Recently, we experienced a sudden death in our very close-knit family.
My Grandmother, a woman who had overcome so much, a woman of compassion and laughter, went home suddenly into the arms of the Jesus she loved so much. For anyone else who has lost someone unexpectedly, you can imagine the flurry of sudden activity that overtakes you as you prepare to celebrate them well.
The challenge was, my Grandmother was not connected to a local church.
She always had a sense of shame in not feeling smart enough, put together enough, for church. She faithfully listened to her favorite pastors and preachers. She looked for ways to serve people that no one else was paying attention to. And she gave regularly to ministries she believed would carry the gospel out with integrity. Yet in this time of grieving, I grieved that for her.
I often hear in my work that people don’t “need” a church.
However, in these milestone moments, people need a place, and a community, to celebrate and to grieve with. Space and familiar faces that allow you to be yourself – hilarious and hopeful, somber and silent. The church used to be the anchor location in a neighborhood to gather for life’s greatest moments and collective heartaches. That place of influence and gathering has been lost as time has marched on. As you consider whether your community really needs a church, consider this:
- Does your neighborhood have a place for people to gather to have community together? A place to share meals? Share celebrations? Find information?
- Does your neighborhood have a place where people can go and be known? Are there regular, consistent places where you can meet and know people by name?
- Does your neighborhood have a place where people can go when they are hurting and scared? Who do they know that they can go to and be vulnerable in their suffering? And where can they go to, to find out what God has to say about what they are experiencing?
The ministry of Jesus was marked by meeting people at places: a well (John 4), a synagogue (Matt 4:23), and homes (Matthew 9:10). Whether it’s a house church or an official church building, your community needs a space to encounter Jesus. And they need a place to be known.
In times of joy, in times of grief, where are you creating community and space?