The Empty Pew

When church members develop a chronic illness, an empty pew remains where the member once sat for services.

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The Empty Pew

Jesus sent his disciples into the world to heal the sick, among other things. The Bible presents many examples of his ministering to the sick and abandoned. His Word tells us to do likewise.

I’ve scanned area church program offerings to determine who might have a mission devoted to supporting members who have special needs. I did not find any that provided a comprehensive mission. Some churches offered classes or support groups related to divorce or other loss topics, but none related to supporting those with illnesses or special needs. Furthermore, most did not reference how to obtain accommodations to attend services or participate in worship activities. We send thousands of dollars to foreign mission fields, but what are we doing to reach hurting people at home who desperately need Jesus?

Most churches try to support their members who develop chronic illnesses or become victims of tragic accidents, but they have no idea what to do. Misunderstood privacy laws lead many to stay quiet when approaching family members. No one wants to invade someone else’s privacy, offend them by being nosey, or have someone sue them for asking inappropriate questions under HIPPA laws. Confidentiality and privacy are essential, but so are compassion and caring. How do we find a way to meet the needs of the hurting among us if we can’t ask what they need?

In the early days of Lynn’s illness, our church rallied around us, building Lynn a ramp, installing a roll-in shower, repairing damaged walls from wheelchair driving accidents, and much more. They were amazing. Unfortunately, not all churches care for their members in the same way. As a counselor, I used to suggest to individuals in need that they go to their church and ask for help. I was surprised at how many said their church did not have a program to support members in need.   

What did Jesus say about helping the sick and the needy within the church? Throughout the pages of the Bible, examples appear of Jesus healing the sick. He showed compassion to all those with infirmities. He sent his apostles into the world to teach and heal the sick as part of their training. Jesus showed his love for others through his actions. He knew that words meant little if actions didn’t follow. Just like they say in AA, “If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk.”

Start at home if you want to minister to the sick and unhealthy. Reach out to your congregation. I’m sure more than enough homebound members rarely come and need a Samaritan outreach mission to remind them of Jesus’s love for them.

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