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08.07.2022

Being Braver

It takes courage to step into a church building – and those who do don’t always return.

In a way, I don’t blame them. Some of them are cold with bad coffee or hard seats; others offer comfort breaks in facilities designed before comfort was invented. Worst of all, some aren’t even welcoming.

I met my husband in one such building (our eyes met across a crowded pew). I was only there because I’d met a woman on a train before starting a job. Newly single and apprehensive about the future, I told her I didn’t know anyone in London and was anxious about living there.

She helped me with my case and showed me where to find a taxi. She said she had friends who were part of a church in the area and would give me a warm welcome. I had given up on church for the above reasons, but I went anyway. Her friends were looking out for me and invited me to lunch that day. I’ve been involved with local churches ever since.

The woman, who I never saw again, reached out to me with friendship and care. She didn’t know I’d be on that train, perhaps planning a peaceful journey with her book. Her friends had no way of anticipating my arrival either. But both were willing to change their plans and lead ‘messier’ lives, prioritising people over programmes, time over to-do lists. They were brave, listening to the nudge of the Holy Spirit asking them to ‘be with’ me as our God, in Christ, was with them.

Believers are called to invest in friendship and community wherever they are. My conviction about this is a central theme in my book, Braver, a fictional account of unlikely friendships and a church committed to helping others. A woman cooks for a neighbour; a boy helps dig a garden; an anxious person is taken shopping; a heartbroken woman is comforted. When disaster strikes the local community, they face it bravely, together.

According to one reader, the book shows how fear and shame can be soothed by the healing power of friendship and acceptance.

Isn’t this how the body of Christ should be – compassionate, caring, kind? This is what matters when we’re scattered as the church on our frontlines. As Jesus said: ‘The truth is, anything you did for any of my people here, you also did for me’. (Matthew 25:40)

How can you be braver where God has put you today?

Deborah Jenkins
Deborah is a freelance writer and primary teacher. She blogs at stillwonderinghere.net  Braver is published by Fairlight Books and is available from all good bookshops and Amazon worldwide. 

 

Comments

  1. On R4’s ‘Saturday Live’, they have a feature where people thank those who have intervened in their lives and then disappeared, without knowing the outcome. I think there should be a Christian radio alternative for great stories like yours – maybe there is! The story really does demonstrate the power of one small action, so it’s interesting that many of us go around thinking we can’t do much to change the world just as individuals.

    By Fran  -  8 Jul 2022
    • Thanks, Fran, for this. I think this is true. It’s the small acts we don’t think are important that probably have the most impact. It would be interesting if we could go back and see if they have, years later wouldn’t it? Occasionally someone will say to me, I’ll never forget what you said to me when…And I have no recollection of having ever said anything! That must be even more true when it comes to things we do, mustn’t it?

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  2. I love this. Church should be community, offering the welcome of Jesus to all his lost sheep. ❤️

    By Jo  -  8 Jul 2022
    • Totally agree, Jo! Sometimes we can ‘lose the way’ here too can’t we?!

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
    • Thanks for this. So agree, but I also yearn for churches to go beyond welcoming to accepting, then further still to affirming then right out there to celebrating!! I want my gay Christian son celebrated, I want my hurting daughters to see him celebrated, I want all women with gifts to be celebrated, you get the picture! Xx

      By Rachie  -  26 Jul 2022
  3. How refreshing it is to read the thoughts of someone who has so clearly reminded us of Jesus’ own endless capacity for care and compassion and who is able to challenge without being ‘preachy’ about it. Thanks, Deborah.

    By Deborah Miles  -  8 Jul 2022
    • Thanks so much Deborah 🙂 It’s sometimes a challenge to remember and live out the fact that actions speak louder than words isn’t it?

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  4. I think ‘‘be with’ me as our God, in Christ, was with them’ rather than ‘talk at me’ is a real challenge for us and the church today.

    By Emily Owen  -  8 Jul 2022
    • I agree. It’s a challenge for us all isn’t it? Thanks, Emily, for your comment 🙂

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  5. What a wonderful blog! I’ve been lucky enough to read “Braver” and I can heartily recommend it. A beautiful, compassionate read.

    By Ruth Leigh  -  8 Jul 2022
    • Ruth, thank you 🙂 The book was written to remind myself of these things as much as anything!

