Lonely People in a Lonely World

A WELL-KNOWN physician among us was working on a particular degree at one of America's universities. During his eight-month sojourn in a strange city he attended our Adventist church. He didn't miss a single Sabbath attendance at either Sabbath school or church. Yet he was never once welcomed to the church, and in Sabbath school class no one bothered to find out who he was or where he was from. . .

-Editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

A WELL-KNOWN physician among us was working on a particular degree at one of America's universities. During his eight-month sojourn in a strange city he attended our Adventist church. He didn't miss a single Sabbath attendance at either Sabbath school or church. Yet he was never once welcomed to the church, and in Sabbath school class no one bothered to find out who he was or where he was from. Impossible, you say? It sounds that way to me. If I did not know about this instance personally, and know that the one who told me the story was a man of absolute integrity, I would have my doubts too.

A young 18-year-old boy living near one of our institutional churches talked with me a few months ago. He began attending church, then stopped. His explanation was, "I felt so unwelcome I just stopped going." An isolated case? Not at all. The trouble is that so many of us are so busy with our own little family circle or our limited circle of friends that we overlook a large group of people who walk alone through life. With husbands and wives both working to balance the family budget the easy thing to do is to slip quickly out of church, hurry home to a large meal with your own family, and then settle down to a good Sabbath afternoon rest. Those who live in a huge center of population where long distances separate the members from one another find that it isn't the easiest thing to make friends with "the stranger that is within thy gates."

A Worse Loneliness

From an Adventist viewpoint, the general loneliness resulting from selfishness that covers the world is only one type of loneliness. There is a worse loneliness that every child of God will suffer during earth's terminating hours. This loneliness, a mean method of persecution, comes in the form of ostracism. Rejection by society because of obedience to God's commands is not a pleasant experience. Members passing through this type of agony can only find fellowship among those who accept them, who obviously are fellow sufferers. Even today we have many who stand alone for the faith. Now is the time for us to be welded together in the bond of love. The joy of Christian fellowship made the early church a power. It will do the same for God's last movement on earth.

Some Solutions to the Problem

What can we do to make our churches fountains of friendliness? We talk about people drinking the water of life. Do we realize that one of the main ingredients in the water of life is that of Christian fellowship? I am pretty well convinced that an alert minister could build a sizable congregation in our forlorn world just on the foundation of friendliness. Regardless of the doctrines he would preach, he could have his house of worship bulging with people eager to attend because of the warmth of fellowship felt within.

Some of our churches have divided their membership into bands or groups. Each group is responsible for a potluck Sabbath dinner on a specified date. Thus every Sabbath is covered and all visitors are met and welcomed at the door and urged to eat dinner with this particular group. If your church has dining facilities, why not give this plan a try? The bur den of caring for the visitors is shared by everyone and it isn't just the few faithful ones who have to carry the load of entertainment. Does this plan pay off? just ask those who attend a church with a program such as this.

Other churches follow the plan of assigning certain members to entertain the visitors and strangers on specified Sabbaths. For instance, the Smith, Brown, and Jones families are prepared to take any and all guests home with them on the first Sabbath of each month. The major disadvantage of this plan is that if no visitors come, then these folks have prepared food to eat all by themselves or to put in the deep freeze. In the group system, these same families could eat together on that particular Sabbath and at least enjoy fellowship with one another if no visitors show up.

What do we do with the strangers who are members in out midst? I know of churches with 300 to 400 members that have a sizable segment of lonely one No one in the church ever invites them over to dinner. Since they live alone, or are the "only Adventists in the family," it is awkward for them to entertain other members. Would it be possible for the pastor to arrange for entertainment volunteers, on special Sabbaths to invite these lonely members to their homes and offer them true Christian fellowship? If this could be done in a private manner, the effect would be much more dramatic. What a blessing this plan would prove to be if our members would get acquainted with one another and then begin to look for one another every Sabbath morning.

In a cold lonely world, which is getting colder and lonelier as the, weeks go by, let's put into effect some plans that will reverse this trend within our own movement. One of the finest and most intimate fellowships possible is that experienced around a dining room table. Perhaps we should create a new office in the church-- that of social or entertainment, secretary who can assist the pastor in making assignments that he himself would hand out. If our readers have any other suggestions to help break the ice in the church program, please send them to us.

Ministry reserves the right to approve, disapprove, and delete comments at our discretion and will not be able to respond to inquiries about these comments. Please ensure that your words are respectful, courteous, and relevant.

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-Editor of Ministry at the time this article was written

July 1973

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