I was reading through my Facebook feed recently and saw that someone liked an interview with Jennifer Knapp. It was a person I do not generally associate with being LGBT affirming, so I was surprised to see an interview with a gay Christian where she spoke openly about her faith and orientation on their page.
As I read what they had to say, I gained a bit of understanding. They posted the article so that “Christians can minister to those in the gay community.”
I often hear (and have said myself) that the Church needs to reach out to those in the LGBT community. You may also hear that the Church needs to reach out to liberals. And agnostics. And atheists. And any number of “others.”
But here’s the thing.
They’re already there.
Whatever group it is that we think we need to reach out to, they are already attending your church. They’re sitting beside you in the seats. They’re taking communion with you. They’re holding your babies in the nursery. They’re singing on the worship team. They are all around you.
We have to stop thinking of groups as being outside of our churches. They might be outside of what your church teaches, but they are still inside of your church. No matter how small your congregation, some “other” is a part of it.
We also need to be wary of focusing on groups, because that can cause us to become lazy with our words. If we’re “reaching out” to gays, we might not be as careful with the crude caricature of an effeminate man from the pulpit. If we’re “reaching out” to atheists, we might be tempted to make a sweeping generalization about a lack of faith in our small group. If we’re “reaching out” to liberals, we might go ahead and make the Obama joke during sharing time.
Whenever we’re consumed with “reaching out,” we’re potentially neglecting those who are already among us.
Perhaps instead of reaching out, we should begin by embracing those we see around us. Jesus said, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Rather than looking for opportunities to find groups of people to minister to, perhaps we can focus on loving the individuals right with us. Take time to get to know them. Share a meal together. Play a board game together. Create together.
Let’s treat the people that we go to church with as our mission field. Because it’s by loving them that we best reflect Christ.
By loving the individuals that we see each day, we begin to reach out.
Is there a group that you’re tempted to “reach out” to? Is there someone closer that you could get to know better?