This post isn’t my first about problems that I’ve seen in The Church. It probably won’t be my last. But what I have learned in the last year is that abandonment can come from the strangest places. Even your church small group.
But wait? Isn’t it supposed to be a collection of friends? If not bound by real camaraderie than because of a shared belief in Christ and the benefits of sacrificing time to come together each week for the purpose of the GOD commanded directive to fellowship with other Christians? Is it?
One by one I have heard so many stories of difficulties arising in church-goers lives. Genuine hardships that can cause any human to do what is easiest when things are at their worst: retreat. What they leave in their wake is not what you’d think.
I try until it hurts to be transparent. Do you think I wanted to tell the group of girls that I was leading that I had lied to them by omitting the fact that I had been in a destructive relationship for the last 7 months? Nope. But I did. Because it affected them because I was their teacher and spiritual adviser. I wanted to be someone to look up to and to maintain that I needed to be honest. I needed to come clean. Were they pleased with my actions? No.
But guess what? They were pleased with my honesty. They were edified by my trust in them to make the decision about my character themselves. They were relieved that I too, make mistakes.
When I did what I did it had negative and positive consequences. Some of the youth didn’t trust me anymore and they didn’t have to, I didn’t deserve it. But some of them felt comfortable enough in light of my failure to tell me the real ways that they were struggling.
That is fellowship.
GOD calls us to be a supportive familial network; loving each other as brothers and sisters. The other day, loving my brother meant that when I got a text from my mom saying, “Ben wants you to text him” my response was sending him a message asking,
“Dude, why are you being so lazy?”
Our mom isn’t a carrier pigeon. Send your own messages.
Call it tough love, whatever, but love is tough.
In John 13:35 Jesus says:
” By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
When I teach that I like to say that the Love that Jesus was talking about isn’t just warm and fuzzy. It is also inconvenient and uncomfortable.
Does your small group show inconvenient and uncomfortable love to one another? Or after a quick group “cover all” prayer do you plan next week’s meal?
It starts with authenticity.
If I’m spilling my guts to you and you can’t do it back I will stop coming to you. Why? Because that’s not a relationship. That is you, checking off boxes in your do-gooder workbook.
Are you not telling people in your small group because you want to save them? They want to know. They want to help.
Are you not telling them because you don’t want to be a burden? Well then how dare you let them be a burden to you. Because if that’s what sharing difficulties is to you, burdensome, then I’m not going to burden you anymore.
You have, even unwittingly, by trying to save your pride or not be a burden, or just not tell me for whatever reason, alienated me. You have said with your actions: This does not go both ways.
It’s like I asked you to be a bridesmaid in my wedding and you asked me to serve punch at yours. Because emotionally, that’s how it feels. If you don’t think your small group is trustworthy enough to share the real things that are happening in your life, you need to ask yourself some questions.
Is it the people? Is it the atmosphere? Is it me?
I get it, if you don’t trust them.
But if you do? If you expect them to call you for help and you won’t call out when you need it you aren’t being honest.
If I ask how you are and you say, “fine”, when things aren’t fine, you are lying.
Superficial things don’t last.
We need to be calling each other out on our crap. We need to be comfortable crying with one another, praying with one another, following up with each other, being open and available to each other.
That is fellowship.
Pre-occupation with perception is enough to ruin any ministry or relationship. Stop thinking you have to show church your, “best side”.
In the words of a quote frequently attributed to Marilyn Monroe,
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
Jesus didn’t die for your best. He died for your worst and when you act like you don’t have a worst you deny your need for a Savior. You essentially deny Christ’s whole purpose in restoring you to fellowship with GOD the Father.
Why are we all agreeing we need a Savior then acting like we don’t?
I don’t want to waste my time fostering a belief that participation in a shallow, weekly, dinner party is enough to constitute fellowship. We’re supposed to be meeting each others needs, even if we happen to be the needy ones at the moment.
Small group is a place in the church where we should feel comfortable to bring our problems, but we should also know that if we can’t meet our friends where they are, they will come to us.
Don’t let people get away with their crap. Call them on it. Tell them you don’t think that they’re just OK. Let your host family take a break and meet somewhere else. Small groups shouldn’t need leaders. We should be motivated enough to make it work to spend time together.
Don’t miss this opportunity to love inconveniently. How else will anyone know that you can love them powerfully?
And stop being selfish. Stop thinking that you’re a burden. You aren’t. If someone calls you that, they aren’t a friend.
Just let someone carry you. If not for your benefit, than to help them learn that they are strong enough to give out love too.
This week, when your small group meets, ask yourself why you’re there. Are you surrounded by friends? Would everything collapse if your “leadership” fell on hard times? Are you willing to open your home, your heart, your wallet for these people?
If the answer is no, then why not?
*P.S. Friends don’t clean before real friends come over.*
*P.P.S. Stop by facebook.com/RethinkTrauma and get a tee shirt to help foster kids get duffle bags. *
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