The title for this blog is a quote from a Jeff Bucknam sermon I went to on Saturday night. Basically, what he’s referring to is how, in dinosaur movies (think Jurassic Park), the person who gets separated from the group is the one that gets devoured - so as the group breaks apart, people die off quickly. It’s an analogy for those who don’t become a close part of a church – but rather, “straggle” at the edges of one, a perfect recipe for eventually becoming not a part of one at all.
Now, definitely there are times when I have been a “straggler” – I am just as guilty as anyone else. In my life, this has taken many forms over time: I’ve used gossip and / or harsh unnecessary criticism to separate myself, I’ve blamed half-hearted attendance on my infant children’s nap schedules, I’ve been involved in ministries where I allowed frustrating instances to push me to throw my hands up in the air and quit, I’ve blamed my lack of unity on lack-luster services, and the list goes on and on. My creative brain can produce limitless “reasons” not to knit myself to a group – this is simply a part of my sinful, self-destructive nature.
Yesterday morning I was reading in Deuteronomy 20 and I was struck by a few verses that really spoke to me about the reality of being a straggler. That may seem strange, considering that Deuteronomy is seriously old Old Testament – however, I have been going through it with a desire to connect it to what happens in the New Testament – in the words of a Literature student I am doing an “anagogic” reading. In chapter 20, verses five to nine, God gives allowance for certain soldiers to not have to go to battle: anyone who has built a house and not dedicated it, anyone who has planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it, anyone who is pledged to a woman but who has not yet married her and – this is the part that really stuck out to me – anyone who is “afraid or fainthearted” because he may spread disheartened-ness to the other soldiers. Now, because I am reading anagogically (I am looking for what this means in relation to the New Testament) I cannot help but tie it to the spiritual warfare (another, very relevant even today, kind of battle) that surrounds the building-up of a church. When you go into battle, do you want to be leaning on a scaredy-cat straggler? Not me. And this is likely why I am okay with not always having enough volunteers for ministries that I am involved in or attendees at prayer meetings (although it would be seriously awesome if there were many, many more dedicated people involved in these areas) because, I need those around me to be strong and brave.
While this might sound horribly accusational (really, that’s not my intention) what I would love to suggest, is that God has given us everything we need to be a core part of a church – its strength and foundation. All of us have wonderful, amazing gifts to give as a part of a church – gifts that could astound you and amaze you if you ever saw yourself using them in the way that God intends. Yes, there are times in one’s life when family must cause us to pull out of the volunteer work that we do – but don’t make the mistake of letting excuses pull you right out of your church family all together. Often, it’s during times like those that you need church support the most.
At the end of all of this you may be wondering – so how do I become a strong part of a church? Well – if I were you, I would march myself right up to one of the church leaders (in the case of our church, that would be any of the pastors, elders, or ministry leaders) and ask. If that doesn’t work … then find a church where it does.