As a pastor, one of the complaints I sometimes hear is that church feels exclusive and cliquish to a newcomer and it is hard to get connected. Why is that? Why is the Body of Christ, which by definition includes all who belong to Christ, such an inhospitable place?
I’m sure there are many factors involved in this dilemma, but I want to zero in on one possibility. Perhaps church culture is exclusive to the degree that we fail to realize the simple truth that all of us are both needy and needed (as Ed Welch describes in his book Side by Side).
If we do not see ourselves as needy, then we most likely come across as a little condescending to those we don’t know–like we are the put-together ones reaching down to help those in need. But that condescending attitude keeps others at a distance rather than truly drawing them in to our community.
If we do not see ourselves as needed, then we constantly defer to others and neglect the unique ways that God has crafted us to contribute to the Body. In doing so, we miss the opportunity to bless others with our unique contribution, and we ourselves miss out on the blessing that comes when we use our gifts for the Kingdom.
In contrast, when we recognize both our neediness and our neededness, there is a humility and genuineness in our manner which makes us approachable and safe for others to connect with. We are not aloof or condescending because we are very aware of our own struggles and insecurities, therefore we are free to receive from others’ giftedness. At the same time, we confidently exercise the gifts God has given us, knowing that we have something that is uniquely vital for the functioning of the Body.
If we could understand–and live from–this reality that we are both needy and needed, the culture of the Body of Christ might begin to shift toward a greater inclusiveness and true hospitality.