Feeling Disconnected? Here’s a Fix.

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2 Responses

  1. Laura Munson says:

    Hi, Danny,

    Maybe you can help. I’m a 52-year old Texan currently living in the UK after meeting the man of my dreams online, marrying him & moving here to be w/him. Since Jan. of 2010, we’ve attended a Wesleyan Methodist church in our area & I’ve never really fit in there. The church itself is small by US standards, small-to-moderate by UK standards, & consists mostly of over-70s. I’m a square peg there in a round hole in several ways: 1) I’m of a generation after most of them, 2) I’m American, they’re pretty much all local (East Yorkshire), 3) I was spiritually reared Southern Baptist, most of them have never been anywhere outside the Methodist church, 4) I tend to be an armchair intellectual, most of them are the polar opposite– wonderful, generous people, just not intellectual; I tend to have niche interests that not one of the others has & which none of them seem to have become curious about acquiring & 5) my husband & I were 40 & 55 when we married. Neither of us had been married before & both of us had kept ourselves sexually pure for a future spouse (yes, it CAN be done for that long). Neither of us has ever had kids (or have ever really wanted any) & pretty much all of them have; as a result, kids are perhaps the biggest topic of conversation among the rest of my fellow church members (followed by what’s been on TV the past week. My husband & I don’t own a TV.). When I DO manage to offer something in a conversation, I can tell the others aren’t really interested, especially when they talk over me or interrupt me to change subjects & begin talking to someone else. My husband & I, under non-lockdown circumstances, go to every service & other church event we can, but my status as a square peg never seems to change. My husband’s not all that much better, but he gets respect because he’s our congregation’s treasurer & a newly-qualified local preacher for our circuit (so we’re pretty much committed to the place for the long haul).

    In your post, you mentioned participating in a ministry of some sort & my gut response was “WHAT ministry?” As ours is a congregation of mostly over-70s, there’s not much that exists by way of ministry at our church. The congregation come from a generation & culture who were trained that “church stuff” is for the professional clergy, so they’re content to let them do their thing, no matter how few of them around there actually are. The level of teaching at the church would be laughable if it weren’t so pitiful. I spent my spiritually formative years under the great W A Criswell at the First Baptist Church of Dallas in the early-to-mid 1980s. Listening to a typical sermon where I am now is like a grad student sitting in on a first-grade class & being expected to get something out of it Since I know that church isn’t about what I get out of it, but what I put into it, however, I try to praise & thank the best I can w/whatever I’m given. Our new pastor (4 years my junior) is a great guy who seems fairly gung-ho about his flock learning the Bible & I’ve been enjoying the Zoom Bible studies he’s been leading lately, but last week’s study came down to a bit of a disagreement between myself & one of the clergy present. I stayed calm & made my point as logically as I knew how, but she still wasn’t getting it when we ended the lesson. This morning, I was few minutes late to the study (it’s every week at the same time) & when I Zoomed in, she was still talking about it. I half-jokingly said that it looked like I was still in trouble, so maybe I should leave & there was dead silence until our pastor (leading the study) assured me that discussion was the whole point of the studies & was, in fact, what was needed (but what else, indeed, COULD he realistically be expected to say). The experience last week & this week made me realize how no one else in the study bar my husband & the pastor (w/whom I click) ever responds to ANYTHING I say by way of discussion. I might as well not be there & I think everyone would breathe a sigh of relief if I didn’t show up from now on.

    I should point out that as well as pretty much being committed to staying at the place for the foreseeable future, my husband & I are dependent on public transport as we don’t own a car & that we’ve looked around at every church to which we could get easily & THERE IS NOTHING BETTER. Bad church is an epidemic in this country that’s worse than the COVID. I’ve stuck around not just because there IS nowhere else to go or because my husband’s so committed now, but also because I’ve come to believe that instead of running away, I should probably “be the change I want to see” instead. After this long, however, I’m beginning to think that my purpose is to have no one respond positively to me (much like Jeremiah).

    So what do YOU think: do I have a real problem & is there a solution, if so, or am I just throwing myself the world’s biggest pity party?

    Laura Munson,
    Hull, Yorkshire

    • Danny says:

      Laura, what a great question and challenging problem! I freely acknowledge that the following suggestion may be largely dependent upon culture. i.e., what may work in the American South may not work as well in the UK (especially with limited transportation options.)

      What if you saw the others in the congregation as your primary ministry field for now? Seek to serve them, to befriend them, to love them any way you can. If the congregation is older, that could mean dropping off groceries or a meal, offering to help with yard work, or just getting together with a lonely senior adult for a cup of coffee. Rosaria Butterfield’s book The Gospel Comes With A House Key is a huge help in this regard (see my Top Ten Quotes post for more).

      As you befriend them – relentlessly and persistently with no underlying agenda – you’ll build trust. And as you extend your focus to those outside the church, you may find the congregation willing to move into that community focused ministry with you.

      I hope that helps. I’m praying for you now!

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