Christian community · discussion

How Can We Improve at Helping Others Within the Church? (Coffee Chat 17)

img_5436It’s been far too long since we’ve met for a cup of coffee (or tea) in our virtual coffee corner! If you’re new to the blog, welcome! Every so often I like to host a little “coffee chat” to discuss some question or other. This one is long overdue! (I posted the last one in 2016!)

Will you join me over your cup of coffee or tea today and have a little “chat?”

For today’s discussion, let’s talk about worshipping and working with the church.

Just so we’re clear, we don’t go to church because we are the church. We go to worship with fellow Christians.

Also, when it comes to attending worship, our focus should be first on God and second on helping others.

A few weeks ago, I published a post at TheCourage.com, entitled, “What’s the point of going to church if I can worship God anywhere?” Kirk Cameron posted the link to the post on his Facebook page, and the comments were quite an interesting read. There is a large population on Facebook that reads the title of an article, but never bothers to get beyond the headline to see what the writer actually said. Such was the case with many of these comments. In spite of that, these comments were quite telling about the pain and disillusionment many people hold about the church (as in God’s people).

Here are a few comments:

“The church has really done a poor job as of late in reaching out to those who have been absent. I remember a time when you’d get a phone call or one of the pastors would come by and talk to you and check up on you of you haven’t been for a while. That’s rarely done anymore. It’s like they could care less if you’re there or not, and it’s very disturbing and upsetting.”

“I don’t go because there’s been so much corruption in churches, social clubs instead of worship. A man can no longer trust that his wife is in a safe place where other men won’t hit on her. I haven’t gone in over ten years and won’t go.”

“I always felt the point of going to church was to fellowship with other Christians. But these days a lot of those at church really aren’t what they appear to be. Also often times the message being taught is repetitive which doesn’t help us to grow. It is a struggle to find a church that is fulfilling to both adults and their their children”

The comments in the thread revealed many people seriously hurting and many more who feel the church could care less about their pain. Others mentioned issues with adultery, hypocrisy, judgment, etcetera. Some feel unwelcome. Some feel as though they cannot share their struggles for fear of being ostracized.

When we work with and worship with our local church, love should be abounding. One of the reasons we are encouraged to worship together is to “stir up one another to love and good works.” Too many people have decided that worshipping with other Christians isn’t for them because they have been hurt too deeply to come back. This is a tragedy.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

~ Hebrews 10.23-25, ESV (emphasis mine)

My question to you, my readers, is how do we (as individuals and congregations) get better at seeing those who need help, love, and encouragement?

Here’s something else to think about: How do we conquer social anxiety when it comes to helping others? There are times I want to do something for others or say something encouraging, but I am concerned about whether it will actually be helpful or encouraging.

Fear unfortunately holds me back from helping more than I’d like to admit. I’ve walked up to strangers to welcome them, only to be met with a condescending glare and/or one-word answers. Such a hostile or cold reciprocation will send me scooting off to my seat in a heartbeat. I’ve offered help only to be told I’m not needed. I’ve helped only to find out through the grapevine that my help wasn’t wanted or good enough.

I know that the Lord can work through even a weak vessel like me and its my job to step out on faith in spite of my fear, but even so, we can get discouraged or burnt out!

What are your practical suggestions?

What have you done (or are you currently doing) that you have found effective in making people feel loved and welcome?

How do you get your relationships with people in the church to go beyond the surface, “Hi, how are you” to recognizing needs and addressing them?

Inquiring minds want to know, so answer below!

***As always, it’s important to keep the discussion civil—any ad hominem attacks will be deleted without apology.***

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23 thoughts on “How Can We Improve at Helping Others Within the Church? (Coffee Chat 17)

  1. If one hangs out in church, there is a chance that his/her feelings will get hurt. If one hangs out in the country club, there is a chance that his/her feelings will get hurt. If one hangs out the bar, there is a chance that his/her feelings will get hurt. If one hangs out with family, there is a chance that his/her feelings will get hurt. They all involve people interacting with people. Feelings might get hurt. Hanging out at the library might be safe. 😀
    We are blessed to have churches in abundance. Try another one. If someone tries a few and gets hurt in all of them, the problem might not be with the church.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hanging out at the Library is pretty safe… haha!

      Yes, when we interact with people, eventually our feelings get hurt. Sometimes people come into the church with misguided expectations. They expect us to be exactly like Jesus. That’s what we should be striving for, of course, but because we are not there yet, we mess up. I do agree—the problem isn’t always the church, sometimes people have a chip on their shoulder.

