At a recent congregational meeting the man in charge challenged the attendees with the question: “What do you like about our church?” A number of hands went up and several were selected to share their stories. One by one each told of how they had gone through a period of brokenness in their life – but when they entered the church they found the love and encouragement and guidance they needed at that moment. Each received emotional healing or restoration or were put on the path toward their spiritual destiny.
As I listened to these personal testimonies I searched my memory of the past decade that my wife and I had been a part of this local body of believers, and wondered how such personal demonstrations of love and caring had eluded us. Not only were the instances few and far between in which another brother or sister had made the effort to call and ask how our family was doing or to invite us to fellowship over coffee, but even the times we had tried to initiate such a relationship had often been politely turned down.
This contrasted significantly with relationships we had with people outside our local church (believers and non-believers alike). It was those with whom we shared some of our happiest experiences and who demonstrated great compassion and concern when they heard we were going through trials – a lost or ailing loved one or a straying or estranged family member. We couldn’t understand why this was not forthcoming from those in the body that we chose to become an integral part of and to minister within. It both hurt and confused us.
I began to wonder, is it my fault? Clearly it is not in my nature to reveal every personal detail of my life or every problem my family faces – to burden others with those problems. I guess I somehow expected (perhaps erroneously) the spiritually minded man or woman to either discern such needs, or if they lack that sensitivity, to at least regularly express a caring and gracious attitude toward each individual in their congregation.
I concluded that it must be a problem unique to so-called “ministers” or “leaders in the Church.” Because we are ministering to the needs of others on a regular basis, we hesitate to share challenges in our personal lives. We deliberately choose to personify spiritual and emotional strength and we give the impression that we “have it all together,” even when we don’t. The result: others must conclude that we don’t need their support or their encouragement or their prayers.
But that’s simply not true. We need each other. Everyone needs encouragement and the support of their brethren. Still, I honestly don’t know how to reconcile my personal dilemma of maintaining an exterior of strength and authority over all the power of the enemy, all the while crying on the inside and questioning the love and compassion and sensitivity of my own leaders.