by Tyler Arnold
Have you ever found yourself asking, “I wonder where ‘so and so’ has been? I haven’t seen them in church for a while.” As a pastor of a large congregation, I certainly ask myself that question from time to time. I’m sure your reason for asking it is the same as mine: you pray that everything is all right with your absent brother or sister in Christ. You pray they are healthy. You pray their family is doing well.
And you are right to be concerned. Why? Because on Sunday morning, in God’s Holy House, with God’s beloved children, miraculous gifts are given and received. No one should miss out on these life-giving means, which include the forgiveness of sins, His Word and Sacraments. The Lord promises great gifts of life to you in the Divine Service. When God’s people are not in His house receiving these gifts, it is a concern.
But what can you do about it? If you are concerned about the welfare of your fellow believers, you will do more than just ask the question and then leave it alone — right? Well, that is sometimes easier said than done. Maybe we just don’t know what to say or do. Maybe we think someone else will notice and they will reach out to them. Maybe our friends will be back soon and there is a perfectly good explanation for their absence. Maybe not. How will you know if you don’t find out for yourself?
Dear Christians, don’t assume your pastor has noticed the person you are missing in worship is absent. He sometimes misses stuff like that. Don’t assume your pastor has already reached out to the absent church member or family. Sometimes pastors miss what might seem obvious to others.
If there is someone that you haven’t seen in church for a while, consider doing two things:
- Reach out to them. Show concern by demonstrating a Christ-like compassion for their well-being. Ask them, “How are you doing? I haven’t seen you at church in a while and I wanted to make sure all is well.” By actively reaching out, you are showing your neighbor how much they mean to you and that you truly miss them.
- Tell your pastor about your concern for the absent member or family. He might have unintentionally overlooked the absence. Or he may know the circumstances around their absence and shed light on the reason for it. Keep in mind, if it is a sensitive issue or a private matter, he may tell you only what you need to know.
If you are the one who is not receiving God’s precious gifts in the company of your fellow believers in church, please consider this brief note my concern for you. I encourage you to reconnect with the community of believers who assemble as God’s gathered guests at His feast of life, strength and encouragement. His gifts are essential. Jesus is missing you.
The Rev. Dr. Tyler Arnold is senior pastor at Christ Lutheran Church, Platte Woods, Mo. He is also a Collegium Fellow for DOXOLOGY — The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care and Counsel.