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  6. So true and so right Deborah! And your book exemplifies all of this so perfectly. Congratulations on getting such a positive portrayal of the church out to a wider, mainstream audience!

    By Georgie  -  8 Jul 2022
  7. Thought provoking – and amusing! – post. And having read ‘Braver’ I can fully endorse it, both for the quality of writing and the power of its message.

    By Paul Trembling  -  8 Jul 2022
    • Thanks, Paul! I find it thought provoking too. Challenging to change our agendas at short notice if needed. But important if we want to demonstrate God’s ever patient love to others…

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  8. Reaching out to others will always ‘“cost “ you .. and sometimes you can’t and don’t want to
    -Give to a beggar
    -Sit next to a drunk or stinky person on a bus
    -Buy a big issue ( I never have time or inclination to read it )
    A shouting drunk in Teddington really Annoyed me the other day and I had no sympathy at all!😆
    I’m sure Jesus would have found the best way to engage but most of the time I’m as bad as the next person

    By Karin Boyton  -  8 Jul 2022
    • I don’t think we can do all these things, though can we? I happen to know that you do lots of other stuff – invite people to lunch at short notice; arrange inclusive socials; buy little gifts to bring joy. I don’t think Jesus wants to guilt-trip us, but to use what we feel we can do to show His love to others. And you do that really well, Karin.

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  9. Thanks you, Deborah. Yes, friendship and community are key elements of Kingdom life. This is where we connect with real people in their real situations in real life. People, unlike issues, are three-dimensional and connection is with them is something Jesus did consistently and authentically. Quite a challenge, and one which definitely requires courage and bravery.

    By Jenny Sanders  -  9 Jul 2022
    • So true, Jenny. For me these things are the heartbeat of kingdom life but it’s so easy to get distracted by programmes and buildings etc, that we forget the person next to us and what he/she actually needs most. Not that we are always the best people to help but often we are. And even if we aren’t, we can be the ones to direct them to a place where they can get it.

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  12 Jul 2022
  10. I think I’ve been in each of the churches you describe!
    It is so important for friendship, care and love to be shown by Christians to all in the community. We were not directed to chose those we like and wish to spend time with, rather to love our neighbours, whoever they are. I think we all probably recognise, mostly in hindsight, those who have influenced us without us even realising that’s what they were doing. God is mighty in the way he reaches everyone.

    By Lorraine Kirkwood  -  12 Jul 2022
    • Many of us have, sadly 🙁 I so agree with everything you say about love, friendship and community. It’s so basic in a way isn’t it? To be bearers of the light of Christ wherever we are. But so easy to get waylaid by other things in church life (the colour of the new chairs etc!) when they really don’t matter that much…Thank you for your comment.

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  13 Jul 2022
  11. In a world that seems driven by division and rancour it is good to be reminded of the power of kindness, friendship and belonging. Thanks Deborah.

    By Sharon Blyth  -  12 Jul 2022
    • Thank you! I am reminding myself here, as much as anything…

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  13 Jul 2022
  12. Churches always emphasise that they are the people not the building and while this is very true, we also must make our meeting places welcoming! I hope that these days there are fewer cold, uncomfortable churches. Though a warm friendly welcome can make all the difference! I have visited churches which may have all the nice facilities but no one talked to the visitors.

    In a study our ladies’ group did yesterday, we were talking about how as Christians, we should see Christ in each other and people should see Christ in us. That is so challenging, but if we are to engage with people in our community, we must exhibit Christ’s character.

    Let’s pray that our churches can live up to the challenge of being a welcoming inclusive community.

    By Jill Moar  -  14 Jul 2022
    • That’s so true what you say about the right facilities and the wrong approach! Loving and serving others as Christ’s hands and feet in our local communities is also a must if we want to live the way He calls us to. Thank you, Jill, for your incisive comment.

      By Deborah Jenkins  -  18 Jul 2022
  13. Article very thought provoking!
    Fantastic comments

    By Emmanuel Owusu Ansah Dattey  -  15 Jul 2022
  14. I heartily concur with the comment on the positive portrayal of the church in Braver. How refreshing! Have you noticed the depressingly predictable characterisation of ministers and churchgoers is in films? They are almost without exception negative- whether hypocritical, sexually immoral, psychologically disturbed, cruel, deceptive and so on.
    Thank you, Deborah for painting a truer picture of church people as ordinary human beings.

    By Trish Lavine  -  18 Jul 2022

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