“I’m looking for a man who needs me. The exact composition of all parts that is me. He’s out there. He needs me. It’s just a matter of time til he finds me. ”
This is something I said to someone once upon a time. It was, of course, in the context of dating and that I wasn’t looking necessarily for the perfect man because we all know he doesn’t exist. But in light of my understanding of what marriage is all about – the joining of two souls for all eternity to accurately reflect and illuminate the very glory and lavish grace of our Creator – well, I knew that I was looking for more than just a good guy. And more than that, if he was the right one worth his salt, he would be looking for someone more than just a pretty face.
But I remembered saying that the other day, because of another conversation related to dating but in the context of how the church treats singles. It’s a complaint that singles have. “The church” (and I would argue you have to be more specific than that cause chances are you haven’t met all the church) does a bad job at plugging singles in and using them at the forefront of ministry. Sure I would agree with that up to a point. For one thing I’d say there is a huge movement toward entire churches that might as well be called Meat Market Ministries and that the reaction to family-centered congregations can be taken to the other extreme which is equally wrong and unbiblical.
Rob and I have lots of conversations about church, church government, politics, ministry, leadership, structure, etc. etc. – all before lunchtime. haha. It’s what I get for marrying a pastor. But I enjoy it. I hope he thinks I add enough to the conversation without the seminary degree.
The conversation is an important one that all healthy churches constantly have. Are we serving our church family well? And are we serving ALL of our family well? The people groups, the demographics, that make up any given church, if it’s healthy, are varied and have all different needs and expectations. There are hundreds of studies and surveys and books and resources on how to tailor ministries and how to reach out and bring together these groups to best meet their needs. And it’s all good and necessary and important.
But here’s my big question for the day: are you looking for the church to serve you? Or are you looking for a church you can serve?
We live in a society based on individualism. We want it our way. It’s the plague of postmodernism and maybe the 60s boom in advertising (and the tv, can I say the damn tv if I actually mean it’s damned?) when people like the cast of Mad Men decide that what Americans really want is to be catered to. I want to go to the restaurant and pick and choose and tell them how to cook it. I want these two colors of paint and you’re going to mix it for me right now. I want to choose from 20 different brands of WATER.
And it seeps into our churches. I want a very specific experience when I come to church. And I want a bunch of people who look like me, dress like me, have my status in life, and MEET MY NEEDS. “Let us not neglect to meet my needs, as is the habit of some.”
Maybe we need to turn the conversation upside down. Maybe we need to be thinking not what your church can do for you, but what can you do for your church? Maybe you need to be listing the gifts you aren’t using and brainstorming with others on how to put those to use. Too often we go church shopping for what we can get out of it. What programs they offer, do they even have a singles group? (Which btw I don’t see as strictly scriptural) Instead we look at a church and say, after the important questions of do they preach the gospel, is this a place that needs me? Can I serve here? Where can I do the most good? How can I meet someone else’s needs?
I suppose it boils down to just how narcissistic you can be. A long time ago I came to a church where I knew I didn’t “fit” in and didn’t see myself there for very long. There were a handful of single 30 somethings and though I met some very lovely people there, I wasn’t sure I would feel at home.
That was 6 years ago and a Music Director position and one husband later, I am still at Grace Covenant and I love it and I can’t imagine life without my church family. And no I still don’t know how well we “serve” singles and I have my own set of frustrations at times, but the core of the reason I am there – and the core reason anyone should be at any church – is that I know God is using me, exactly me, my exact makeup and experience and personality and interests and gifts to serve others and to be an encouragement. And the neato thing about that is I end up getting exactly what I need when I give what you need. Something, incidentally, you’ll need to know for a successful marriage.
And maybe at the end of the day, the give and take of a church family is a lot like a marriage. Neither one of you is perfect, and we are all learning. The important part is learning together – keeping communication open, taking criticism with grace and giving criticism with grace, and remembering in the end once again why you are together in the first place. To make sweet love. Wait, no. Wait, well maybe.