Many of you know our family spent the last week in El Salvador. While there, we worshiped with another church, served at an orphanage, and helped facilitate night crusades. In each of these events, I was struck with how different the culture was from ours, and I’m not talking about music or food choices. The biggest difference? The El Salvadorans took the idea of a spiritual family very seriously. When they said, “She is a sister in Christ,” they meant it. You could see their deep love for one another in their eyes. You could hear it in their tone. But most importantly you could see it in their actions. If you belonged to Jesus, you were family. Plain and simple.
That’s not true here in the states. We have learned to be independent and to focus on ourselves. We train our children to do the same. More often than not, we see to it that life revolves around them–their social schedule, their sports schedule, whatever. Oh, perhaps we’ll ask them to give up an hour out of their seventy-two hour week (not counting sleeping time) to help with an outreach event, but what does that teach? Honestly, it might help exacerbate the problem by reinforcing the idea that service is done on a time-schedule. When it fits in. Friends are convenient, for our pleasure. (Here’s an article explaining this in more detail–and how we can counter this self-seeking trend.)
This temporary friendship mentality has trickled into the church. How often do we drop gospel tracts on someone’s door, never to see them again? Do we really think those people will somehow appear in our church because of a slip of paper? Or when a new couple comes to church, we’ll offer our friendship and invite them to dinner…until they become established, then we move on to someone else.
That’s not friendship and that’s not a body. That’s a temporary prosthesis.
And here’s the deal. By conforming to our westernized, individualized culture, we’re losing out on one of the biggest draws of the church. Our love for one another is meant to draw others to us, which in turn is meant to draw non-believers to Christ. I believe they’ll come for the relationship first, and will be exposed and drawn to Jesus in the process.
So here’s the challenge. How do you view your brothers and sisters in Christ? According to the Bible, they are your family. More than that, they are part of a living body. If you struggle viewing them in this regard–in truly loving them as Christ loves the church, ask God to help you and find ways to get out of your comfort zone. Find ways to connect.
Second, focus on long-term. No one likes to be a project. When you reach out to that new couple or leave a gospel tract on a doorstep, ask yourself, “Am I ready to be here for them for the long haul or am I just trying to ‘get them in’?”
Because people can tell the difference. One type of friendship draws them and creates a place of safety where they can learn about Christ. The other type of friendship results in increased distrust.
I’m speaking to myself here. I’ve experienced many “temporary friendships” in the church, and honestly, it’s left me a little gun-shy and distrustful. But I have to remember it’s not about me. Yeah, chances are those people I reach out to are going to hurt me. Chances are they’ll ditch a year or two down the road, but the Bible tells me “as far as it depends on me….” meaning, it’s not my concern how others respond to my love or friendship. My concern is living out my faith with full surrender, letting God’s love flow through me moment-by-moment.
This mentality also applies to how we do missions, which I hope to touch on tomorrow or Thursday.
In the meantime, spend a moment in prayer and ask God to show you faulty thinking in regard to the body (not just your church body, but all believers world-wide). Then be diligent about cooperating with God. When you catch individualistic thinking creeping in, take your thoughts captive and reroute them.