The blogger over at “Samaritan’s Song” recently had a post entitled: Remember the Absent. It resonated with me, and the last sentence poignantly brings it to a close: “If a sparrow cannot fall without God’s notice, how can a person vanish without ours?”
Awhile back I had a series of posts about welcoming people into the life of the church, and one post was about being a shepherd. Here are 2 excerpts from that post:
Most of us don’t live in an area where literal shepherding exists anymore. A shepherd cares for the life of his sheep. A shepherd watches the flock, and goes after sheep who stray. Jesus is called our shepherd (John 10:11-18), and church leaders are to shepherd the flock of believers as well (I Peter 5:2). But I also think individual Christians should have a shepherding care for each other. For example, the New Testament contains numerous “one another” passages….
Be on the look out for people…try to be more observant. If someone misses small group or the church service a couple weeks in a row, check in on them. Give them a call. This isn’t about harassing someone, but just letting them know in a friendly way that they were missed and showing concern that they are okay. There is nothing worse than feeling like an invisible person…that you can suddenly stop showing up and no one even notices. Shepherds care when a sheep goes missing, but first they have to notice that the sheep has gone missing to begin with!
Back to the current post:
Looking back over a lifetime of church experiences, I have unfortunately often encountered more “shepherding care” in the secular setting than in the church setting. How can this be??
I know that I’m not alone in this observation or personal experience. A somewhat common complaint I’ve heard over the years is from a person who went absent from church or a church group, and no one ever noticed.
Even worse, is how Christians can respond to this type of concern. They immediately go on the defense. They may accuse the said person of having an entitlement mentality. They may accuse the person of being self-centered and demanding because they thought everyone should have noted their absence! Sigh. Or they pass judgment, assuming that the person has not showed up because they are lazy or lack commitment.
I do realize that an entitlement mentality (and such) can exist, but that is not what I typically observe from those who have experienced being the invisible person. For example, a middle-aged single man recently shared with us, in a matter of fact way, that he missed church for several weeks and not one person noticed or reached out to him. He did not share this in an angry or emotional way, but rather in a levelheaded factual way. Particularly as a single person, with no wife or kids in the home, I thought it was extra sad that no one checked in on him.
At my health club once, I observed something that really touched me. I was exercising near the front desk and overheard a phone call. The employee was checking up on an older gentleman who routinely came to the gym every day, and suddenly failed to come 2 days in a row. This employee was concerned, and made a phone call to double check that this man was okay.
The church should excel at reaching out and checking in on people. After all, that is the nature of our God. God, through Jesus the Son, stepped into our world! While there are churches or individual Christians who reflect our God in this way, I honestly feel that way too many are failing in this area. Thoughts welcome.
* Continuing thoughts here: Reaching out without being a hound.