Sunday morning, I walked through the doors of a church I hadn’t been to before, and the greeter (an adorable teenage girl) asked me if I was new and if I wanted to meet the pastor.
I said sure, and she walked me over to him. While he and I were talking, she grabbed a little gift and handed it to me. It was a coffee mug with post-its, a curvy straw and some other knick-knacks inside.
Church got started, and after the first couple of songs of worship, there was time to meet people; at least 8 people shook my hand and told me their names.There were a few more songs, then a sermon on Matthew 6 – a chapter the pastor admitted doesn’t meld well with his personality type because he tends to do his acts of righteousness for men to see. After church, there were free waffles and a chubby bunny contest.
Every big church I’ve been to caters to anonymity and autonomy.
Churches like that get people through the doors, which is good. Anonymity and autonomy kept me at a mega church for the first few months I spent getting to know God.
I didn’t like people and I didn’t want to be around people who liked people. I wanted to go, observe and leave.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
I liked that the pastor of that mega church didn’t like people. It gave me permission to keep not liking them.
It gave me permission to work on how I was perceived from a distance. To be a whitewashed tomb. I could excuse myself for not liking people so long as I loved them.
I have to wonder, though, if anyone has ever truly loved what they dislike. That pastor said it was possible. I’ve never been able to live that way, but I suppose other people can.
I talked to that pastor of my mega church once after attending there for about a year. I thanked him for starting the church and told him that I’d met God there.
He smiled and nodded the way that people who don’t like people smile and nod.
And then he forgot my name.
Because he didn’t get that his job requires him to like people. Just like my job requires me to like students.
I’m sort of thinking of it like this: what if my head decided that it didn’t like knees? I doubt it would be very good at looking out for my knees and it’d probably bang them into tables and get them scraped up all the time.
We take care of the things we like and neglect things we don’t. If we don’t like people, we’ll neglect them. Liking people matters.
A new person walking through the doors is a newly discovered part of the body. Like when a baby realizes he has hands. And sure… there are foreign agents that get into the body and sicken it, and we should be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. But there’s a big difference between Cancer and a damaged knee, and most people who walk through the church doors are damaged knees. When your knee is a little wobbly, you don’t sit around wondering why it doesn’t go and join another body. You help it. You spend time healing it with medications, R-I-C-E, and whatever else it takes.
Because it’s your knee.
You need it.
That’s what I like about small churches. They love people. They claim everyone, including damaged knees. They love their body and they value every member. They don’t tell people where the gift table is and hope the new person grabs a bag on her way out. They introduce her to the pastor and other members, and they grab the gift and put it in her hands.
They don’t expect the new person to do the work of integrating herself into the body. They draw her in. The way that Christ draws us in.