Several years ago, a young man came up to me at church discouraged because he didn't think other Christians were connecting with him. I listened to him complain about how no one was reaching out to him for a few minutes before sharing my perspective. I asked him to look around the room and identify the dozen or so people sitting by themselves. "What if you were to go be to those people what you're wanting others to be for you? What if God's prompting you to be the solution to this problem?"
He sort of shrugged that off and made excuses then complained some more. After a few more minutes, a group of young Christian men came over to invite him out to lunch. He declined because he had things he wanted to do that day. When they left I felt free to be especially blunt. "What are you thinking? I just listened to you whine for several minutes about people not reaching out to you, make excuses for not reaching out to others, then turn down people who were reaching out to you!"
If we're honest, what this young man demonstrated reflects a lot of our hearts more often than we'd like to admit. When we engage with other people, it's often for our own self-interests. We want to feel needed, loved, cared for, appreciated, and liked. How often do we stop to think about the needs of others? Are we the person who walks into the room and sits down wishing someone would reach out to us while ignoring the ten other people in the room doing the same thing?
Or are we the person who comes to church only to see our circle of friends, people who we can also connect with during the week, blind to the hurting people all around us? We need to remember the heartbeat of Jesus:
Matthew 25:35-45 (NLT)
There are people all around us who are strangers in a crowd. People who are lonely, discouraged, depressed, and at the end of their rope. These people need to know that there's a God who loves them unconditionally and will be a friend who sticks closer than a brother. But they also need to see the love of Jesus in action to know that there is something real here.
I saw an amazing article today about a fifth-grade math teacher who used to work with NASA. She came up with an ingenious way to identify the kids who needed extra attention and care:
And every single Friday afternoon, after the students go home, she takes out those slips of paper, places them in front of her, and studies them. She looks for patterns.
Who is not getting requested by anyone else?
Who can’t think of anyone to request?
Who never gets noticed enough to be nominated?
Who had a million friends last week and none this week?
You see, Chase’s teacher is not looking for a new seating chart or “exceptional citizens.” Chase’s teacher is looking for lonely children. She’s looking for children who are struggling to connect with other children. She’s identifying the little ones who are falling through the cracks of the class’s social life. She is discovering whose gifts are going unnoticed by their peers. And she’s pinning down—right away—who’s being bullied and who is doing the bullying.
One Teacher’s Brilliant Strategy to Stop Future School Shootings
When I first read that, I immediately thought: Can we start doing this in churches? With adults?