Have you ever hopped on a bus, walked into a lecture theatre or entered a staff lunch room and had that moment of awkward panic – “Where am I going to sit?” “Is it weird if I sit next to him?” “Should I leave a gap between us?”
I’m sure we’ve all felt social-awkwardness and anxiety in situations like these, but I wonder if, like me, you’ve felt this before at church? Have you ever walked in to church and suddenly worried about who to sit with? Or stood up at the end of the service unsure of who to go talk to?
These are unpleasant feelings, and something I’ve been thinking about lots since reading Ephesians 2 this week. Is our church welcoming? Are we cliquey? Do we extend the generous welcome we’ve received in Christ to others at church, even if they differ from us greatly in worldly terms?
Sharing personally, Kate and I have, at times, felt warmly welcomed at church. The staff especially have shared many encouraging conversations with us and invited us into their homes.
We’ve also loved time with our DT, digging into God’s word together and praying for one another.
But we’ve also had our challenges.
For the first time in our church history we’ve been an ethnic minority. This has brought with it new and precious experiences and insights but has also meant that at times we feel we don’t quite fit in.
We’ve also noticed our church can default into particular ‘cliques’. This can even be seen from the way people naturally migrate to sit in certain areas, week-in week-out.
Often after services people can just chat with those they are comfortable with, rather than chat with someone they don’t know well.
And believe me – I’m guilty of all these things as well.
I wanted to share this personal experience not to shame or blame. My hope is that we are a church that reflects the amazing reality of our oneness in Christ. A profound reality won outside of us by Jesus that we are called to live in light of.
So what might this look like? Here are some ideas:
- Sit somewhere different with someone different. Take a bold leap of faith and cross the great divide (aisle). And don’t leave a One-Chair-Gap (OCG) – sit right next to someone!
- Chat to someone different than you. If you’re old chat to someone young. If you’re a Mum chat to someone without kids. If you’re Asian chat to a paste-y chap like myself. Etc.
- Don’t use Sunday morning to catch up with your closest friends. Use it to gather in your awkward brother or sister in Christ who you won’t see during the week.
Let’s not have our church feel like a bus or a workplace coffee room. Wouldn’t it be great to turn up to church each week with the freedom to sit anywhere, with anyone, knowing that it’s all because we worship a God that has brought us who were far from him near in Christ.