"Make Sunday Mornings Uncomfortable"
“Make Sunday Mornings Uncomfortable.” That’s the title of an essay by Rebecca McLaughlin on church assemblies. What does she mean? Consider one of her key observations: “An alone person in our gatherings is an emergency.”
If someone collapsed in your church building, everyone would mobilize. But every week, people walk into our gatherings for the first time and get effectively ignored. They may not know Jesus, or they may have spent years wandering from him. Their spiritual health is on the line, and a simple conversation could be the IV fluid God uses to prepare them for life-saving surgery.
Her advice: Make it a point to talk to newcomers at the assembly. Especially if they’re alone. Make the effort, even if it’s a little uncomfortable for you. And even if it means you have to postpone speaking to folks you already know.
A passage from the book of James comes to mind:
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? (James 2:1-4)
James’ specific example is of showing preference for the wealthy over the poor; his general concern is the sin of partiality among brethren. I wonder: If a person comes into our assembly whose face I don’t recognize, and there also comes in a person I see every week, and I pay special attention to the familiar face while ignoring the stranger…what would James write about that? What does the Lord think about it? Is it any less a show of personal favoritism?
It isn’t only new visitors who need my attention. “An isolated believer is an emergency too,” McLaughlin writes. “[L]oneliness in church is as much an indictment on our gatherings as prayerlessness or lack of generosity. How can we claim to be ‘one body’ (1 Corinthians 12:12) when we can’t even sit together and engage one another in church?”
Ouch. But it’s a valid point. Think: are there folks in our number who are usually by themselves? Are there members who feel alone even as they sit in a building among scores of brothers and sisters? If I neglect them while giving attention to others…what would James write about that? What does the Lord think about it?
“Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly” (Romans 12:16).
All of us enjoy interacting with people we love at services. What I’m suggesting is that we can each broaden our sphere of interaction (or, if you prefer, our sphere of love) to include more people. In every local church there are members who don’t find it easy to fit in comfortably with others. But as disciples of Christ they share with you the most important bond that exists. So talk to them. Sit with them. Get to know them better. Even if it’s a little out of your comfort zone. And even if it means having to put off interacting with brothers and sisters you know well.
This Sunday morning (or at any other assembly!) look around. Do you see an unfamiliar face? Do you see a brother or sister you don’t know well, or who seems alone? Go talk to that person, even if you have to postpone comfortable conversations with familiar friends to do so.
This week, take the risk of making Sunday morning a little more uncomfortable (for yourself). It will make Sunday morning better for someone else.