One of the hardest things I’ve found about returning to church is becoming a real, live, acting member of the body of Christ. I’m terribly introverted, and over the years, I’ve found it easier and easier to withdraw from social situations, rather than extend the effort to be part of a group. When I have joined a group, or exerted myself to join the larger world, it was often a false cheery front, performed out of necessity, counting the minutes to which I could retreat again into my own, comfortable, quiet and solitary world.
When I started going back to church this year, I didn’t really see any need to change that. I thought, well, I’d get in and talk to God, and get out. No muss, no fuss. Sure, smile at people, but don’t get too close – they might ask you something personal.
I don’t think I’m alone here on this. Lifeway released the results of a recent study that shows visitors to a church prefer to remain anonymous.
But as it happened, there was a new person’s BBQ at the pastor’s house in two weeks, and someone asked me if I would come, and I thought, okay…what will one time hurt?
I went. I felt awkward and weird of course. But there were a couple of people at the party I recognized the next week at church and we waved.
My kids went to Sunday school, and they wanted playdates with their new friends there. So I ended up talking to the parents. More awkward little small talk, but again…more people to wave hello to.
And soon enough, I was having a hard time getting out of the chapel after the service, because I kept getting waylaid by these people.
In my reading, I started noticing the passages about the body of Christ. How we are really actually his body here on earth. How we all have a function. And I started to realize how important this is – to be real brothers and sisters. So I had lunch with some here and there. I went on a trip with some others. I did more reaching out than I’ve done for decades.
It’s a quiet revolution in my life. There has been no big bang change, but I know these people, these siblings of mine. I know they are affecting my life, and I am affecting theirs, and it is in Christ.
I knew my attitude had changed when I recently spoke with a co-worker who grew up in a church in Eastern Europe. He was complaining how American churches are too friendly. He wanted to get in, worship, and get out. No muss, no fuss. And I wanted to tell him why, and that it was not only a necessary thing, but a good thing.
There are Sunday mornings that I still think about going to a different church; one that I could slip in unnoticed and not have to talk to anybody. But I find when I go to my church and sit through the sermon and see the people and talk to the people, somewhere along the line, somebody slipped a little extra love in my heart.