Having been a member of College Park for seven years now, you would think I’d be connected with tons of people and fit right in every Sunday morning. Yet, often times, I feel like each new service is my first as I barely recognize those around me. Many of the friends that I had made in the church have moved or are in different stages of their lives, and I no longer sit with my buddies. Now, I usually sit alone while I watch families and others talk and connect, which can feel quite isolating and lonely.
It is in these times that I have a tendency to complain that I don’t fit in. I wonder why people don’t talk to me, or why sometimes I even bother coming to church at all? Sure, the music is fantastic, and I gain a lot from the messages. Yet, leaving the church without connecting with anyone makes the whole experience seem rather empty.
College Park, now with over 4,000 members, is taking efforts to combat this common experience by making the big church feel small, but really, connecting with and knowing others is the responsibility of each person in the congregation. If we really want to connect and have friends in the church, we should not rely on programming at College Park to do this for us. Instead, to make friends and connections within the church, we must reach out and befriend others (Proverbs 18:24). If we want someone to get to know us, we must make the effort to get to know others (Matthew 7:12). And, if we want someone to welcome us, we must welcome others (Matthew 25:35).
Too many times, I come to church acting like a lazy, proud king, rather than an active, humble servant. I want the church to give me a good sermon. I want well-played music. I want people to talk and engage with me. Yet, this is not the heart of a true Christian.
Jesus came to this earth not to be served, but to serve. If the reason we are coming to church is to honor and worship Christ, then we must act like him as well!
So, the challenge to myself, and to those facing a similar challenge, is to think of Jesus before coming through those doors. Think of all of the people who could use welcoming, who could use a person or two to talk to. There are plenty of people who could use a good friend, but we cannot have a “more the merrier” attitude, for we do not have the time or capacity to be friends with 4,000 people.
Instead, before the music plays and after the sermon ends, seek out and find someone, anyone, and get to know him or her. Do not simply smile, say hi and go on your merry way, although that is a good start. Instead, take the time, as our great elder Charles Smith advises, to truly “invest in people.” When I have followed his advice, it has always put a smile on another’s face and leaves me feeling good as well. Investing in others does take some effort, and may be a little uncomfortable at first. However, over time and with continued effort, you may find yourself walking through a sea of people feeling deeply connected.