A few weeks ago, while we were travelling during the Christmas break, our family “visited” a church. This was not just any “church”, but a former home church for us. This is a very traditional, institutional church. We still have many friends who are part of this church, and we were looking forward to catching up with them.
But, that’s the problem. From the outside looking in, we can now see how difficult it is to build and maintain relationships in this kind of structure.
Walking through the halls looking for our Bible study class (Sunday school), we ran into an old friend. He was happy to see us and hugged us both and showed us to our room. He said he wanted to talk to us more, but he had things to do. He hurried off to his responsibilities, and we didn’t see him again.
While we were waiting for the class to start, I heard a familiar voice in the hallway, and I stepped outside. One of my old friends was standing there talking. He smiled and hug me and told me how much he missed me. As I was about to start talking to him, he started backing down the hallway and said that he had somewhere he needed to be. I did not see him again either.
During the “worship service” there is a “fellowship time” where people are allowed to mingle, meet, and greet while the choir sings a verse of a hymn. During this time, one of Margaret’s old friends ran up to her. She was very excited to see us and hugged Margaret, then rushed back to her pew because the music had stopped. We sat down politely as we were supposed to do, and didn’t see our friend again.
Honestly, I don’t hold anything against our friends at all. Oh, we would have loved the opportunity to sit down with them and listen to what God was doing in their lives and share some of what God was doing in our lives. We would have loved the opportunity to be edified by them and to edify them in return.
But, that did not happen. Why? Because they were not given the opportunity. And, beyond not being given the opportunity, they do not realize that it is their responsibility. They are taught that it is their responsibility to be a part of that organization and to carry out their functions within the organization.
No, I don’t hold anything against our friends. But, I’m very sorry for their loss, not the loss of spending time with us – the loss of developing real relationships fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit – relationships that will help them through difficult situations and crises of faith much more than “Sunday school positions” or “fellowship times”.