NOTE: I often feel like I write about the same things over and over. But I can’t figure out how to convey to churches that they need to step up in the compassion department. Seriously. Church people can be clueless about the very things we are supposed to be about. How can we convey this? #nag
Every church believes it’s “friendly” of course. But how hospitable are we, really? How would you answer these questions in terms of how your spiritual community usually responds?
A guest comes into worship for the first time. She bravely (and tearfully) discloses, during the time of sharing prayer concerns and celebrations, that she’s recently been diagnosed with lung cancer. She has lived in the neighborhood for five years but now finds herself in need of a supportive community. What happens next?
A. People nod and offer supportive facial expressions. The newcomer’s concern is prayed for by the leader during corporate prayers.
B. The church member who happens to be sitting next to her immediately moves closer and introduces herself, adding “May I take you out for lunch today after worship?”
C. A deacon or other church leader passes her a note during worship that says, “How can we support you? My name is ____. Please share your contact information and we can talk about ways we might be able to help. Anything from being a sounding board to driving you to your appointments.”
A new family in church is looking for the sign up to prepare dinner for another family in need. What happens next?
A. The Lady-in-Charge guarding the sign up sheet says, “We don’t need you to sign up. Thanks but no thanks.”
B. The Lady-in-Charge beside the sign up sheet says, “I don’t think we’ve met. Thanks for signing up.”
C. A church regular randomly standing near the sign up sheet says, “You guys are awesome for making dinner for the Kelly’s. Do you need directions to their house? Also have you heard about the First Friday softball game in the park?”
A man who’s just getting involved after being a member for a couple years attends a meeting to help plan the upcoming mission dinner. The others at the meeting are all long-term members who have worked on this annual dinner for decades. When no one volunteers to chair the dinner, he speaks up and offers to do it. What happens next?
A. Crickets. The others all look at each other as if to say, “This guy will have no idea what to do. I’d rather do it myself than have to hold his hand.”
B. After he suggested that the main dish being something Haitian (since the mission dollars are going to Haiti), last year’s dinner chairperson says bluntly, “No one would eat that. We always serve ham.”
C. Although few of those gathered have ever had Haitian food, they encourage the new idea. Last year’s dinner chairperson says, “What do you need us to do to help?”
Here’s the thought that often eats away at me: I witness not only a lack of hospitality in most of the congregations I visit, but I also observe basic meanness on a regular basis. Yes, we in Jesus’ body are as gossipy, cranky, self-centered, and petty as the rest of the world, but the difference is that we are trying not to be like the rest of the world. Aren’t we?
Image is the installation of a community art project created to welcome strangers to a park in Oakland, CA.