Thursday, January 14, 2010

Checking Out And Getting Things Together

I walked into Food Lion and headed towards the orange juice. A man walked by and did what I now recognize as "the PCC double take". As our church grows, I encounter people in the community who recognize me from the worship band or speaking, though sometimes it takes them a minute to figure out where they know me from. I don't always recognize them.

He saw me, walked on by, and then turned back around and looked again.

"Hey," he said. "Y'all in that new building yet?"

We went on to talk for about 10 minutes. He shared a bit of his story, which includes a wife struggling with a very challenging medical condition and some difficult financial circumstances. Due to their situation, they are in the process of moving to a neighboring county. It's been a rough year.

He said he hasn't been to church in about 2-3 months, but he used to come a good bit with his wife - of almost 40 years - and his kids and grandkids.

"I sat there in the second row. In the middle section."

As we talked and he shared how challenging life had been lately - just in a factual manner, not looking for a handout, sympathy or pity - it really made me think. This guy's been coming to our church for a while; he seems to consider PCC "his church". But as far as I know, when hard times hit, he just checked out to take care of his stuff.

He said, "I'm gonna come back after I get my life together."

Made me wonder how many people are just like this guy, "checking out" of church until they can pull things back together. I wonder how we can reach out to them better. I wonder what will make them want to come back sooner rather than later. I wonder where we missed out on the opportunity to let him know that we would walk through these difficult days with him and his family, that he didn't have to check out and "get his life back in order" before coming back to his middle section, second row seat.

He said one more thing before moving on down the aisle.

"One thing I won't forget. That Bible you guys give away? I got one. I read it - the whole thing. Took me about a year, but I read it."


Patty P said...

This is really important in the life of the church. To really figure out how and why people feel they can't go to church or be accepted by the community because of reason a/b/c/d/ect. I've personally talked to quite a few people within PCC that have that same viewpoint. I've even caught myself saying it. Could be pride. Could be a host of things. I think the bottom line is this. People are hurting. Bad. And it is our obligation as Christ followers to reach out and accept people as they are and give them love. As well as helping them in more tangible ways via acts of kindness, service, care. I'm not saying we don't do that now, but as things progressively get worse, we gotta step up our game.

Angie said...

Maybe we are so good at helping people feel comfortable that we are too stand-off-ish. And maybe people are crying out from the middle section, second row seat in silent agony, and no one hears them. And when we do hear them, how many people really know how to respond? we say, we'll pray and we do, and then we go on with life (not talking about the church here, just in general, most individuals respond that way). Where does that man live, lets visit him, lets show him the love of Christ, lets love him like we love ourselves. That's church, that's the PCC we strive to be, and in many situations are. I've felt that kind of love from PCC. It's there. And you meeting him in Foodlion was a God moment, not a coincidence. Love ya!

annieoddflower said...

Very interesting post, Beth, and moving. And troublesome to me. I have to think about this one. Thank you for sharing this.