Our church is an old school Southern Baptist landmark in our town. Because of that heritage, there are families that have come to our church for literally generations. Lots of couples there with children in middle and high school actually met in youth group years ago. We have pastors that have been on staff for decades. The history and the generational traditions are comforting.
But all of that history can be a challenge too. Some of the families that have been members for years have so many friends in common through the church that it is easy for all of us to forget we are a growing church on the move with lots of new visitors weekly. Our vision is to become a multigenerational, multicultural, mutlicampus church that becomes a network of neighborhood churches so that every individual in Palm Beach county has multiple opportunities to hear the Gospel. But as our pastor so simply reminded us last week – people don’t want to just come to a friendly church– they come to church to find a FRIEND.
I wanted to say out loud, AMEN. Because as friendly as our church is, with so many families who have been attending for years together, it can be a challenge when someone is new for them to make a friend. I’ll add that if I am at church, I am really not able to have a coherent conversation because I am usually just trying to make sure one of my boys is not about to run over an elderly lady or that one of my wee ones doesn’t toddle off into the parking lot.
Finding friends can be hard when you are new at a church. Our pastor reminded us last week of some simple ways to make a friend. I decided that making friends was my responsibility, no matter how hard that was to do each week with so many kiddos or how intimidating it may be since so many people have known each other for generations.
This week, I was gonna make me a friend.
So we got to church on time. (miracle.)
We got to sit in the center section up front. (another miracle.)
And as the praise and worship began, a beautiful black lady was belting it out behind me. (wonderful.)
Soon I began to hear her singing take on a sad tone. A questioning-while-praising tone. And then I heard her singing through her tears.
It broke my heart.
There have been so may times when I am at church that I am completely broken about something. My heart hurting. I try to hold it together because my kids are watching or I don’t want to embarrass my husband. I hold it in as much as I can.
This sweet woman behind me just began sobbing as she sang.
I turned around and just grabbed her. Hugged her. She fell into my arms and just began weeping as she continued to sing…
“You’re a good good Father…It’s who you are, It’s who you are, It’s who you are…
And I’m loved by you…It’s who I am, It’s who I am, It’s who I am….
You are perfect in all of your ways….You are perfect in all of your ways….you are perfect in all of your ways… you are….”
As she sang I could tell that for her– singing those words was affirming yet such a challenge. I cried too… and hugged… and swayed… and prayed. She began thanking me so much and then just kept crying in my arms. I rubbed her back and gently whispered and prayed with her.
I had made a friend. I know her name although I have no idea the reason for her heartbreak. The Lord knows her name too but I would ask that each of you reading this would:
#1- Pray for my new friend. She is hurting and needs her brothers and sisters in Christ to lift her up.
#2- Make a new friend at church next week. Remember, people don’t want to go to a friendly church — they want to make a friend. Even if you go to a church like mine and you’ve been there for decades, there are new people coming in and they need to make relationships so that they can find community and love. Church is where many of us find family. Acceptance. Compassion. Grace. But we won’t find them if we don’t make a friend with someone who can exemplify all that to us in a real relationship! So reach out!