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  2. Hello. Thanks for your invitation. Your invitation is accepted. This exactly I have been through. I know many people who share same feelings. I am are of some who deserted church as they couldn’t bear any longer. I have realised that leaving church is not a solution. It could be a problem. Rather learn to adjust. Love those who hurt you. You require extra grace to be a part of a church. You have to be like a wheat grain who has to be willing to become flour and then only we can have dough. I have practiced these things. Remember, church is a bunch of sinners saved by grace. Better to have realistic and practical expectations from the church. I have started encouraging people to continue in the same church. One can not guarantee that another church would be better, it could be more difficult to adjust. Have a great day.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your valuable insight! Praise God for making you stronger in spite of the hurt.

      I agree—Leaving the church altogether often makes us more vulnerable to Satan’s attacks.

      One of my home bible study teachers used to point out that in Revelation, people were not encouraged to leave the dead, lukewarm, or struggling church, but to “overcome.” I appreciate how you point out that we need to learn to love even those who may be difficult to love.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No… it’s definitely not a favorite, but it’s been coming up a lot lately in my little corner of the world so I thought it needed addressing.

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  3. This is an interesting topic and I confess I am not a regular enough church goer to add much input. I go frequently but am not really involved, I just really enjoy the sermons. I put that onus on me though, as I’ve not made any effort at all to connect with people there, attend a Bible study, etc…

    Based on what I’ve seen with people I know though, I think a lot of folks expect too much from the church, like it’s some magic thing that’s supposed to address all your needs and if one little thing is out of place (not the right music, uncomfortable chairs, bad coffee, no coffee, or whatever), than they move on. They forget it’s run mostly by volunteers and that it’s a miracle in itself that the show goes on so smoothly every Sunday.

    That’s not talking about poor leadership that ignores/extols those that are hurting and is abusive in an way. That should not be tolerated at all.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s interesting you bring up coffee & chairs. I worship with a church that doesn’t have any food or coffee in the building. One of the reasons is to keep everyone focused on being fed spiritually. Those other things tend to be a distraction. Plus, if people only come to be fed in the worldly sense, would they still come if that disappeared and/or didn’t meet their needs?

      It’s true that far too many come to have their ears tickled or to be entertained. The question becomes, can we get people beyond that and if so, how do we encourage them to do deeper?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I should probably add that we may not be able to identify who “those people” are. Sometimes I fall into the trap of seeking to be filled in some way instead of focusing on God and others. I just wonder how we can stir them “to love and good works.” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. So agree, it should be about being fed spiritually. There’s still the people factor to consider though which means a fair amount will expect those things in addition to having the perfect preacher, greeters, etc….

        I’m not sure what the answer is other than to stay on topic biblically and make sure people feel welcome and safe.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. 1. Instead of asking, “How are you?” I ask, “How has your week been?”. That’s when they really tell me.

    2. We need to stop talking to each other (our buddies) and look around for those standing around the lobby or sitting alone.

    3. Follow up with a visit to their home.

    4. My brother dropped out several years ago “because they didn’t remember us from one week to the next”. But, when I asked if he at least worshipped at home, he said no. And when he moved, they did not resume worshipping.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Wow! I like these suggestions. I especially like your suggestion of asking, “How was your week been.” When asking “how are you” we usually get “fine.”

      I have been wanting to get back in the groove of inviting people to our home, because I’m not always sure how people feel about me “dropping in.” The fear I need to conquer is that we live in a rather humble house. I homeschool so it isn’t always tidy and I’m not Joanna Gaines so it isn’t stylish. I want people to come over, but I first have to let go of my vanity…

      I’m so sorry to hear that your brother isn’t worshipping anywhere. It’s harder to stay strong without a connection with fellow Christians.

      Thank you, Katheryn for these very practical suggestions!

      Like

  5. I’m sorry you saw some of that frustration and hurt people have around “the church,” Elihu. I encounter a lot of that myself and it’s kind of heartbreaking. I hate to see people feeling so hurt and disconnected.

    Something I really love, when we can just humble ourselves and trust in the Lord, other people really will minister to us. Once when I was really struggling with my own kids, I went to a church and someone just sat down next to me and started talking about their frustration with their own kids. They didn’t even know me, they had no idea how their own story was just ministering to my soul, it was just what I needed to hear at the time. And then right on cue, the pastor actually preached on God’s frustration with His own kids, His faithfulness, His love, the investment He has made in us all. It was really sweet. I arrived with grief and frustration and left encouraged and at peace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What an awesome testimony. I do believe God gives us refreshing when we need it. I went to worship the other day feeling anxious and stressed and one of the songs we sang was “Great is Thy Faithfulness” which was just what I needed to remember at that moment.

