Who are the “invisible ones” in your congregational gatherings? You know, those who perhaps come into the service a little late, prefer to keep to themselves or don’t speak to many people, and tend not to hang out after the service has ended. They show up on occasion, and then several weeks go by before anyone notices they are no longer around. Do you know of anyone like that?
We often spend much time and effort strategizing over marketing campaigns designed to bring people in. We have bulletins, flyers, invitation cards, banners. We develop programs and offer gifts and free food. We dedicate time in service helping to man stations, direct parking, make coffee, and greet warmly. All so they can feel welcome while we all collectively listen to our pastors and leaders encourage us in the faith. All of which is good. But do we ever take it beyond these touch points?
The truth is, no program is enough in and of itself to sufficiently replace individual discipleship through one-on-one relationship. One-on-one, not one-to-many. In many ways, our gatherings have become sound-bite communities, assimilating information in small chunks that require no depth or length of time.
If by thinking we have done our part within these organized meetings only to then give no particular focus towards these people the rest of the week, then we rob ourselves of the richness and blessing that comes in connected fellowship. It is a level of fellowship that goes beyond surface courtesies, into the realm of long-term sacrificial love for each other. It is the realm that allows us to be open, honest, admit our faults, struggles, and weaknesses, to build one another up and encourage each other to become one with our Lord and one with each other as the body of Christ. The Christians of the new testament did life together. They went as deep within conversation as we go wide.
I pray that none of our christian gatherings ever grow so impersonal that one can leave being the same stranger they walked in as, and that we remember it is not the numbers but the individuals that matter most to God. The one-to-many is only a small part of where life happens.
So, the next time we see these “invisible ones”, may we all make an effort to reach out, to connect, to fellowship with, listen to, and pray for them. As we are being discipled ourselves, we can disciple in turn. Not to create “mini-me” versions of ourselves, our beliefs, for our own agendas and purposes, but to look together towards Christ, who is the author and finisher of our faith, and to His glory.