29 November, 2006

Opening Our Circle

Most people have a natural tendency to gravitate to a certain circle of friends and people that they associate with. Again, this is quite natural, but especially in the realm of the church world, it is something we must fight against doing to the point of excluding others. Truthfully, I don't think most people even realize that they do it, and if you asked them, they'd say that they don't. But actions do speak louder than words. The fact is, that even in a small church like the one where I pastor, where the average attendance is somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 and there are about 90 who attend, most people don't make any effort to get to know anyone new and who is not a part of their circle. A case in point. Last night we went to the church to decorate for Christmas and there was one family who has attended the church for many years, and a woman who has been attending for about a year. I watched them as they interacted with my wife and myself, but never with each other. Finally, I asked, "have you folks ever met?" The woman who had attended for years said that she recognized the other woman, but did not know her. I introduced them to each other, told a little about each of them to get the ball rolling... but it stopped dead in it's tracks. The circle was closed. I don't say that to condemn or put down anyone... it is just a fact that we must recognize and address. We wonder why more people do not get involved and show concern for the church. Well, the reason is obvious: We have kept them on the outside of the circle!

There is a project in the church that has needed to be done for about 13 montsh now. It has sat, untouched, for over a year. Some of those who have been a part of the church for years have complained that "no one cares, so why bother?" That's the perspective that they see it from. But the truth is, there are people who care. In the past many months, I have had numerous people come and ask me about the project. I've told them that while I did not have the expertise to do this kind of work, that there were those in the church who did, and that they should ask them about helping out. The problem? They don't really know these people well enough to feel comfortable in approaching them about it. So there is a stand-off taking place. Then, this week there was a discussion about some of the men doing the work later in the week, and it was mentioned that they contact one man who wants to get involved, and has asked repeatedly about helping... but the response was, "Well, we don't want too many people there."
" Close the circle a little tighter!

OK, it might be more help than we need, but if we open the circle to bring others in and make them feel needed and part of the group, isn't this what it is all about? We all (including me) have got to work on opening our circle up to others. People, especially men, want to be active and involved, but they cannot find an entry point. It is up to us who have been around longer to make the first move. We have no right to grumble and complain that "no one cares" when we silently keep others at arms length. The change must happen in us before it will happen in the church. Painful as it may be, the problem begins in us.


ruthrap said...

In order for the circle to be opened, it first has to be broken! So many of us have a tendency to exclude people from our comfortable little circle of friends, probably not intentionally, but we do it and for a number of reasons...I think we are all guilty..we must force ourselves to approach people, not prejudge them and attempt to become their friends, sometimes you have to make the first move, because chances are they have the same hesitations about approaching you!
Don't be afraid to open up to people and to make new friends!

pnps said...

Years ago Doyle Daugherty did seminar on "How To Be A People Reacher", I don't remember the substance of his class as much as the concept...it takes effort, people are out there and need to be reached. Our problem in church has become as you said a closed circle...we expect new comers to introduce themselves and find their way in, rather than us reaching out and inviting them. I too am guilty, some days I simply don't like people...period! But it's not about me and my likes or dislikes, I'm a part of the covenant community, the Kingdom is in me, therefore I have a responsibility to reach beyond myself and invite others into my circle. Good word today Pastor...Thanks!

Phil Hoover, Chicago said...

PNPS said it best, "We are part of a covenant community."

The last pastor I had (more than a year ago) went out of his way to make sure that I knew that I "did not matter to this church"--his words, not mine.

After three years, I left. I was basically pushed out.

And we dare call ourselves Christ-followers, huh?

BV COG said...

Did I see that correctly, did Doyle's name appear on Dawg's blog?