Indifference is a Killer

It was during a Presbytery Council meeting. A pastor in the Presbytery came to share concerns about a culture of bullying she had witnessed that was damaging the Presbytery’s mission and ministry. She shared examples. She lifted up suggestions. She finished her time among us. She was dismissed. And then the Council never spoke of it again.

There was no follow up. There was no response to her. There was no plan to address the issues.

This, my friends, is indifference.

Imagine that on the night that the elders are meeting, a fire has displaced 20 neighbors across the street from the church building and the elders don’t mention it between the budget report or the motion to hold a turkey dinner fundraiser.

Imagine that there are two people who live in the alley behind your urban church and they spend every night there huddled behind the dumpster with a grocery cart filled with their possessions. And the parish nurse does a great job visiting homebound parishioners with mobility issues and anxiety. And the missions committee is organizing a trip to Haiti to paint classrooms. And it hasn’t occurred to anyone to talk with the neighbors in the alley living behind the dumpster.

Imagine that in your rural community there are used hypodermic needles in the parking lot that worshippers find on Sunday mornings as they park their cars. None of the church members know anyone who injects drugs – at least personally – and “it’s really none of their business.”

I am grateful to serve a Church (or 92 of them here in North Carolina) that addresses needs in their particular parts of cities and towns. Of course there are a few who are only concerned about what goes on within the walls of their sanctuary. Of course there are some whose connection to their neighbors is nominal – ranging from collecting cans of food to sending checks to local charities.

The Church exists to address the needs of the poor, the homeless, the hungry, the sick, the lonely, the broken, the lost in the name of Jesus Christ. The God who frees us from whatever enslaves us expects us to respond in kind. Our mission is worshipful work.

Maybe we are tired. Maybe we don’t know where to begin. Maybe the structures are too enmeshed to change.

I spent last week with a group of colleagues who – like me – serve our denomination as Mid-Council Leaders. In other words, we are Presbytery Leaders – professionals to serve multiple congregations and pastors – whose role it is to help God’s people be the Church as we are called to be the Church. It was often emotional as we realize what’s at stake.

The world feels crushed in countless ways and thank God we already have a Savior. And yet, we cannot be indifferent to the needs around us. We cannot refrain from having hard conversations about unhealthy systems. We cannot congratulate ourselves for being Good Christians while condemning our neighbors.

It’s good to be home after a long week away. And now, consider me a refreshed-ish cheerleader for engagement with the world in new ways.

How is your congregation engaged with the world? How is your congregation indifferent?

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