Not long ago, I was reading a post that was critical of the institutional church. Someone was saying that she felt alienated and alone when attending church. A pro-church commenter then rushed in, saying that we should focus more on what we give rather than what we get in church: that we should be proactive in reaching out to lonely people rather than expecting for others to reach out to us. An anti-church commenter then dismissed that, saying that he was told that all his life by people who could not have cared less about him.
What that pro-church commenter said was long a turn-off to me, for the simple reason that I did not know how to reach out to others. And, in some settings, you may get funny looks if you try to reach out to somebody else. This may be the case at a megachurch, where many people do not know one another. In addition, I do believe that there is such a thing as beating a dead horse. If you are at a church, you want to be accepted as part of the community, and people at that church will not accept you, even if you do give and serve, then why stay? Try to find a place that is more welcoming!
At the same time, I do not thoroughly dismiss what the pro-church commenter was saying—-as a sermon to myself, not necessarily to anyone else. I know that I have often been concerned about receiving—-are others reaching out to me? I have been blessed when I have had opportunities in churches to reach out to others: to help them to feel less alone when they go to a church. In those cases, I can be part of the solution. There is something to be said for being outwardly focused, rather than inwardly focused.
I know that many of us are tired of glib, routine, cliche “answers” by Christians, for these “answers” appear insensitive and dismissive of our pain. But I believe that I should not allow my cynicism to dismiss those answers thoroughly. Perhaps they have something to teach me. Whether they can teach someone else, well, that is for that person to decide!