Last night, we discussed what it means to assimilate a person in the church. To those who are unfamiliar with the term, it simply means to take someone from the outside and get them involved (using their gifts), within the body of Christ at a local church level. There are, for those who are interested, many resources that convey different ideas of how to assimilate an individual into the local body.
I have a lot of reservations about the whole idea of assimilation though, as it has been presented. Here are somethings we both had discussed last night and some personal revelations I have had regarding this whole issue.
1. There is no “one way” to assimilate an individual into the church. One cannot simply “date” the church and test out the waters once or twice and then get married. It takes a relationship and time to see if the match works. One does not meet a significant other and then get married the next day (usually). I feel as though there are churches that believe that it is possible to get newcomers married in the church. This can be a significant problem that leads to a local church divorce between the church and the person. We have enough divorce in marriages (both Christian and non-Christian). Let’s get something right for once and not rush individuals to commit to something so quick. Let’s not press an individual to make a choice without learning more about the local body and how it functions. This is really significant.
This is not to say that we should therefore allow the individual to sit and kick their feet up. There is a right and wrong way to go about this process. How should we handle this issue? We (as the local body) should take a position that an individual has entered our “home” and therefore, we should respond with interest and curiosity. We should be willing to befriend and get to know the individual who has come through our doors without bombarding the individual. I look at it this way: Treat them as though they had just entered your house and you are the host. Be sincere and intentional. Know their name, where they are from, and even ask what their story is (if they are open to sharing it). The more genuine that one is to that individual, the more the person will feel as though the body of Christ is a place where they can come and feel “at home.”
2. I am not a fan of defining assimilation as “getting plugged in.” The problem I have with it is it seems as though the term “plugged in” infers that we are toasters or blenders. I don’t know about you but I am not something that can be “plugged in.” I do not have a cord coming out of my skin to be plugged into a wall. I do not need electricity to work properly.
I am also not a puzzle piece that easily fits into the grand scheme of a 500-piece puzzle. I believe that is where the church can help an individual (over time) fit into the church. The Church is called to equip believers for the work of God. When an individual comes into a church, he might not have the right shape. His piece might be a little tight, in need of being shaved down. That takes time. How should the church respond to this issue then? I believe the church should provide a safe place for a person to explore his gifts in order that he might understand how an individual can become apart of what God is doing in the context of where this individual lives. In time, I believe an individual can find their place within the local body to serve. It should not be assumed however that an individual would fit right away into a ministry role of the church. Again (and it cannot be over stated), it takes time. There is no need to rush the process of becoming a part of a family.
Maybe I am wrong in all of this. Perhaps I am playing with semantics or something (it wouldn’t be the first). I do believe however that we need to ask these questions. We need to figure out if we are doing something that helps or hurts the local church. Once again, we have enough divorce in this nation; we do not need to experience it in these regards as well. Let’s do our best to “assimilate” an individual with a sincere heart, never rushing, always patient, and always genuine.