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A Deeper Spiritual Issue

My name's Marshall, and I'm a male and I enjoy reading the "GFL" e-newsletter. (I feel like everybody in the room just said in unison, "Hi Marshall.")

No, this isn't an AA meeting. But yes, it's sort of a check-in. Sort of a confession. Sort of just who I am - a voracious reader, a colleague of the people who write GFL, and the husband of a staff pastor that GFL describes really well.

Last week's piece by Caryn got to me when she talked about how women don't feel like they fit in at church.

For what it's worth, most times I talk with men at church (even some pastors), the very same feeling is expressed, "I just don't feel like I fit in." Men are more relationally-challenged, perhaps, and find most social gatherings hard to "fit in." Lots of men these days tend to say the church is too "feminized," whatever that means. Often I suspect that's just another way of saying, "The women around here seem to have closer friends than I do. I wish it were as good for the men here as it appears to be for the women."

When I read Caryn's column that women are saying the same thing from the other side, it made me realize that I keep hearing people of color say the church is too white. And young people say it's too old. And older people say, "I don't feel like it's my church anymore." And people with humbler occupations feel they can't fit in with more influential people. And wealthier people don't feel accepted among people of lesser means.

I wonder if there's a deeper spiritual issue at work here?

In all of us.

Why do we feel "like we don't fit"? What are our expectations? And does the answer come from outside ourselves or from the inside?

I don't have any snappy answers. Just wondering ?

But I do remember a wise person once telling me, "If you assume that everyone you see at church is feeling lonely at some level, you'll be right nine times out of ten."

Marshall Shelley is editorial vice-president of Christianity Today International, and editor in chief of the Leadership Media Group.


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