By now we all know someone who has suffered from Covid-19 and may even know someone who died from this dreadful virus. We certainly are aware of the numbers and grieve for those who have suffered and those who have lost a friend or family member due to this illness. One thing we may not be aware of is the number of people who have suffered through depression and other emotional/mental health struggles. I don’t have any statistics in front of me but over the last eighteen or so months such struggles have increased significantly.
There are a lot of hurting people but are there any churches for hurting people?
Yesterday’s Discipleship Conversations, hosted by Steven Carrizal and Jeremy Hoover, is Interview with Ben Stevens (Part 1). Ben serves as the Senior Pastor of New River Church in Forney, Texas, which he and a few other couples planted in 2007.
One thing New River Church has been over the years, according to Ben, “is a place for people to spiritually heal.” What he means is that the church has been a community for those who have been hurt in other churches. Part of what makes New River Church a healing community is that they embrace freedom for people to hold differences of opinion. The focus for Ben is preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and letting people know they are forgiven of their sins.
Casting such a vision has allowed New River Church to become a family. As Ben describes, “New River is a family; it has been a family for a long time. People love one another, they care about one another.” This doesn’t mean the church has not had some challenges along the way, which Ben alludes to in the conversation. But even with the challenges, New River Church is still “an extremely peaceful place to worship and to come and to feel accepted and loved by a church family.”
If you listen to the conversation, which I encourage you to do, you’ll hear Ben discuss how the church dealt with some of these challenges in order to cultivate this loving-family church culture.
This makes me think also of a similar but different reality in North America that pertains to church planting. We’ve heard a lot over the years about reaching the unchurched and for good reason. But I suspect that in some local communities, perhaps many, there are a great number of dechurched people. By dechurched, I mean people who once belonged to a local church but have since left after being hurt one too many times among unhealthy churches. So while we always want to make disciples, we need some new church plants that can cultivate a healthy church environment with the intention of engaging the dechurched. Perhaps these churches can help some dechurched believers re-enter a church and help that church live as a signpost of hope for others who are hurting and bearing a broken heart.