BY REV. JENNIFER HESEBECK
EXCELSIOR & ZION UNITED METHODIST CHURCHES
Have you ever played the game "Truth or Dare?" It's a pretty simple concept.
Players are asked if they'd like to answer a question, usually personal or embarrassing in nature, or skip the honesty and take a dare (again, usually embarrassing in nature). Some people are so afraid of taking a dare they choose truth every time. Others will do anything to avoid answering a question in honesty and usually end up doing something silly that the other players record and put on the Internet. There are also those who are just so competitive and adrenaline-filled that the dares become a serious test of proving who is more courageous than the rest.
Well, this week I was offered a dare by one of my colleagues ... When he found out that I would be writing for this week's paper, this was his challenge: "I dare you to write something totally ludicrous, just to see if anyone actually reads the faith column!"
Now, I'm not one to back down from a dare but I don't want to waste this space with something ludicrous. I'm going to choose "truth" instead, while addressing the fact that I, too, have wondered how many readers this column actually has. Are you out there? Do you care?
Sadly, I've heard questions and comments like these in our churches also. "Where is everybody?" "People just don't make church a priority anymore." "Nobody cares."
Here's the truth: a caring relationship goes both ways -- love needs to be given and received. I can't complain about my lack of readers if I'm not praying I'll reach you. We can't accuse people of not caring about coming to church if we're not making every effort to invite, include, and encourage them.
I read about a survey of 400 church drop-outs who were asked why they left their churches. Over 75 percent of the respondents said, "I didn't feel anyone cared whether I was there or not."
These are terrible results -- church should be the most caring place in the world!
One of the respondents went on to share this point of view: "I'd rather go to my neighborhood bar than church. People are accepting there. You get to know people and they know you. It feels like a family."
Again, the truth: God has put into the human heart the desire to know and be known, to love and be loved, to care and be cared for. It's not enough to put the worship time on the sign out front and expect people to come to church! When we let people know that we care about them (not just need them to serve on a church committee or bring cookies for Sunday School, but LOVE them), they will care in return. It needs to feel like family -- the family of God.
So, dear readers, please know that the pastors who write these columns do sincerely care for you; and we share our thoughts every week, hoping to inspire you and lead you to a relationship with God and other believers. If you don't know that type of family, I'd like to help you find it. If you are confident as a child of God and you are part of a wonderful church, I want to encourage you to show others that same love and care you've been shown.
But how can people call for help if they don't know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven't heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them, unless someone is sent to do it? That's why Scripture exclaims, "A sight to take your breath away! Grand processions of people telling all the good things of God!"
But not everybody is ready for this, ready to see and hear and act. Isaiah asked what we all ask at one time or another: "Does anyone care, God? Is anyone listening and believing a word of it?" The point is: Before you trust, you have to listen. But unless Christ's Word is preached, there's nothing to listen to. Romans 10:14-17 The Message
Do you care? God does. And so do I.
God's Word is the Truth. I dare you to read it, use it, and share it.