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THE TOO HARD BASKET  (Part 2)

Following on from part 1 of this reflection, I wonder if the word, "Enigmatics" may be too easily misunderstood when applied to a person who, for reasons entirely unknown even to himself or herself at times, has walked away from their Church never to return. Since part 1 I've been more drawn towards the word, "estranged". When partners fall out, it is sometimes referred to as estrangement. Whether that be marriage partners, business partners and I want to throw in here the estrangement between a now absent and disgruntled church member and the church network of relationships where he/she once belonged .

These many, many people constitute a mission field; the mission being to see them reconciled to the local body of believers, healed from past hurts with both "parties" repenting of anything that contributed to the wound in the first place.

So how might we approach such a ministry of reconciliation?

First, we begin by acknowledging the existence of this group of "estrangees". Their "departure from the Church" may have happened in another church in another location, not necessarily the Church where we now worship. Regardless of the geography in any particular case, they now live in our area. They are most likely our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Second, let's identify the people who qualify as "estranged" from the Church.  This would need to be done with great sensitivity and grace. Yet, in the average church there would be long term members who would recall the time, event and circumstances in which "that couple ended up leaving our church".

Third, we need to identify the person or persons within our Church family whose heart/s the Lord has touched and is calling them to reach out to those who are lost to the activities of the Kingdom in their present state although not necessarily lost to the King.

Fourth, those who will be reaching out to these lost folk need equipping as the team begin to prayerfully outline their strategy.

One way to make the initial contact that might be considered is a letter to be sent to the person/family who is estranged. The letter is to inform the person concerned that the Church is experiencing a new season of life and renewal and that part of that experience is recognising that there are events in our history that were not handled well. The Church is being called to face up to the hurt it caused and to do what it can to apologize and seek the forgiveness of those it has wronged. The letter could request permission to call on the people concerned.

The kind of responses that the Church might expect are...

a) No response at all

b) A prompt letter or phone call requesting (or demanding!!) that no visit be made to that person or family.

c) Cautious agreement.

The initial letter gives the recipient a "safety zone" in which he/she/they can have time to prepare a reasoned response rather than feeling trapped by two visitors at the door.

The above thoughts are just thought-starters rather than carefully reasoned, tailor-made strategies. You will have to prepare those strategies that suit your particular situation.

My appeal is this; please don't put the estranged people in the too-hard basket. Many will want nothing to do with the Church that, in their unshakable view has damaged them. But there will be some who hunger to return the God and the community of faith.

The challenge for us is to find them and welcome them home.

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