There’s a wonderful Bethel sermon that was recently released called “Church is a Family, Not a Business.”
In it, the speaker discusses the nature of belonging. He compares a church to a restaurant business and a family meal.
If you go to a restaurant to order a meal, you may get everything you want - water refilled, meat cooked just right, service without work. But you would never ask the restaurant to help you move into a new house, or babysit your kids, or listen to you share your thoughts and experiences.
You may get service in a restaurant, but you don’t belong in a restaurant.
Compare this to a thanksgiving meal. In a family, everyone contributes. One person peels the potatoes. Another carves the turkey. Another sets the table. Another cleans messes. All until the meal is ready. It involves work, and you’re not served everything without effort. But there is one thing gained that you can never have in a restaurant. There is belonging.
How do we belong in our family? We come down to the dinner meal and eat with them. We don’t stay in our room; we contribute.
How do we create a sense of belonging in our family? We invite another person to dinner. No matter who they are. And we invite them not just to eat, but to work with us - to peel the potatoes or set the table.
The thing is, this is hard.
The early church had to be counseled many times on creating belonging. The author of Hebrews warned his audience against family neglect:
Do not neglect to meet together, as some are in the habit of doing.
Why were they in the habit of not meeting together?
Because it’s difficult.
Most, if not all, of us have family wounds as well as church wounds. Someone has pushed us away. We have pushed others away. We were forgotten. We were disparaged. We were not invited.
This is so real.
When everyone came up to share their needs from their life stage at church this past Sunday, it struck me that the overarching theme of needs from each life stage was the same:
Don’t forget me.
Don’t forget where I’m at.
Don’t see past my plight.
Don’t treat me as a thing just to ask questions to.
Don’t leave us out because we’re married.
Don’t assume I’m alright.
Do you see I’m not alright?
In the restaurant, we pay money to be seen. In a family, we hope to be seen for who we are, not for how much we bring. I, too, have found myself feeling that I don’t belong, and it’s hard! The disparity between hope for belonging and the felt reality is so painful.
I also know that I have forgotten others. Or failed to invite. Failed to create belonging.
So what comes next is important to be said. I will say it first.
Forgive me for the times I have pushed you away, because of my pain.
Forgive me for sinning against you and forgetting you.
Forgive me for not inviting you.
Truly, I apologize.
You are worthy.
I’m sorry that has not been treated as true.
Will you help me create belonging here?
Will you help me understand you?
Please, come down to dinner.
And if you have a need, tell me.
Reach out to me, too, and allow me to listen and be there.
I hope that many of us will be able to come to say that to ourselves and others, and as we rekindle family in our lives and our church, hope will be rekindled and many lives will be changed for the sake of belonging!
About the Author: Allison is a massage therapy student at Schoolcraft College and waitress at Zola Bistro. When she isn't doing these two things, she's probably doing something around Antioch. She loves prayer, worship, and spending time with her connect group!
Interested in that Bethel Sermon? You can download and listen to it at one of these locations:
“Church is a Family, Not a Business.”