Where Strangers Become Friends, Part 1

Manouchka Charles

January 13, 2022
5 min read

We can’t reach everyone, but we can all reach out to someone.

Manouchka Charles

This week at VOUS, we kicked off SZN 1 of VOUS Crews for 2022. Translation: We just had our first small group gatherings of the year. Crews are such a significant part of our church. Our hope is that everyone who attends a Sunday gathering would then take the time every other week to meet with friends—or make new friends—in a home, restaurant, or maybe even a gym. A sermon can be a catalyst for change, but we believe real life change is found in the context of community. That’s where we process and apply the truths we’re learning to our daily lives. And it’s not just information that brings transformation, it is our application of the insight we have received. What we do with what we hear makes all the difference.

I think we sometimes underestimate the value of a friend. It’s not really the quantity of friends we have that matters, it’s the quality of our friendships. Those one, two, three people we go to on the mountains and in the valleys of life shape us in more ways than we can quantify. Church shouldn’t just be a place where we hear messages and sing songs, it should be a place where we form lasting relationships that encourage us in our challenges and spur us on in our pursuit of God. We all need people who can pick us up when we fall and put us in our place when we’re out of line. Friends like that are more valuable than we can measure.

Psalm 107 paints a picture of people who are wandering, lost, and looking for a place to settle:

“Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle. They were hungry and thirsty, and their lives ebbed away. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle. Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind, for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.” Psalm 107:4-9

When I read this text, I can’t help but think of the people in our cities. So many of them are wandering, lost, and looking for somewhere to settle. They’re looking for a place not just to make a living but to make a life. They’re looking for meaningful relationships, friends they can rely on. There are people in our cities praying for community. You and I have the opportunity to answer those prayers for some. We can’t reach everyone, but we can all reach out to someone. We can step into the gap and fill the need that people are feeling, ultimately leading them to the most fulfilling relationship they will ever have—a relationship with Jesus. And, for some, the result of our love and service will be an overflow of thanksgiving to God for his faithfulness, kindness, and love.

I believe church should be a place where strangers become friends, a place where we tell our stories and hear the stories of others, where our faith is deepened by the testimony of those around us. At VOUS, we say you can belong before you believe. Before we give people anything to do, we give them a place to belong. As they connect to community, they will hear the truth of the word of God, and our love and friendship will encourage them to listen with an open heart. My prayer is that the people in our city would find in VOUS Church—and in your church, wherever you are—a place where they could settle, a place to call home.

In the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, we see Abraham interceding for the city. In his conversation with God, he asks whether God would spare the city for the sake of fifty righteous people. Eventually, the number comes all the way down to ten. Now, there is a lot to unpack in this story and we won’t go there today. But, as I read Abraham’s conversation with God, I can’t help but think of our Crews. In a sea of immorality, injustice, and pain, could our small group of ten people be an island of righteousness and a catalyst for change in our culture? For the sake of just ten of us, could God do something miraculous in our city? It may sound far-fetched, but I believe in the power of small things to bring about great change. That’s my prayer for this season of VOUS Crews.

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