By Norman Ridenhour
Baptist Layman & Retired Journalist
Faith does not make things easy, it makes them possible (Luke 1:27).
I can’t remember how many times I’ve heard people ask “Why do I need the church?” My answer would be “who do you turn to in times of need? Who do you call when all your efforts to solve a problem or crisis have failed?”
Another statement thrown at believers is “the church is full of finger pointing hypocrites.” My favorite reply is “well come on anyway, one more won’t hurt.”
I would agree that all churches have a personality of their own. Some are cold and snobbish. When my family relocated from Birmingham to Murfreesboro we attended a church that put a “visitor” ribbon on my wife and I that was red with white letters and at least 12 inches long.
No one, during or after the service, spoke to us, not even the pastor, who purposely turned away from us to speak to another couple.
Obviously that was a one and done visit. Next we visited Third Baptist Church where almost everyone greeted us with a smile and thanked us for coming to their service. You could feel the warmth and kindness.
The following week two men, Bob Norris and Terry West, knocked on my door and made it clear “We welcome you to Murfreesboro and hope you’ll consider joining our church family.”
Many churches I’ve attended have expressed the same message, but few follow through with action by its members. Larry Gilbert stated it best. “People are attracted to a church that meets the needs in their lives or touches the needs and lives of their loved ones. A balanced, healthy church meets all the needs that exist in the body of its members and reaches out to the community it serves.”
Wow, that is such a beautiful statement. Proving it is something else. Okay, let’s start with the definition of a family. A group of individuals who are born from parents, and a group who grow together, depend on one another, surrounded by love and dependence on each other for a healthy and successful life. Now substitute a group of believers, called a church, who work together, support each other and are a source of comfort when life challenges us.
I’ve seen this repeated many times at my church. One example is a couple where breast cancer of the mother was found and given only weeks to live. Oncologists at Sarah Cannon Cancer Center took her case, and a series of trial drugs and treatment became a major part of this family’s life. Her life was extended for three years.
In order to keep his wife covered by insurance the husband had to continue to work. His job was sales and his territory covered three states. Hopeless situation. But here we see the “church family” come forward with love and action.
Members of her Sunday School class took turns sitting with her for two hours every morning and evening. Pastors Steve Hutson, Mark Moore and Duane Geib were in constant contact with the family to make sure needs were met. Paul said in Ephesians 4:16 “From him the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
This is not only a church family, but one who acts, who cares, who loves all members of the family and proves it by their actions. Anything less, is nothing more than a group that meets, greets and eats.
I am so beholden to my church family because the family I described is my family, my wife the afflicted and my church family who took action without having to be asked. They sat with her daily, took her to doctor appointments and treatments. Without my church family she would have died in a matter of weeks.
As I stated, her life was extended by three years. She witnessed the birth of a grandson, spent precious time with her family and grandchildren. She died surrounded by two families who loved her. One family made all this possible — our family at Third Baptist Church, Murfreesboro.
Twelve years later, that group still steps up to the plate when called to serve by members of our church family.
So who will you turn to when that special need arises?