As a pastor, so often I try and gauge my own success or failure at my job by how many people show up. If people like me, they’ll attend the bible study. If people don’t like me, they’ll go to a movie instead. If people think I’m a great preacher, worship will be overflowing. If I have an awful sermon, the numbers will start to dwindle. Obviously, measuring my self worth by any sort of numbers isn’t going to get me very far and makes me quite self-centered (I know, Steve – “the world does not revolve around me!”).
But how do we measure if people live differently as a result of walking through the doors of Bethesda? Or is that even possible? My hunch is we can, and this is why I still do church, why I still show up, why I’m not working at Target (my dream job), because I believe with my entire heart and soul that worshipping together, serving together, studying together, living together is the one thing the church can offer that absolutely no other place can. We are changed because Christ meets us and changes us. And there is no other way to meet Christ except through encountering him in another, by connecting with someone other than oneself.
And, I hate to admit this, but I don’t think we’ve been doing a very good job of this lately at Bethesda. We reach out really well – we clothe people, we feed them, we let them use our building, and we give money to those in need. But, within? Right now, we struggle with connecting with each other. So many of us come to worship and leave and forget to look at the Christ sitting in the pew right next to us. And, as your pastor, I’m not sure how to cultivate this, except by creating opportunity for you to connect to another.
So, that’s what this fall is going to offer; there will be new classes or gatherings and worship. There’s always worship – and I want to challenge you. Might you consider making one new connection each time you walk through the doors of Bethesda?* Might you consider taking a risk and becoming a bit vulnerable and simply introducing yourself to that person you’ve seen for years and never talked to? Might you then the next week ask that person how you might pray for them? And then the next week, friend them on Facebook or invite them for coffee? Might you consider meeting the Jesus who looks nothing like you expect him to and as a result you just might live your life a little differently? I know it’s a bit scary; but, I also know, connection and community and relationships are where God meets us – take the risk to fully experience what Jesus offers.
*To those of you with anxiety and meeting someone new would cause you so much fear that worship becomes terrifying, please disregard! Come talk with me (I understand…I really do) and we can work together to get you connected in a less threatening way.