Finding Family

One of the good things about being part of a local church is you will find a new extended family; you will find brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, and grandparents who will add a lot of love to you and your family. I’ve talked about how important these people who became like family are to me (even though they’re not blood relatives).

But finding this family can be a little daunting. Say you’re a young couple who’s just moved to a new city and found a church you like. What’s next?

Find a family; that’s what’s next. Now, like I said, this can be a little uncomfortable, but let me give you some things to think about:

1. Most senior adults would relish having a young couple to hang out with. Most would respond very eagerly to an invitation to lunch, dinner, or just a cup of coffee.

2. Most senior adults mistakenly think they have nothing to offer to the younger generations. A lot of the time, senior adults don’t understand the digital world—and really don’t want to. They don’t think you would be interested in anything they have to say.

3. Don’t expect them to make the first move. You make it. Find a couple you think you might have something in common with—perhaps you grew up in the same town, went to the same college, work in the same career, or like to play golf. Any reason is a good reason to start the conversation.

Then, start the conversation. Ask them (or him or her) to lunch after church. Ask about their lives. Introduce them to your children. Tell your stories and listen to theirs. They’ll bring incredible wisdom to your life if you’re wise enough to hear it.

Find out their birthdays and anniversaries and celebrate them. You know, act like family.

The rewards will be more than you can ever imagine. You’ll get back more than you’ll ever give.

And all it will cost you is a cup of coffee.

Adopting Up

In the days of the early church, it wasn’t unusual for someone to show up at church as a new believer having been disowned by his or her family. The church leaders would then assign a family to care for this new believer. Just as Jesus promised, orphans would be given new families. With the breakdown of the American family, local churches are now rediscovering this ancient practice. Young adults and new Christians are coming to our churches with little or no support from their biological families. This means mature believers have to be aware of who’s coming in to the church family and be intentional about helping these new believers make solid, primary connections.

Group Of Girls And Senior Woman Praying Together

There is another, often overlooked, aspect of this adoption process—adopting up. Here’s what I mean by “adopting up.” Just as our churches are filled with young adults who need someone to love them, our churches are also filled with senior adults who need someone to love. The mobility of families means grandparents often live several hours from their grandchildren—and their children. This means many of our senior adults are lonely and left to wonder if their lives matter anymore.

Of course, their lives matter. Senior adults possess the one thing few other people do—wisdom! They know how to keep a marriage together over a lifetime. They have stories of faith and endurance that would inspire all of us. They have been through tough times and lived to tell about them. They have seen history when it was made. And they’re funny.

They have a lot to give to someone who’ll slow down long enough to listen. They have treasures that will change your life. So, the next time you’re at church, look around. See a senior adult? Ask them to lunch. Meet them for coffee. Take them flowers. Get to know them. Make them your father or mother, grandmother or grandfather in the city where you live.

One of the great promises of Christ is that when we follow Him, we’ll find a new family in His family—grandparents included.

Go ahead. Take a chance and let me know how it worked out.

Baltimore and Beyond

A few days ago, Baltimore police arrested a man named Freddie Gray. While in their custody, Mr. Gray died under suspicious circumstances. When he was later taken to the hospital, Mr. Gray was found to have a series of injuries that included his spinal cord being 80% severed. The Baltimore police have admitted mistakes.

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Then, the riots broke out. Stores were burned and looted. Fire fighters and police officers were attacked. Cars were set on fire. On the heels of the riots in Ferguson, MO, it appears we may be on the verge of another summer of riots like we experienced in the sixties.

As Christ followers, how are we to respond to this? What are we to do? Prayer is an obvious answer, but sometimes, prayers have to have feet on them. That is, prayers have to be lived out in our actions.

So what do we do? First, there are a couple of things we don’t do.

One, we reject violence. Violence is rarely, if ever, the answer. The attacks by the rioters will bring a response by the police, which will bring more violence from the rioters. Violence begets violence. It never solves anything. Those defeated will only go underground with their anger, and then it will resurface. It may take years, even generations, but it won’t go away.

Second, we must also reject the “sound bite” responses given by politicians, so-called “experts,” and news commentators. The problem is too complex to be adequately understood in a five-minutes news segment. Not every police officer is a racist and everyone who’s arrested isn’t guilty.

On the other hand, there are several things we must do. First, we have to embrace justice. We cannot sit by and watch lives destroyed by a system that discounts anyone who isn’t of use to the system. What do I mean by that? For a child to be born in the United States of America and not have a chance is just wrong. You and I both know there are children, born in certain places and who live in certain areas of certain towns that, realistically, don’t have a chance. The schools they attend will not prepare them for their future. The streets they live on aren’t safe. The neighborhoods they live in aren’t well served. Christ followers must work for justice for everyone at every level of our society.

Second, we must work to break the poverty cycle that keeps too many of our neighbors trapped. Without a good education, you can’t get a job. If you can’t get a job, you don’t have the money you need. If you don’t have the money you need….and the cycle never ends. Throughout our history, Christians have done some of our best work when we engaged the issue of poverty. The gospel restores dignity to a person. The church brings community to a person and that community provides support and discipline that may be missing in a child’s life who grows up in a broken family.

No, these children aren’t our fault, but they are our responsibility.

Christ calls us to do all of this with love. We often read 1 Corinthians 13 at weddings. Yet Paul didn’t write that passage for weddings, but for everyday living. His description of love lived out is a compelling challenge, but it is the way Jesus Himself responded when He was confronted with in His own life. Love is not only concerned with the victim, but with the aggressor. Both are in need of salvation.

Baltimore didn’t just happen over these past few days. These issues have been seething for years, but no one would do anything. Everyone said it was somebody else’s problem and now everyone has to pay.

The local church has to reengage. Throughout history, when the church has addressed those issues no one else wanted to touch (think Mother Theresa dealing with dying lepers in India), we’ve been at our absolute best. The gospel is for the whole person—mind, body, and soul. The church’s mission has to be to the whole person as well.

Some of Us Stay

The story of Jesus and Legion has always been one of my favorite stories. There is something deeply compassionate about the way Jesus reached down to Legion and asked him, “What’s your name?” Is there any deeper desire in any of us than the desire to be known? At the end of the story, Legion wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus didn’t let him. Instead, Jesus told Legion to go home and tell everyone there what God had done for him.

Yes, that would be a great testimony. The man who once lived among the tombs is now in his right mind and coming home.

On the other hand, it would be the hardest place of all to witness. Too many people know the whole story. Too many people won’t let you forget who you used to be. Too many of these same people have hurt you in the past.

Going is sometimes easier. You can start all over. You can do things differently. You can turn over a new leaf.

Staying is hard. But most of the people Jesus dealt with didn’t follow Him. They stayed home. They found their ministry where they lived. In the very same places where they had suffered, now they had to find a way to serve. They had to find the mission in the mundane.

In my lifetime, Southern Baptists have been a great mission-sending denomination. All of our heroes are those people who have left to serve Jesus somewhere else. That’s great, but I’ve also learned the value of those who stay. Those who have the courage to work through their failures in the same place where those failures happened. There is a grace that comes with being able to stay with people when you’ve learned everything about them…and love them anyway. There’s a hope when you say, “I’m not leaving. Let’s do what we can today and we’ll get back to it tomorrow.”

We serve a God who doesn’t leave. No matter what, He never abandons His children. And sometimes, that determined love is shown through His people who are called to stay.

Not all of us go. Some of us stay. Sometimes the most challenging mission field is the one we live in today.