This time last month, my wife and I had the chance to see one of our favourite Christian comedians perform in person. I’m not going to mention him by name specifically, which I hope will make sense here in a minute, but I will say that we’ve seen him before and he is hands down one of the funniest people I have ever seen. We went for our date night, expecting to relax and enjoy the show, and we weren’t disappointed. Thing is, the whole performance, including the church which served as the venue, felt like that just that. A show. And as we left, I couldn’t help but feel, well, disappointed.
Here’s why. As I found out later, the church serving as the venue has an $11 million sanctuary. We parked in a lot that features what must be, in summer, a very well maintained and well landscaped parking lot where the church parks their not one but four church buses (including a coach bus). The sanctuary itself was huge, and featured a sound system that would have outdone a small theatre. The whole thing served to make me feel insignificant and lost in the crowd, and if it made me feel that way, as a Christian coming to see a comedian perform, how it would make someone feel who was coming to church for the first time? Someone who’s lost and looking for answers? For connection? For love?
I should note here that it’s not just large churches that have left me feeling this way. I’ve had the same impression in small, country churches as well. As Christians we seem to excel at defending the establishment, such as it is. Whether it’s excluding a certain group of individuals, or prioritizing a program over the hearts of the people that program is meant to serve, or only looking to have people in our congregations who can actually pay to support our $11 million sanctuaries, we do a bang up job of overlooking the individual in the name of honouring Jesus.
The sad part is that when we do such a bang up job of overlooking the individuals around us, in reality we’re excelling at little more than missing the point entirely. Think of Zaccheus the tax collector in Luke 19. Jesus puts his whole day on hold just to have lunch with one man. And don’t forget the woman at the well in John 4. Jesus went out of his way just for a meeting with one woman. Finally, there’s the demon-possessed man in Luke 8. Here Jesus goes all the way across the Sea of Galilee to rescue (you might see a pattern beginning to form here) one man. Jesus valued individual people.
So what? Well, this leads me to two things. First of all, if you’ve ever found yourself in a church like the one I described above, and left feeling the way I did, I’d like to apologize. It’s not supposed to be that way. You matter. You really do. You, with all your quirks and eccentricities, matter to Jesus. Secondly, well, you matter to Jesus. He’s the one who made you, and He loves you for you. He doesn’t love you for the money you can bring to the church, or for how you being there can justify a particular program, but for who you are as an individual. He made you to be you, and that you matters.