      Are you still connected with the lady who spoke to you? The pastor? There are many who have ministered to me throughout the years and I’ve tried to stay in touch with them, but I think I need to get better about having a stack of notecards and stamps and sending ripple random thank-you’s as soon as their kindness pops into my thoughts.

      Thank you, as always, for your excellent insight!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Perhaps one problem is that we are looking too much at the guests in the Lord’s house and thinking about what they are doing or failing to do. Can we get back to the Host and remember that he has invited us there to receive gifts from him? Whether the preaching is inspiring or boring, the music uplifting or dragging, the congregation welcoming or cold, all those things matter less than the fact that Jesus is present among his people proclaiming forgiveness for sins, eternal life, power for living today, and victory over all enemies. J.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s definitely a good point. Of course, I would probably be comfortable not having to talk to anybody and worshipping. And yet when we come together worship and edification need to be part of our gathering. I agree with you—we take for granted the beauty and the awesomeness of what we are there to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. As someone who is currently unable to attend church due to medical issues, I would like to comment about what would be helpful to me. I really really miss fellowship with like-minded people. However, it seems that many people are too busy to connect outside of Sunday mornings. When I was able to go, many people came up to me to talk (and I did the same for them), but now that I am at home, I rarely hear from anyone. What would be helpful to me is contact via text or phone call, just to let me know someone cares. I have tried striking up these conversations myself, but mostly end up feeling like I have more time available than the other person. Therefore, I hesitate to initiate any further contact to keep from being a burden on others. I have turned to God to salve my loneliness which is something good that He is working from this (Romans 8:28), but there is also something to be said for people relating to other people.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kim, your insight is so helpful! It is important to connect with our fellow Christians outside of worship time so we can go deeper in our relationships. Unfortunately, we fall into the habit with those cannot attend of “out of sight, out of mind.” This should not be the case!

      Out of curiosity, do you have a podcast or sermon you’re able to listen to each week? I always find those helpful when I can’t be at worship. If you don’t, I have friend who preaches in San Diego and his lessons are so insightful. I can send you the podcast info if you’re interested!

      I am glad your relationship with God is deepening, but I pray that the Lord sends you a friend or friends to be more constant companions in your life. Dealing with medical issues can de discouraging; adding loneliness is worse. I am putting you on my daily prayer list!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I listen to John MacArthur sermons and messages from my home church that are online, but I would consider others as well. I also really like reading Spurgeon sermons and do a lot of study this way. It is the fellowship that is lacking for me. I had been able to gather with a small group, but this is not going to work out this fall. Thanks for your prayer.

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      2. When I was dealing with my spouse’s PTSD, I felt almost completely abandoned by my congregation. I needed support and it just didn’t exist. Only a couple people reached out and helped. I still attended, but I felt so alone. This blogging community became a sort of lifeline during that period. I know it’s not the same as face-to-face contact, but please feel free to email me or message me via Facebook. I’m always willing to encourage or pray for you or just discuss scripture or whatever.

        The podcast I mentioned is Santee Church of Christ. My friend Erik Borlaug is a young man who preaches the gospel at that congregation and he has such amazing insights.

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  8. My experiences as a church consultant/transitional pastor lead me to believe that people have been told indirectly that they do not matter when they become regular attendees in a church. Once outreach programs and seeker driven services became the norm we told people that they were not important. I am not against outreach or simplifying/removing all the Christianize in church. The problem arises when we tell people they are loved by the church before they become Christ followers but when they join the church we make them busy, tell them worship service is for the non-believer and chastise for being selfish when they say they need something more out of church. By doing this we suggest that they only mattered before they became Christians.

    We need to recognize that out of our overflow, out of what we gain in community with other Christ followers, how we make each other feel is what propels all of us to reach our community. The new attendee and the life long attendee both are seeking more of God which is what we show when we love both of them enough to come alongside them in their journey.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You know, I didn’t even think about it, but that does happen a lot! The best congregations I’ve been part of are those who love you from the beginning and throughout. I am so thankful for your perspective, Dave, and I hope my readers consider this as they work among their own congregations.

      Liked by 1 person

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