“Do you miss me?” Yes, that is all he said to me. I looked straight at him and thought to myself, of course I miss you. Then I had to think, wait a minute, when was he gone? How often had he been gone? How could I have missed that he was not here? Yet, it can be easy for a pastor not to miss one person because of all the other people who are there and demanding a piece of his time—so many who want to say just a word or two to you, or who want you to come visit them. Yet, I should have missed him.
So, how did I not miss him? Maybe another question is, how no one else in the congregation missed him? The people who sit next to him, the people who sit behind him, the people who sit in front of him, how did they not miss him?
Yes, that is an interesting question. But there is another question to ask as well: Why did he feel it necessary to not come to church? Why did he put his fellow Christians to the test?
Have you looked at the membership rolls of your church lately? How many people are on those lists that are no longer coming? How many are asking the very question I was asked, “Do you miss me?”
I have heard the following statements over and over in many churches when it comes to those who are no longer coming to church: “Come on now, these people know where the church is and they know that they receive the greatest gifts of all. They receive the Lord’s Supper and the forgiveness of sins and the fellowship that God calls us to there. They know all this, so why are they testing us? After all the church’s doors are open, aren’t they? They can come in anytime they want. Our doors are open.” That is very selfish on our part to think this way about our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and those whom Christ is seeking. Everyone wants to be wanted and needed. If the place where you are doesn’t seem to care about you then you will look for a place that does care.
We Are Family
As the family of God, we are supposed to care about everyone. As followers of the God who cared enough about each one of us to send His one and only Son to die for us, we are supposed to care about others. The man who came up to me really wanted to know if the family of God he was participating in was truly a family. If you are a family, you know when something is not right with a family member. You know and you do something about it; you call or go over and find out. You attempt to help because that person is family and that is what families do for one another. In the church, however, we say we are a family but then what happens? Well, in this case, no one missed him.
Why didn’t I miss him? Why didn’t those who know him miss him? The easy answer is we are so busy with our own lives that we didn’t notice. A sad answer but probably the truest one to give for why we didn’t know he was gone.
Here is the reason for writing about this incident in my ministry: We are called to care for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. We are called to make disciples. We are called to share the Good News of what Jesus has done for all. Yet, once a person comes into the family of God, we all too often run back to our comfort zone and ignore the new person. We run back to those we know best instead of inviting the new person to become a part of our circle of friends. Or maybe we pick up with the new person and we move into his/her circle of friends and we ignore our old friends and suddenly our old friends are gone. Maybe your old friends or the new friend are just like the man who came up to me and asked, “Do you miss me?” Then we have to say, “What? You were gone?”
As you sit in your pew or chair this Sunday and the many Sundays to come, look around you. Notice who is there and, more importantly, notice who is not there. But don’t stop there, do something: call, send a note, an email, a text, or just go over and see if there is something you can do to help. Make sure you bring it to the attention of your pastor. Make sure you tell others so it is not just you who miss them but the whole church misses them.
Make sure no one comes up to you one day and says, “Do you miss me?” Or worse yet, you never even noticed they were gone.
Photo courtesy of Elisa Schulz Photography