Posted on April 23, 2009



Cancer (medical term: malignant neoplasm) is a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body). (Wikipedia) . . . often resulting in death.

A cancer has been uncovered . . . and it is malignant. It is wide spread and growing; those infected with it are afraid to cry out. Expressing this ailment is anti-American, it goes against the American way of being a self-made, independent person . . . a pioneer. It shows itself in the eyes, a look of despair, eyes that are glazed over, afraid to feel, afraid to identify what is eating away inside . . . afraid . . . of the creeping “nothingness” . . . of the resulting impending “nullification” of the human spirit.

The cancer is loneliness. It is more than just being alone. Loneliness follows the infected person to the mall, through the city, and, most strongly, inhabits the pews of the American church.

Mass consumption and the race toward success have killed community. We isolate ourselves in neighborhoods with picket fences, automatic garage door openers, decks built in the back (not front) of homes, air conditioning, and oak doors. We can live right next door to someone and not see them for a month; all the while the soul of the person infected steadily dies. The pain of this cancer hurts so bad it causes physical pain in the body and alters the chemicals of the brain, often causing depression.

In the church, it is alleviated for a minute, on the way through the foyer while saying “hi” to all of the very friendly people. You walk through slowly, savoring the time . . . available only once per week. Then it settles back in, more painful than ever, in the pews of the church . . . one of the loneliest places on the face of the earth. Why? Because, we are so close to what could be community life. A church service could and should be the culmination and celebration of a week full of community life and service, prayer, and sharing meals together. But instead, all of those wonderfully friendly people say, “Hi, how are you this Sabbath?” We chit chat, we ‘worship’, we drink coffee and chit chat some more . . . then we say “Good bye. See you next Sabbath. Good bye ’till then.” Everybody has things to do that are more important than building the community life of the church . . . in such a hurry to go where? I’m still here . . . “Can we pray for you this month?” “Can we give you food for a meal next month?” When all the while the most inexpensive thing is withheld; community. I can’t speak for others, but I walk out that door more lonely and more in pain than ever . . . because I know the early church was something completely different. Because I know I can’t survive without love, without community, without connecting to others daily, without reaching out and serving together. I can’t. But I’m left stepping out into a sort of nothingness, created by major life crashes that have left me extremely vulnerable and in extreme need of relationships that go deeper and provide a level of emotional and spiritual support necessary to just wake up each morning.

How do we intentionally create community?

  • How do we reach those that do not have their needs met in an intimate relationship in their home?
  • How do we support those single parents that are dying from exhaustion, dying from lack of conversation, dying from the extreme pain of loneliness?
  • How do we support those children of single parent families that are taking the brunt of this pain?
  • What about people with health and disability issues that leave them extremely vulnerable and in need of community?

How do we be the mind, heart, and hands of Jesus on earth, in our city, in our neighborhood, on our block????

How can the church have any impact without intentionally building community life?????

How can we make disciples without discipleship in the context of a diverse, caring community?

How many churches can calculate the impact they have had in their neighborhood, on their block?

  • What is the number of households where we have alleviated hunger (for a day, for a lifetime)?
  • What is the number of households where we have alleviated unemployment?
  • What is the number of households where we have alleviated child abuse?
  • What is the number of households where we have alleviated health issues?
  • What is the number of households where we have alleviated poverty?
  • What is the number of households where we have alleviated LONELINESS; the least costly and most contrary to Christianity, the one thing that the early Christians solved first?????

We start by starting . . . by doing something. And we start by listening . . . we listen, then we do, then we listen, then we do more . . . learning as we listen.

Do we as the church really exist

~ as the body of Christ in relationship to

the broken hearted,

the torn and tattered,

the battered and bruised,

the least of these,

the poor in spirit;


~ as bricks and mortar and programs and pews and signs by the roadside with quaint sayings and friendly people that say ‘hi’ on Sundays . . . and return to their isolated ways on Monday through Saturday?

Do we believe in Jesus?

Do we believe in His words?

Do we believe in His works?

Do we believe in His life and death?

Do we believe in the purpose of His life and death?

Do we believe in the church that was born as a result of His life and death?

OR do we believe in the independence of the American Way? Extreme consumption and isolation from community; supported by the striving after the wind of career success?

Or have we even thought about what we do and why and who is left out in the cold . . . such extreme cold?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” (Luke 4:18)

While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13)

Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.” (John 9:36)

Is the church, by design, ready and intentional about serving the mainstream masses . . . or the lost sheep . . . the least of these . . . the poor in spirit . . . the broken hearted . . . the torn and tattered . . . the battered and bruised?

“The Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:32-46)

Are we the hands, mind, and heart of Christ?

Who are we the hands, mind, and heart of Christ to?

Really? . . . no, really?

I think not . . . because we never really intended it.