. There is some validity here. We should not go to church only to be “takers” but need to give of ourselves too. And if we dash out the door after the service every week, we’re not giving people a chance to be friendly to us.
But it seems like ALL the responsibility is being placed on the visitor!
Shouldn’t the church be reaching out too?
And…for a variety of legitimate reasons, some people may hesitate to volunteer or visit a small group. Just because they don’t do these things, doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Don’t forget the people on the sidelines! Reach out to them, befriend them, and draw them into the life of the church.
A friend of mine and her husband are very gifted believers with leadership skills, shepherding skills, musical talent, etc. They were at a church for years, and unfortunately this church only saw them as “objects” – as people who could “do” for the church. Their relationships were one-sided, with them always giving but never being cared for themselves. Eventually, they moved on from this church and were burned out. At their new church, they did not want to immediately start to serve. Rather – they first wanted to become known and accepted for who they are – not for what they could do.
Other people have been hurt by a church in the past. Before they will get involved again, they need to first experience some genuine care and feel like they can trust people. (Yet, this will never happen if no one reaches out to them.)
Other people may be new to a church environment, and feel nervous about visiting a small group. They may not know what their gifts are yet, and be uncertain about how to serve. They need someone to come along side of them and encourage them as they take one small step at a time integrating into the church.
I can share a personal example here. We worked with an un-churched family, meeting with them at their home, teaching them about the Christian faith. After awhile, we suggested they try attending church. This was a huge and scary step for them! Most unfortunately, the people at this church did not reach out to them. The family stopped attending after awhile, and have since lost interest in the faith as well.
Are we willing to reach out to people personally (one-on-one), instead of just expecting them “to get with the program” by joining a group and starting to serve?
We should be cautious that we don’t make people feel like they have to jump through hoops in order to be loved and cared for by the church.
It seems that we have gotten the process backwards somehow. We expect people to make the first move, instead of us moving towards them.
Has one-on-one outreach become a thing of the past?
There are so many lonely, nervous, and hurting people within the church walls that need us to make the first move. Look around at church…be more observant…pray for spiritual sight…who is on the sidelines? Reach out in love with no strings attached. That is grace.
**Want to reach out but don’t know how? See this post: Drawing People into the Life of the Church. It is the first post in a series with PRACTICAL ways to reach out to people.