(July 17, 2019) Robert and Maureen McQuillan caringly – and concernedly – encourage connecting …
Wandering along a beach one time we unexpectedly met an old friend. In the ensuing chitchat she expressed how difficult it was to connect with people in her church. Yet she had done her best in reaching out to various folk but, despite promising, they hadn’t got back to her.
The result was that no meaningful contact has been established and this friendly, insightful lady was thinking about finding a more amicable church.
On another occasion, when we were in our local library a lady from yet another church recognised us and shared something similar: ‘There are so many lonely women in church that can’t seem to make a close relationship. It is so hard.’
We’ve also come across men who haven’t been able to connect in church life and be able to share their feelings with other guys.
And then there are ministers of busy churches who do not have real friends to confide with. Some wrongly feel they can’t even share with their denominational leaders in case the ‘upper echelon’ thinks they aren’t spiritual enough or not capable of dealing with things. (Side comment here: We’re delighted to now know Kelvin, a great guy dedicated to reaching pastors, priests and ‘lay people’ who need the connection of ‘a friendly ear’).
Seniors too can have their difficulties – but the biggest shock is when a precious child confides with you that he or she feels they cannot share their heart secrets with anyone, not even their dad or mum. Kids too need reaching and blessing, as our brother-in-law Ken Gardiner of Life4Kids, firstname.lastname@example.org will tell you.
Connecting covers a wide field!
The reality is that everyone needs a friend! We all need to connect meaningfully with someone. If not our lives, even as Christians, can run the danger of being very lonely.
Lonely…that’s a word meaning ‘sad because alone.’ Connect…that’s a word meaning ‘join together, unite.’ The words connect, connecting and connection are very scriptural. In particular the Message Bible uses connecting in the sense of closely uniting, especially in relation to Ezekiel’s vision of the temple (Ezekiel 40).
For Christians, today’s temple is church with the understanding that we are the temple of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16). Consequently in church circles it’s so important that Christians relate by connecting with one another and building mutual and meaningful relationships.
Jesus gave a clear direction on this important matter: ‘Let me give you a new (meaning fresh) command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another.’
He went on to explain why this is so important: ‘This is how everyone (the world, unsaved people) will recognise that you are my disciples – when they see the love you have for each other’ (John 13:34-35 [brackets ours]).
Jesus was talking about love that is open to everyone no matter what culture, nationality, colour, education, irritating habits, personal problems or faults!
There are no excuses for not reaching out to Christian brethren even if we don’t fully understand them or even their language! We simply appreciate them as brothers and sisters in Christ.
We’ve had the delight of ministering in a church where the brethren are from the Middle East and speak Arabic. What a joy to find them so open to the word of God and the moving of the Holy Spirit and so desirous of receiving our messages and the touch of the Spirit through our ministry.
We connected with them, even by my (Robert) willingness to be embraced in their custom of hugging and ‘sacred kissing males on the cheeks.’ And what an unexpected blessing as a young Iranian, who so desired to be a prophet of God as well as seeing people come to Jesus, moved in faith and boldly gave us an encouraging word.
Yes, we too need encouragements from those who will make it a point to be our friends and care!
Connect is a great word. Dictionaries explain that as well as uniting and joining it also means binding, fastening together, linking, associating with, attaching, establishing communication between.
To achieve a meaningful linking such as Jesus inferred means going out of our way to befriend people. Yes, it’s true that some people are hard to get on with and as God directs us to make friendships there’ll be times when we really have to make the effort and go the second mile.
We may even find we are led to people we normally wouldn’t mix with but a beautiful relationship develops. And as we care for such people, we discover just how much they care for us.
Today a lot of churches use the word ‘connect’ to name their weekly home groups, such as Connect Group South. Funnily enough when we first church planted 30 years ago (way before church planting was a regular tag and few were really into such ventures), we called our five home groups Connect groups.
Those were great days when we ensured that everyone in our growing church was connected, that no one would ever feel unwanted or lonely, even on Christmas Day if they lived on their own. We were strong on relationships as connecting means accepting responsibility and, like real love, it’s an action word!
Normally churches, especially Pentecostal ones, have a spot when the leader encourages everyone to greet one another. But, sadly, it’s so often a shameful case of the briefest of greeting, with flimsy handshakes and eyes staring around elsewhere. No real connecting and reaching out and, abruptly shortened by the leader, it’s almost a case of ‘Let’s get on with the service – quick.’
But, conversely, we recall ministering in a Baptist church where we were delighted to observe how the Baptos really took time to greet one another, friends as well as strangers such as ourselves, during what they obviously considered an important time of their gathering together!
This was more than merely a rushed few moments – we thought they’d go on and on! But we were observing real love demonstrated, caring and sharing together. And after the service and ministry time they were so anxious to fellowship further around the traditional cuppa.
These were more than catch-up times – people were meaningfully caring for one another and asking warm-hearted, concerned questions.
Paul’s directions of greeting [ie. embracing in the arms] with a holy kiss fulfilled scripture (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).
Back in the very beginning God’s heart was expressed as he recognised that his creation was lonely: ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion’ he caringly and lovingly declared (Genesis 2:18Message).
That’s a principle of connecting caring that blesses each gender, both male and female, children, teenagers, adults and seniors. And what God intends for us, we must extend in connecting with one another. It’s so easy to go beyond church services and ‘do coffee or lunch’ with people, including the visiting unsaved.
Similarly it’s not that difficult to connect with strangers out there in the marketplace of life… opportunities can be found every new day ‘out there.’
In 1 Peter 1:5, the apostle urges us ‘Don’t lose a minute in building on…’ and lists characteristics including ‘warm friendliness and generous love’ (v 7).
He confirms in verse 8 that these qualities bring their own daily reward as well as maturity in Christ and desires us to have them ‘down in black and white’ (v15).
Whether by emails, visits, phone calls – and whatever our differences may be… let’s all connect, let’s be responsibly involved! It builds people, it helps builds the church.
Dr Robert and Maureen McQuillan’s link is email@example.com / Facebook (Scripture and other emphases in this Onliner ours). Relating links: Carol Round’s Running to Win / George Forbes’ A Heart for the Harvest