Reaching Out... Together


When I was 18 months old, my family joined the church in our neighborhood. It was a congregation that made a bold move from their familiar Humboldt Park neighborhood into our O’Hare neighborhood. We were among the first new members. My brother and sister would be born into this new church family and it wasn’t long beyond our infancy that my mom employed her strategy of engaging us in worship. It was quite bold for parents of 3 kids just 34 months apart, but it was simple: we sat in the front.

The Geis Pew was pretty safe from invading visitors who didn’t know our spot. Prime seating in church then, as it is now, was in the back. As a little one, the pulpit towered over me and my little neck was bent at 30 degrees just to see Pastor’s face hovering above me. And the whole church would know if my siblings and I were having a bad day. Most of the time, we sat still. Mom’s strategy worked well. I grew up with Jesus and His Church in the third row.

Our place in church wasn’t just about promoting good behavior. Mom wanted us to see and hear everything unobstructed. She wanted us to “Meet Jesus, Experience the support of a church, and Live as disciples.” Sitting in the front literally immersed us into the life of the congregation. We were the first to walk down the aisle as congregants were orderly dismissed from their pews. Our routine gave us the chance to meet many people. The church family reached out to us and loved us. By the time I was in first grade, I knew more than 100 members.

Many of us have our unofficial seat in the sanctuary. There are actually little communities that have developed among some of the pews at St. John’s. You might say they are “small groups” that we didn’t even realize we had. I don’t know if we realize it, but our routines provide (or hinder) our opportunities to reach out to one another.

  • Have you ever called and checked on someone who’s missing from their “self-assigned seat” beside, in front or in back of you?
  • Do you feel close enough to the people in the “pew-next-door” that you might share a gift or a dinner or an outside activity with?
  • When a person sits in the wrong seat, have you welcomed them into your “home space” as you would a guest in your home?

If not, consider giving such hospitality!

Our capacity to be such creatures of habit can keep us from growing new relationships. At St. John’s we’re making an intentional move together. It’s a bold move to reach out to new relationships and deepen the ones right next door to us. That’s what “40 Days of Community” is all about. Our goal is,

“to deepen the community
within our church
and with the community outside of our church.”

If your a member of St. John's I have a request for you this weekend.

Join us in worship this Sunday and dare to find an unfamiliar seat. Be bold and move! Just for a week. Most importantly, reach out to someone you haven’t met before. Share your name with them, even before they ask. (Even if you think they should know it!) Go deeper as neighbors in the pew.

And if you're thinking about visiting St. John's this weekend, I promise you that you will have a welcome place for you to join our community.

Finally, if I can be so bold, plan to come a little early and stay a little late. You don’t get to know your neighbors when you are always on the run—and they don’t get to know and support you.

I already mentioned we have a Prayer Walk this Sunday (9:25-10:25). Men, women and children of all ages will walk the streets of LaGrange, praying for those who live, work, play and learn in this community. There’s a ½ mile, 1 mile and 2 miles course to pray. We even have a 50 yard one in the hall for those with special needs. Our Prayer Walk, is more than a symbolic gesture. As we walk to our schools, hospitals, businesses, homes, churches and park benches, we tread the very places Jesus dwells every day and we allow Him to open our eyes to the needs of the people around us— people the Lord has placed in our path that we may demonstrate the love of Jesus and share the hope found in Him.

I give a lot a credit to my mom for the sense of community our family had with Jesus and his church. She dared to move to places that seemed uncomfortable to most, but they provided the best seats to engage and experience the support of a church. During these 40 Days of Community at St. John’s you have an opportunity to try out some things that might just change your life for the better. Last week the message was, “We’re Better Together” but this week we dive in by daring to make the move of “Reaching Out… Together.”

Other "40 Days of Community" Articles in this Series

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