This post has been rumbling around in my mind, and I finally decided it was time to put my fingers to the keyboard. I think it is critical that churches, Christian organizations, and individual believers be relational and personal in their approach to others. In a culture that is increasingly virtual, I think it is imperative that we not fail in this area.
How can we be anything but personal and relational if we are truly followers of Jesus? We believe that God came near in the person of Jesus Christ. God condescended himself to live as one of his own creatures. It is hard to get more personal or relational than that! And when Jesus was on earth, he was often surrounded by crowds – yet he had a small group of disciples that he taught and he often stopped for “the one.” Jesus would notice and take time for one person that needed him. In fact, these “interruptions” for individual people seemed a big part of his ministry.
As Christians we also believe in a triune, interpersonal God: the Father, Son, and Spirit in communion. As human beings who are made in the image of God, we are wired for relationships.
Now I’ll share some personal stories that got me pondering this topic….At a church we attended for awhile, to become a member you filled out a form. You did not have to meet with anyone personally! This really concerned us for several reasons. For one, it sure isn’t very personal!
“Lets shuffle the papers, and welcome new members.”
But additionally, I think more can be deduced about someone from a personal meeting than from a form! Someone could actually be confused about salvation or other core Christian beliefs, but manage to sound okay on a form. When we mentioned this concern to a leader at this church, he told us the church used to meet with people individually but they’d become so big that it was no longer possible. (The church at that time had about 1,500 people.) A church can no longer meet one-on-one with people? I’m tempted to make a snarky remark but will try to control myself.
At the time, I thought maybe this was becoming common at big churches and I was just being too critical or had unrealistic expectations. So I contacted 2 local friends who attend churches of a similar size, and who were also newer members. At the one church, my friend said they had to meet with not one, but two different pastors to become members! At the other church, my friend said you had to meet with either a pastor or a trained lay leader. So…the point is that these other churches were still managing to meet with people personally, despite their size.
I could ramble on with other personal experiences…both good and bad. We visited one church and got an automated-like, generic e-mail that thanked us for visiting (this happened to be a small/medium sized church). While at another much larger church, we received a handwritten postal note that was very warm and personal.
A few months back my husband answered the phone, and it was someone from Focus on the Family asking how they could pray for us. That’s all they wanted – to pray for us. My husband was pleasantly flabbergasted and couldn’t even think of a prayer need he was so surprised. We were deeply touched.
My conclusion is that whether a church (or Christian organization) is personal and relational has little to do with its size. There are impersonal small churches, and personal big churches – and vice versa. It seems to me that the key is whether the church is making it a priority.
Do we look out and see only a crowd, or do we see individuals who need care?
Do we see it as a privilege to take time for people – as we imitate our Lord Jesus? Or are we annoyed at having to stop for one person?
I realize that particularly at bigger churches this must be a team effort – pastors, lay leaders, and individual members need to play a part. (Yet, the senior pastor plays an important role as he or she usually sets the tone for a church.) Please… slow down. Don’t be so hurried or preoccupied that you miss that one person who needs a personal touch. As the culture becomes increasingly virtual, lets make sure we are trying to be personal and relational.
* If you are interested, here is the first post in a series on Drawing people into the life of the church.