At the East Texas Freethinkers meeting earlier this month, Peggy Downing recalled taking out a Christian friend who needed some cheering up. Her friend commented that Peggy had made more of an effort to cheer her up than any of her church friends had.
Most of the time, a church community isn’t malicious. It’s just a group of messed-up people trying their best to imitate a perfect God. But like the 4-year-old who tries to write her name in crayon, it’s going to take us a while to get it right.
But whatever happens that keeps someone from staying engaged in a faith community, the community’s response should be the same as God’s response to us.
Your friend who stops coming to church because they are questioning their faith? Call them to talk about a TV show you both love.
The man who stops coming to Bible study because his wife left him?
Invite him to a football game.
The new mom who can’t make it to Sunday mornings because she’s overwhelmed?
Stop by and visit her.
If God calls their heart back to Him, that’s His prerogative. If not, nothing you do will make that happen. But you certainly can hurt the process instead.
When the Pharisees began to grumble at Jesus for welcoming and eating with “sinners,” he responded with the parable of the Lost Sheep.
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them,” he said. “Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
If Christians are supposed to be Christ-like, and Jesus would leave 99 sheep to bring home one who is lost, why on Earth wouldn’t we call a friend who we notice is missing?