Saturday, July 13, 2013

Impersonal Church

You know when you go to the grocery store and you come up to a person?  You look their way and they look yours, but there is this unwritten rule-or so it seems-that you quickly look away.  As if it's almost impolite to see them.  It's as if you are supposed to know they are there so that you don't accidentally run them over with your cart, or reach for the same package of bread.  You're even supposed smile-interestingly enough.  BUT, you aren't supposed to look them in the eye!

I don't know how many times I've looked at people and tried to be friendly, only to have them look away at the moment I would have said 'hello.'  Like they feel they have been caught staring and are trying to pretend they didn't.

For the record, I'm usually pushing a cart with 3 little kids in it, and have a 4th kid behind me with another cart full of maybe they ARE staring, or feel that they are.  And, they feel that if they look at me in the eye they are confirming that they are staring.  Really, I don't know why people do this, but it happens ALL.THE.TIME.

I used to join in the part where I would divert my eyes to keep from having to greet complete strangers.  I used to think it was easier then being friendly.  But, I got tired of pretending that the people weren't real!  I would see them other places in town and wanted to be sure that I was saying hello to all the other shoppers that I came into contact with, because I didn't know if they were part of my church, part of our homeschool co-op, a distant relative...yes I live in a big small town where everyone is connected to everyone else in some way and it's better to be friendly at all times then run the risk of having to try and be a totally different person when you find out who they are.

Okay, so now that you {hopefully} understand the eye-avoidance I'm trying to explain, I want to get to my point.  Church.

We go to a big church.  Big, at least, for this area.  The church has 3 services and something like 8 campuses, so there are a lot of people.  The crazy thing, is that with all the people that go to our church, I often feel like I don't know anyone there!

Now, I want to dig deeper into that statement.  You see, I DO know lots of people that are there.  We know all the teachers of our kids by name.  I *think* they know my name, or at the very least know me as Mustang's mom or Charger's mom.  I'm okay with that, because they know my kids' names and that's the important part to me.  That, and the part where they will only release my kid to me cause they know I'm mom (and they don't have to check my parent ID sticker numbers).

I also know a ton of people who go to our church.  People from our little town that's close to us, people from our home-schooling group, and even our family. We are also part of a small group and we know the people in our small group (though in our case the word small is very applicable).

I talk to people all the time (outside of church) and find out that they attend our church.  It's really unbelievable the amount of times I find that out.  You see, with the 3 different services, we can all go to the same church, but go to different services and never see each other.  And with 5 different exit doors, you can go to the same service and not see each other.  That happened with my SIL.  Turns out that I had been praying for her to start attending church...and God had already answered that prayer!  But, she had been going to a different service-and never said anything to us about it until about 6 months later!

Now, where am I going with this?

Tonight in church, as we were singing, I was imagining how great it will be when we (as Christians) get to stand before the Lord and worship together forever.  Then, I was reminded how I was doing that right now....but I didn't KNOW any of these 500 people standing next to me praising God right now!  (Okay I DID know my husband, and 2 friends sitting with us so 497).  How on earth am I supposed to help encourage others for Christ when I don't KNOW THEIR NAME??

So, after church, I was on a mission to say hello and meet people.  Do you know what I found as I walked through the crowd towards the kid's area?  EYE DIVERSION. Yep!  Sigh.  I felt like I was in the grocery store isle!  And, this time I wasn't pushing a cart, so I know it wasn't staring.  It was down right, no one knows how to SEE EACH OTHER anymore!  It doesn't mean they don't WANT to see you, they just don't know HOW!!!

Everyone was on a mission to get their kid, kid out the door, and get to the restaurant/ball game/friend's house/home/facebook...whatever the NEXT thing was.  No one was worried about RIGHT NOW.  No one seemed to be looking around thinking...hey, these people here, these people are my FAMILY!  My brothers and sisters in Christ.  Nope, they just don't see each other.

And, you know what?!  I am just as guilty.  On the way into church, I was eye darting like the rest of them.  It was only when God opened my eyes during church that I noticed on the way out.

Now, before you think I'm ripping on my church, I am not.  I am quite sure this is not just at my church.  This is a normal human interaction in 2013.  You are not supposed to see people.  You can text them, you can email them, you can Facebook them, but you can't actually TALK to them in person.  It doesn't matter if you are at the grocery store, walking down the road, or sitting in the same room.  And, our churches are not immune to this.

I challenge you, if you go to a big church (I single out big churches because tiny churches DO seem to have the upper hand on personalization), I want to challenge you to start talking to the people around you.  Nope, you may never see them at your church again.  But, you WILL see them again in Heaven, and don't you want to be able to turn to them and say-hey, we went to the same church?  Or maybe, it will be the start of a friendship that you have been praying for-or they have.  Or, if nothing else, both of you will realize that you do go to CHURCH with other people, and that it's different then the movie theater or a concert where you sit around people and ignore they exist.

Our church pastors can preach a great sermon, our song leaders can lead us in an amazing worship time, but if we as church members just go in, sit down, listen, and leave, then we are not doing our part.  The body has to know the other parts for it to work together.  A visitor to such a large church runs a HUGE risk of feeling 10 times as lonely IN church when 500 people can't take the time to say hello as when he was all by himself outside.

We talk about getting ready for the mission field outside the church...but I believe our current mission field is INSIDE the church.  People are coming, people are hungry, people WANT to learn about God, but what they really lonely.  They want to know that someone-ANYONE-knows they exist and cares.  You can take that first step for the Lord, by simply saying "hello."

So glad you stopped by.
I hope you will come again.
God Bless,


Kym Thorpe said...

Our church isn't nearly as big as yours, but we still need to make it a priority to really connect with people. Thank you for a good reminder and encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Amen sister amen! Our church has done a good job of this.. however, we are growing and it is becoming tougher. We have community groups so we can get to know each other on a deeper level. I accept this "challenge" to see people in the church!

Mrs. Taffy said...

Good word Lisa!

LaughingLioness said...

Preach it, SistahLisa! Have you read Pagan Christianity? It talks about how the modern church service actually encourages passivity in church members! love small groups and small, personal Bible Studies. Best wishes as you go on a mission to serve your church through friendliness!!