One of the consistently frustrating aspects of local church ministry is the inability we possess to help people who cry out for help but do not embrace the ministry of the church. Especially troubling are the people who call or email us asking for help but, they are not involved in the life of the church. I’m not speaking of people who do not know better. There are numerous people who have been around for years but never commit. It is nearly a daily occurrence for me or Letha to get a call… someone is in trouble, hurting, discouraged, afraid, confused; and we try to pray them through the issue they are facing. A vast majority of the time, these callers do not attend worship events regularly, if at all. Many times, the very issues that are troubling them have been addressed in a recent worship services, but they were not present to hear God’s Word and respond. It is painful to want to help but not be able to help.
A selfish part of me gets aggravated because these people expect my individual time when they don’t care enough to join the family. It is a one-sided relationship, in that, the church must be there for them but they are not there for the church. Then the practical side of me kicks in and I realize that if I spend all of my individual time with those who do not attend our services, I will have no time left for those who are part of the regular events. We are fully aware that we are called to reach out to the hurting and the marginalized. Believe me; our church is full of people like this.
It requires much patience in order to continue to offer help that is rejected. Then I am reminded how long it takes me to “get it” sometimes. God is patient with me.
At the end of the frustration is the realization that we are grace-based and will continue to try to help people; whoever needs it. There does come a time when we have to shoot straight with people and not coddle them – we refuse to use our resources to cater to people who remain uncommitted to Christ and His church. Sometimes, the best way to help them is to tell them to grow up and do the right thing. But we will never withhold help from desperate people.