Of all the people in your local church, who do you suppose may be the one with the fewest amount of friends or even without a friend? Who do you suppose is the person or persons least likely to be invited to a party, picnic, movie, game night, or other social activity?
Who do you suppose may be considered the least likely to need the love, support, fellowship, and prayers of the members of the local church? Who may be the most isolated or guarded from entering into deep, personal, intimate relationships with the other members of the body of Christ?
Looking around the room in our minds, it may be easy to consider the introvert who sits by himself or herself each week. Or that person that is, well, just a bit socially awkward. But would you, could you, imagine that it may just be the person who stands up to preach the Word of God each week; he and his wife?
What? But they seem so socially engaged with the congregation during church functions (assuming you don’t have a pastor who runs out of the room after the sermon)? Yet, looks can be deceiving.
Think about it for a moment. When was the last time you engaged the pastor or his wife (or one of the other church elders) in a conversation that didn’t focus on you or something church related? When was the last time you intentionally sought to engage this family in ministry in a conversation about what is going on in their lives and hearts in a way that went below the surface? How about the last time you invited them over for food or a social time that was purely for the sake of having fun?
The call to pause and think is not intended to be a call unto condemnation but rather a call unto contemplation. Since community is such a huge part of the local church and advocated throughout Scripture, let us think about each member. We rightly think and pray about those who are new or have been around but not engaged in various aspects of community within the church. We rightly encourage living life together with one another and not just doing events and activities together. Yet, sometimes, in the midst of the body caring for itself in love, we can forget that those who hold the church office of elder, especially the teaching elder(s), are also members of body of Christ.
Yes, there may very well be some time needed, as with any relationship, for trust and mutuality to be built up with the family. Especially when many in ministry are wary about opening up too much since they can easily become a target of gossip or their struggles (even if common to all men) could be used to try to undermine their ministry. And yes, there may be some areas of life where the family keeps firm boundaries as being “off limits” when with members of the local church in which they minister. Yet, don’t most of us have some kind of boundaries like this? Again, yes, the family or individual may say “no” or “not this time” to the invitation (yet, who is always free?), but at least someone extended the invitation once or twice or three times just as they would to another member of the church.
Think about it a little bit more. Wouldn’t it be nice if the pastor/elders and their wives knew that there were some people who were truly concerned with who they are as people and are “safe” people to be open with and friends with as brothers and sisters in Christ? Wouldn’t it be nice if those in the role of shepherds in the church could know that there is at least one person or one family that wouldn’t get the deer in the headlights look in their eyes when they are asked if they want to grab a cup of coffee or something to eat during the week?
Imagine, just for a moment, if the loneliest people in the church were not those who carried the cares and concerns of the congregation upon their hearts daily (2 Cor. 11:28). Imagine, if those who gladly spend are are utterly spent on behalf of the souls of those in the church (2 Cor. 12:15) also knew what it is to be fed by the close companionship of those within the church. Imagine how much more emotional and spiritual energy might they have in ministering to the needs of the saints? Imagine the grace that could be mutually imparted and flow within the community as each member is able to experience community and personally experience the body building itself up in love (Eph. 4:16), even in the daily, routine, seemingly “nonspiritual” elements of life.