I wrote this for Fellowship’s newsletter this week. I will continue to post some of these here on the blog for those who are interested.
Here it is:
Recently I was asked to serve on the Coordinating Council for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship (CBF) in Texas. I had my first meeting as part of this group out at Camp Buckner last Thursday and Friday. IT was exciting for me to be around other pastors and lay people around the state and spend two days discussing how churches can better partner together to serve the Kingdom of God. It was a great two days.
One of our lengthy discussions centered on how we can lead college students, seminarians, and young adults to fall in love with the local church. You don’t have to look very far around to see a vast shortage of young adults (say, between 18-35) in church on Sunday mornings or involved in church ministry. We discussed the reasons for this and ideas on how to overcome this. These discussions are happening in every denomination and every church as we all struggle together with this, and I would be lying if I said our discussion was terribly groundbreaking.
One thing, though, stood out to me that I wanted to share with you. A former pastor of quite a few years who now works for CBF was leading our discussion. In the middle of all of our talk he stopped and said, “Do you know what I really miss about pastoring in the local church?”
Of course we all waited for his answer.
And he simply said, “The hugs.” He talked about how nowhere else is it ok to embrace each other like we do when we truly feel ourselves to be brothers and sisters in Christ and a united family of faith.
I’ve thought a lot about his statement since Thursday evening. I’ve written about this before; about how when we hug, it is more than simply a king greeting. We are opening ourselves up to one another, making ourselves vulnerable to one another. We are signifying with our bodies an openness to give and receive and to serve one another.
It is nearly impossible to lovingly bear hug someone you have a grievance against. Hugs can be forgiveness and healing. Hugs can say what needs to be said. Hugs communicate love and unqualified acceptance in an innate and immediate way like nothing else.
I wondered how many young people who drop out of church were ever a part of a “hugging” congregation? I wonder about so many people who drop out of being a part of a family of faith for so many reasons. I wonder if they miss the hugs? I wonder if they were ever truly hugged and embraced to begin with?
My family of God, I’m happy to say we are a “hugging” church. I’m happy to say I’ve ruined multiple shirts from lipstick stains from our hugs. I’m glad I have an allergy fit almost every Sunday as a result of embracing with you and getting a bit too much of your perfume and/or cologne.
My challenge is two fold on this Tuesday morning.
1) Keep hugging! Embrace one another. Communicate to one another the depth of the power of an embrace by a brother or sister in Christ.
2) Spend a bit of time thinking about those that haven’t been with us in a while or those in our community who have simply dropped out of being a part of a family of faith, and who very well may miss the hugs in all their glorious depth. Go to them, and extend yourself and the love of Christ to them.