The Search to Belong: For Whom Am I Responsible?

Currently, I'm trying to post a few times a week summaries of chapters from books I've read over the past few years. These are the books that have really informed my thinking on discipleship and small groups. Hopefully, they'll provide a good opportunity for you to think through some of these same thoughts.

Today, I'm looking at chapter two from the book The Search to Belong by Joe Myers. This chapter is entitled, "Longing to Belong."

Belonging means different things to different people. According to Myers, "belonging happens when you identify with another entity -- a person or organization, or perhaps a species, culture, or ethnic group." Myers points out that belonging is not necessary reciprocal as Bob may feel he belongs to a group while others in the group may not sense that Bob truly belongs.

In a church setting, people often want to know what it means to "belong". Must one become a member to belong? Do they need to be part of an official small group. Can one belong if they aren't sure they agree with the doctrine? Is it possible to belong if you haven't become a Christian? Every church culture (either formally or informally) has different answers to these questions. These are all questions people have about belonging, and their relationship with others in the church will be deeply impacted by the answers to these questions.

Myers says, "There are those who belong to our congregations who have not asked permission to do so. They connect with the congregation and they choose to belong. Sometimes they decide to follow our rules of engagement; at other times they create their own. Yet make no mistake; their experience of belonging is significant in their lives."

In other words, sometimes people believe they belong to a church, even though they may have NO relational connection to the church. However, they've chosen it to be "their church".

But is this healthy? As Christians, and as members of the body of Christ, we must give significant thought to the question, "to whom do we belong?" and the question, "who belongs to us?" How would Jesus answer this question? He said the second greatest command is to love our neighbor as ourselves. He then defined neighbor (using the parable of the good Samaritan) as anyone with whom we come into contact.

Was Jesus saying that we belong to everyone? Was he saying everyone belongs to us?

Maybe a better word to use is the word "responsible". Who am I responsible for? Who is responsible for me? As we consider the role of small groups in the discipleship process, this may be one of the most important questions we ask. It's easy to say, "I'm responsible for those in my group." But does that meet Jesus' definition of neighbor? What about those who have no group? Who is responsible for them?