As we approach Cedarbrook's one year anniversary, I'm thankful that we are developing into a community. Because we have been the "place to check out", I've been a bit concerned that no one would get to know each other...that it would always be like "going to a show" where you never meet the person sitting next to you. But through small groups, through volunteering, through just regular attendance on Sundays, connections are being made and a family is developing. That's good. We need family. We need each other. Many of us have walls protecting us from each other, but the church should be a place where we can let those walls slowly melt and begin to trust again.
But strengths can easily turn to weaknesses if they go unchecked. Here's where many churches turn inward and slowly die or at best become ineffective. Once a sense of "family" settles in, they tend to enjoy each other so much they forget what got them there in the first place; inclusiveness. Slowly, imperceptibly, they start talking about "us" and "them" , etc. They become a self-congratulating club. And what's so surprising is that they are the last to know, but visitors pick up on it right away. They feel like outsiders. Nothing's really wrong, it's more of a feeling. Some can't even put their finger on it, but they decide not to return. So, here's another fine line we need to find...the ability to be a family but always looking to include others first. We have to remember that there is a never ending supply of people who are coming to Cedarbrook for the first time, full of questions, full of doubt, wondering if they will fit in, if their attempt to connect with God or a church will be a big disappointment, etc. etc. Our FIRST thoughts should be to welcome these people and help them to feel as much at home as we do. When we've done that, then we can talk to "the family".