The church is getting some tragically and disturbingly well-deserved bad press these days. I do not excuse the bad actions of any who are a part of the church. We are all responsible for being light and salt in our world, and the church must take care to provide a safe and secure environment.
However, when my adult daughter and I have the inevitable conversations about the state of the church, I often add, “Grandma never made the news.” My daughter was 14 when her grandmother died so she’d had plenty of time to see Grandma in action. She had observed first-hand the kind of loving life that her Grandmother had lived.
She understands that even in the midst of well-deserved bad publicity, the church is still filled with good people quietly doing good things. That's worth taking a moment to remember.
An Eccentric Host
There is often more to a person than meets the eye. Jim, a quiet and quirky man in my church, recently passed rather suddenly and unexpectedly from death to life. He most often sat with his wife Kay on the first row in the back right quadrant of the church. Jim had a bit of an unusual approach to casual conversation, and you never knew quite what might pop out of his mouth. It often seemed a startling non-sequitur as if a thought totally unrelated to the conversation had popped into his head and he just had to share it with you. He never seemed reluctant to share his opinion in a church meeting or business session and sometimes seemed a little abrupt—at least, that’s the way I perceived him.
He was frequently among those who took up the offering at the church. If it was really cold, he might leave his cap on. He invariably stopped to chat with one or more people on his way up the aisle. As the plate passed down the row, Jim might stand with his arms folded behind his back, rocking back and forth slightly, just sort of surveying the congregation about him.
Before I got to know him, I thought he was a bit odd. And then one day, I learned that he and Kay regularly shared their home for weeks and months at a time with cancer patients who were in town for treatment. It might be someone they didn’t even know.
“It’s not my home; it’s God’s,” Jim said one day as he was talking with me. After that, whenever I greeted Jim at church or watched him taking up the offering in his casual quirky way, he always brought a smile to my face. I always thought about what a deep investment in the lives of others that he and Kay quietly made. I doubt they’ll ever make the news.
A Brash Nurturer
Carolyn was another character. Carolyn was thin as a rail, raspy-voiced, and a straight shooter in conversation—and I wouldn't be surprised to discover she was a literal straight shooter. It just fits my image of her.
She didn’t mince many words. She kept books in her oven because she didn’t cook. She smoked. She wore sunglasses to church if she hadn’t slept well because, as she said, she “could go to sleep, and no one would know it.”
Carolyn was also a faithful and regular volunteer at one of the Houston hospices. She would just sit to talk with the patients there, and she was one of the favorites. After her death, it turned out that she’d been sending $20 or $25 a month to some of the young adults in the church when they went to college. I think that each family thought it was only to their child.
Carolyn might have made the news. She’s the type of character who could have made the news. But if she did, it wasn’t for her work in the hospice or her support of other people’s children. I never saw her make the news for that.
A Steady Mentor
John & Jo were a middle-aged couple with an adult son when I was in my 20’s. To this day, when I drink a cup of Earl Grey tea, I remember John & Jo. Every Saturday morning for years, Jo met with me for Bible study and what would now be called “life coaching.”
She was a vibrant and active empty-nester in her forties with no grandchildren. I was a twenty-something single school teacher in my first real job away from home. I’m sure there were dozens of things that she could have been doing on a Saturday morning except mentoring a young woman. I would show up about 9 am; she would make Earl Grey tea; and we would spend a couple of hours talking about Bible verses, church, school, challenges, problems, and life in general. Along with some other friends—Elard and Martha —we spent hours on the road sponsoring youth camp and choir trips.
None of them ever made the news.
A Warm Welcome
When my daughter was two, we traveled to Ridgecrest for a conference. She was shy and reluctant to leave my side. As we registered, she wrapped her arms around my legs and buried her face behind my knees.
I was dreading the moment we had to leave her in the childcare department. I picked her up and she immediately clutched me tightly around the neck and buried her face in my shoulder. We started walking through the breezeway to the children’s area.
On the windows, facing outside were children’s drawings and bible story pictures. Her grip began to loosen. She displayed an interest in the windows. After a few steps, she lifted her head from my shoulder and said, “This looks like my church!”
When we got to the childcare room, she walked straight in and never looked back, confident that if this was “like my church,” it would be a good place for her.
That credit goes to Cyndi, the Children’s Minister at our church at the time. She created a safe space for my daughter who, even at the age of two, was able to carry that experience over to another church.
Cyndi has never made the news.
The church makes the news too often these days for the wrong reasons. I know that the church is imperfect, broken, and often even blind and limping. There are errors that must be corrected and things that must change.
I also know that the church is filled with people who have been transformed by God's grace doing good things that bring glory to Him.
I love the church.