Friday, August 5, 2011

Ministering Without Exclusion

It's become more apparent to me lately that there is a huge population of Christians who say they have a ministry but then seemingly isolate most other people, including other Christians. They seem to be focused on only a small group of people with whom they feel comfortable with.

Before I move on, I want to make it clear that this isn't meant to offend or hurt anyone. I'm not pointing any fingers nor am I judging anyone. I, the chief of sinners, cannot judge anyone else. I'm still trying to get the log out of my own eye in many aspects of my life. But nonetheless, the issue weighs on my heart and warrants some attention.

I've been observing more and more cliquishness in our churches, and among the Christian population in general. I'm convicted to measure myself by the traits I see here that have caused so much hurt both in and out of "the Christian circles". I'm referring to those who claim to love God so much through some type of ministry, yet they isolate others who differ from them. I've been hurt by cliquishness and I think far too many of us have. I'll admit that I can see where it'd be easy adopt the comfort mindset. Anything "uncomfortable" goes against our human nature. Stepping outside of my comfort zone just isn't my specialty.

But when you feel called to show God's love, you have to put aside your own preferences and just obey. Showing God's love in itself isn't something that comes natural to our flesh. It's a struggle. The Christian life, if lived to the fullest extent, isn't at all that comfortable. It's a life of trials and growth, constant humbling, obedience and learning to die to self. And need I dare say, dying to self is the most UNCOMFORTABLE aspect.

I wasn't "raised in church" like many others. I wasn't raised in a "normal" home. I came from a very broken place and from a broken family. I was raised by my mom, for whom nothing ever came easy. We struggled, we hurt--a lot. I have family members, including my mother, who still refuses to go to church on a regular basis. Each of them have the idea that they have to "fit it" and that they never will. The idea came from not one, but several consistent experiences that led them to tuck their tail when the word "church" was mentioned. I, too struggle to fit in at times. I struggle to feel that some of my fellow believers accept me--junk and all.

Personally, I'd like to know who in their right mind thought it'd be okay to assume the role as the manager of God's fan club. Is this what we teach people, that they have to fit in? If so, we're doing our God and His love a great injustice. We, Christians as a whole, have missed His message somehow simply by building the mere perception that that someone has to "fit in". It's bothers me that even with all the "church people" we came in contact with during those years, none of them could set aside their judgmental ideas to see the hurt and the needs of my family. If anyone needed God and His saving grace, we did.

Thankfully after 18 years, someone did take notice of my hurts and my need for Him. Dan McKenney, a local pastor, and I had no common denominators but he kept reminding me of God's love anyway. God used him to get my attention. And I'm so thankful for people like him, who place no boundaries on their willingness to be used by God.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big believer in the need for church and church services. I need to be around people who believe in Jesus Christ and celebrate Him with me. It makes my soul quite happy. But it seems to me that in many of our churches there is at least one person who thinks they've earned the right to determine who is "good enough". Did they miss the real message of Jesus Christ or are they just oblivious that Satan's using them to run his errands?

The idea that you are who you surround yourself with is quite true. If you surround yourself with people who focus on God and godly things, you will too. It's unavoidable. But even Jesus Christ made it a point to reach out to all kinds of people, especially those who are hurting, to serve their needs. And if He is God, as He is indeed, who are we to say we can't do the same?

The only criteria He set for us to become a Christian is to believe on Him from the pits of our being --that He died to save us from death. He didn't set a list of requirements for us to be saved, so then who are we to think we can modify His criteria? Yes, He has instructions for us, but not everyone struggles with the same things. It's not up to any one of us to say whether someone should or should not be loved or even forgiven. He uses our willingness to reach out and love others to shape their paths.

This subject weighs heavily on my heart as it's clear to me that I should evaluate myself consistently to be sure that as I grow I'm not bringing my own preferences into the mix. I didn't make the rules and I don't get to start now. I welcome you to hold me accountable. We need to hold each other accountable to step outside our comfort zone. Our preferences cause hurt to others but God wants for us to love others. We can't reach people by hurting them, we only isolate with that approach.

I'm not just talking about Christians reaching out to the unsaved either. I'm talking about Christians serving to the full extent by reaching out to anyone in need of comfort. We overlook each other more than I care to admit. But if we don't encourage one another, we leave the wounded in our army unattended. And that is simply foolish. When we think we can operate by inserting our own set of rules into His, we've become too big for our britches--which is exactly how Satan got started.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jennifer,

    I am so proud of you. You have grown so much "in Christ" over the years. I think the godly husband you have has helped in healing many of your hurts. I hope to meet him one day before I go to be with me Lord. You are such a gifted writer with great insight from the Lord. We are on a spiritual journey together as God continues to chip away the rough edges until we are conformed into His glorious likeness. You have made my day and Sheryl's as well. Love you sister.