Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Big Church Doesn’t Necessarily Mean a Big Welcome

If you happen to be looking for a new church and you’re more of an introvert, a big church might not be the best option for you.

I recently visited a big church at the invitation of a friend of mine from out of state who happened to in town. My friend was staying with friends of his who attend the church and he invited me to meet him there so we could catch up.

He inadvertently gave me the wrong time for the service and for some reason, I didn’t think to double-check the service time myself. So by the time I arrived, the worship service portion of the service was already over and the sermon had begun. As an introvert, I don’t generally care for drawing a lot of attention to myself, especially during an occasion like a church service. So I tried to slip quietly into the balcony, but I was met with a sign that stated the balcony was full.

So I decided to watch the service on one of several monitors stationed in the large hallways outside the sanctuary. These hallways are wide and contain various seating areas where people can visit with each other or watch and listen to the service without entering the actual sanctuary.

Because this church happens to be a big church, I figured it was possible I might miss catching my friend at all. I don’t think I’m that far off when I say that there were probably about 2,000 people moving in and out of the church when the service ended. Half were leaving that service while the other half were arriving for the next one.

Somehow, against all odds, I managed to find my friend in the big crowd and we were able to sit at one of the church’s bistro tables and catch up for a while.

But a funny thing dawned on me while we chatted.

As we talked about different churches we’d both attended, I realized that in the 40 minutes or so I’d already been in the church, my friend was only the second person to have spoken to me.

The first spoke to me in the parking lot: he was driving a shuttle to get people to the door. But no one spoke inside the church, despite the fact that I’d been inside at least 30 minutes. Only one person nodded at me. No one spoke.

A few of the people who didn’t speak passed me as I stood against a wall. They passed within a foot of me, easily inside my “personal space.” They didn’t even acknowledge that I was there.

I think there’s something about a big church. For some reason, the more people they pack inside, the less people moments there are.

This is different, of course, if the people in question actually know each other. I saw plenty of people greeting each other by name. Since none of them were wearing name tags, they obviously were acquainted.

But in terms of the strangers around them, not even the church volunteers made much effort to say hello to those they don’t know.

Yes, I could have spoken first.

I could have been the one to speak to everyone who passed by. But I’m the introvert. I’m the one on their turf.

It’s a difficult thing for some of us to do, and if you don’t understand that, I suppose you should be happy that you’re not the degree of introvert that I am.

I suppose this is normal for a big church. I’ve visited smaller churches in which multiple people were only too happy to say hello.

Many argue that it’s important to attend church because that’s where you experience fellowship. This big church just so happens to broadcast its services live online.

Honestly, for the lack of interaction — even notice — I received, I might just be better off to watch from home. If what I experienced that morning is their idea of fellowship, I can experience just as much home alone.

That’s a sad reality for a church…no matter how big it is.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.