We’ve been talking about the necessity of church in the life of a Christian, and the needs of the individual. I don’t pretend to be a voice of authority on this issue; I am passionate about it, however, because I’ve known so many people who’ve been burnt by church, or by the lack of church.
Previously, I listed the reasons I’ve heard from people who’ve left a church. One of the things I did not list but have been directly and indirectly discussing with others, is Emotional Needs. I hesitated to list it initially, because it is such a vague category. And arguably, several of the other categories could overlap (or entirely consume) this group. Still, it follows me like my shadow. I have to at least try to talk about this–even if I fail miserably (and there’s a very good possibility that I will).
My reluctance to mention Emotional Needs as a reason that individuals might detach from a church comes, I think, from my own indecision and emotion on the matter. As someone with incredible Emotional Needs, I have always struggled to find church and friends and situations where I was not only able to minister to others, but where my Emotional Needs (and trust me, in this case, the capital letters are entirely appropriate) were at least being acknowledged. I have always really poo-poo-ed myself on this issue, though. I thought, “This is a church…not a day spa! Don’t look to these people to pamper you!”
But I think there’s a misconception about the Church in this regard. To ignore the fact that individuals have Emotional Needs, is to ignore humanity. Each generation has their own needs; but one of my biggest fears for the modern Church is Her ignorance of the Emotional Needs of the Millennial Generation. This is my particular concern regarding the IHOP movement–but that’s another topic, altogether.
So what are some of the Emotional Needs that I feel the Church has miserably failed to meet? Just to name a few:
- Surrogate parents, men and women who will take the initiative to love someone as their own son or daughter, to invest in their lives, to guide them and pray with them (and for them), and to just wrap their arms around someone and say, “I am here, and I love you.”
- Acceptance, Christians who will acknowledge that–whatever we think about homosexuality, or divorce, or pornography, or abuse, or addictions–Jesus came for those who needed a Savior. Some battles are won in an instant, but there are those who will fight each day with an issue; and instead of standing in support and encouragement, the Church has largely stood in judgment.
- Counseling, I don’t know what the answer to this issue is, but it breaks my heart that young people who’ve been sexually abused do not feel safe to enter a church and deal with the emotions and issues related to such abuse. And worse–so many who have dared to trust a church and speak of such a traumatic matter, have been told to “forgive and forget,” or “stop reliving it,” or other trite, worthless words that offer no healing.
What am I talking about? Community. Last year, I read a book called Soul Cravings, by Erwin Raphael McManus. He was masterful in articulating the correlation between community and self. He wrote,
The power of community is that it helps us understand ourselves.
When the Church fails to be the community that an individual needs, what results? But Sarah, you say, community is made up of individuals! Exactly. Each one of us is “community.” Each one of us needs community; and each one of us is the community that someone else needs. The greatest part about it is that none of us are perfect. How incredible, that imperfect sinners like us can be the very Body of Christ to another imperfect sinner! The key, I think, must be to acknowledge that this is what we are, and this is what we need.
McManus also writes,
When we belong to God, we belong to each other. There are no outsiders.
This statement has stayed with me for some time. It is easy to get into a “routine” at church, where we talk to those we know and are comfortable with; we sit with those we always sit with; et cetera. But in light of the need for community that each individual has, and in light of the fact that we are One Body, can we begin to challenge one another to expand our community at church and involve those we might otherwise overlook? I’m not asking you to simply welcome the new guy. I’m asking you to know him, find out what his needs are, and pray, “Right here, Jesus…graft him right here next to me! There’s a place for him right here!” Pursue new relationships–not just new people.
As always, I welcome your comments, disagreements, quotes, questions, struggles, random postings, et cetera. I will leave you with the greatest McManus quote, which states all of this far more succinctly than I ever could,
There may be no greater gift than a place to belong.
Pax Domini, my friends.