If someone is visiting your church, it’s likely that they are looking for a place to belong. Church would seem an obvious place to find acceptance and friends. John 1:13, in fact, refers to the church as “God’s family.” Many churches have become havens of belonging, according to God’s design. Others have some smaller groups within their doors, where people have become friends and are mutually supportive. Sadly, however, the entrances to theses churches are otherwise revolving doors. People come, and for various reasons, they go.
Some people have less of an issue with feeling accepted. People who have been friends or church attenders for a long time are often trusted and esteemed by one another. They sometimes forget to welcome newer people because they are content with the friends they have. They may be related to a lot of people in the church. They simply haven’t experienced being new to a group in a long time.
People who have been friends or church attenders for a long time are often trusted and esteemed by one another.
I have been in churches where the same people lead and keep the church going, sometimes for years and years. There is very little “new blood” because newcomers are seen as potentially harmful to the status quo. The “getting to know you period” extends to a “prove yourself” period. That prove yourself period can extend for years. Eventually, some people leave, stating simply, “I didn’t belong there.” Some people come to that conclusion much earlier, sensing that their enthusiasm toward their new church is stronger than the church’s enthusiasm toward them. They fade away. The church’s size doesn’t change, but few people are concerned because enough people come.
In I Corinthians 12:21, Paul acknowledges that people’s gifts are sometimes never called out. He says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” This first century church issue is still an issue in today’s church. Each new person should be seen as an unopened gift, not primarily as someone who needs to prove himself or herself. A person who demonstrates love for the Lord and a concern for personal righteousness shouldn't be “shelved” for future use.
Each new person should be seen as an unopened gift, not primarily as someone who needs to prove himself or herself.
According to Scripture, hospitality is important. I Timothy 3:2 says that “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,” Church leadership should be hospitable because they need to get to know the people who attend their church. It’s easy to leave the hospitality to other people. Most people, in fact, do that. It’s hard to get to know someone just for a couple of hours on Sundays. Hospitality is inclusion. It’s in one another’s homes that we form relationships and form the bonds that become belonging.
Belonging comes from being shown love and significance.
Belonging comes from being shown love and significance. It comes from being missed when you aren’t there, and being included in the plans and ministries of the church. Are you comfortable and loved? Praise God! You are empowered to show concern and acceptance to someone less well-situated in your church family.
When everyone understands that they are responsible for one another, and reach out to build up and affirm one another, churches grow and thrive. Jesus loves when His people are connected and included. Psalm 133:1 says, “How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!” Unity happens when everyone is an included and validated part of His body. Let us love one another, as Jesus does, and see our churches grow.