When we talk about making our Sunday mornings more interactive so that our members become more connected to one another, there are two immediate gut reactions from the church community.
The first one is this: nobody wants to come to a place where they are expected to be socially vulnerable.
And...I hear you.
When I was a young kid, begging to go to church, my dad agreed to take me to a church, but only if I could find one that didn't make a spectacle out of folks who were visiting with them. Nobody wants to dare to come into a church building and be singled out and called out and asked to stand up in the middle of the sermon so everyone can gawk at them and know them for their newness. I get it. That's, as the kids would say, "cringe."
But at the same time, we have to be honest about admitting that our people are missing something essential (and so is everyone else) when the church isn't person-focused. When the church is...information-focused. Or worse, church-focused.
And that's what's happening - we've made our churches all about our churches instead of being about our people, and that's why it's so easy to 1) stay disconnected from the church and 2) convince yourself you don't even need the church at all. It's just a church. It's a place that asks you to make a commitment to it, but at the end of the day, it's a non-body; it doesn't have emotions, and it's not going to feel anything if you decide to walk away.
On the other hand, if you're actually connected to the folks inside of that church, the pain of walking away is felt deeply. But then, if you're actually connected, why would you want to walk away?
So then, the question becomes, how do we get our people in our churches to continue coming to our churches if we try to shift the model from a program-focused/church-focused experience to an invitation to real community and connection?
How do we engage a world whose motto these days seems to be "Ewww...people," and get them to buy into the community model of being God's people...together?
It seems tough. But let's start by acknowledging that none of us is anything at all except what we are in relationship to others. Never. If you were to lock us away in a room by ourselves for any significant length of time, we would lose track of everything that we hold dear about ourselves because we are given a self only to interact with and engage the world. If we're not doing that, then we cease our being.
Think about it. Are you kind? You cannot be kind unless there is someone to be kind to. Are you compassionate? There must be an other to feel compassion for. Are you smart? There must be a need for your knowledge. (We've all met someone who knows a lot of trivia and facts but is essentially useless in a real-life situation of need because none of their conversation starters is applicable.) Are you faithful? You have to have someone to be faithful to. Do you see the point? If you don't have a relational outlet for whatever you feel is essential to your identity as a human being, then you don't have those things any more. And if you don't have those things any more, you cannot be human.
So the whole "Ewww...people" thing doesn't work. Not even for those of us who consider ourselves strong introverts.
That, then, is a good place to start - by helping our people to understand that they already depend on the presence of others, that they already require relationships with others, that they exist only because of these relationships. Once they start to see how much their own heart depends on their relationships, then it's more natural to take the next step - teaching them to make those relationships more intentional.
We'll pick this up on Thursday, but first, we'll talk about the second objection to creating an intentionally-interactive worship space tomorrow.