Once “I will now send us off with a benediction” or “Let us share the grace” or “[insert your church’s version of we’re done for today]” is complete (or sometimes during), this is the cue to leave the church building, right? WRONG. If you are a seasoned church attendee or you grew up in church, you know what is affectionately termed ‘service after service’. It’s where your mother promises she’ll be done in 5 minutes, an hour ago or where your father states there’s a brief meeting with the deacon board. If you’re lucky enough to evade those, there’s always the ominous call from the podium “Youths please wait behind after the service” (and you know in Nigeria, a 40-year old is still a youth, but I digress). Whatever it may be, you are stuck in church, after the service, involuntarily.
As we’ve grown older, we’ve vowed not to commit the same transgressions as our parents and their peers – we have sought to eliminate the service after service because our time is precious and more importantly ‘what is so pressing that must be discussed immediately and can’t be sent in a message’. For some of us, this isn’t the case, it’s just that church is church and that’s it – we are methodical in our attendance: Come in. Get the Word. Maybe smile at anyone that makes eye contact. Dip*. Repeat. Church essentially becomes the place we come to get our heads right/aligned for the week – it does not involve fraternizing and certainly not fraternizing when the service is done.
For some of us, we don’t engage in the serenre of service after service (SAS) for the sake of our sanity and self-preservation. We’ve fallen victim to church burnout / hurt (or we know someone who has) – we were the first ones in and last ones out, toiled fastidiously, confided in people innocently, wholly, made needless sacrifices and it all turned out to be a farce because when we needed them the most – they were nowhere to be found; it appeared, rather unceremoniously, that they didn’t care, or even worse – they sought to manipulate and oppress for their own gain. This has since affected how we relate with church and church folk – understandably so.
Whether we fall into one or more of these categories – one thing is certain, your fellow congregants become non-existent after the final amen. However, the church, as cliché as it sounds, is supposed to be a family – a real healthy family. This means we do ourselves and the rest of the church a disservice when we clock-in and clock-out like a 9-5 (or in Lagos, 7-whenever traffic dies down). It means we need to roll up our proverbial sleeves and get stuck in. Why? Because, there is so much we can learn from one another; fellowship is crucial part of the Christian walk. The early church went to temple together *AND* still fellowshipped afterwards! Acts 2:46 “And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes…”
Becoming a family goes beyond superficial greetings and platitudes of concern – it can be rather difficult as it requires vulnerability and being open to being offended as the church is made up of imperfect people who you may have nothing in common with but Christ. Our commonality in Christ ought to be the bridge that allows us to encourage, exalt, tolerate, counsel and admonish one another.
Now, I am in no way saying we will all be the best of friends finishing each other’s sentences; but we can strive for real and earnest relationships at differing levels of intensity and intimacy. Fellowshipping is where more nuanced personal needs are met, it also provides the avenue to see how other Christians navigate this city of Stresselence – up close and personal. Sometimes, you need a shoulder to lean on or a hand to help you navigate through things, other times you provide the shoulder or the hand.
Often, folks complain that they have no (new) friends or that the Church doesn’t speak on a particular topic. Both statements, although seemingly worlds apart, have the same practical solution – WAIT. AFTER. SERVICE.
For instance, with financial literacy, Pastors play their part by teaching on the theology of money and work, but it’s misplaced to expect advice on investment choices or financial workshops. Do you know who could be helpful in this aspect? Tunde*, the usher who works as a Financial Advisor when he’s not trying to tell you where to sit when you arrive just in time for the sermon.
If we don’t plug into our local church community; we run the risk of becoming insolated and missing out on the blessing of cultivating edifying and practical relationships. When a part of the body becomes separated from the whole, it withers. Cliché no. 2, church is a body and becoming a Christian automatically makes you a body part; plugging in is essential.
We often conflate the implications of being plugged into a Christian community and the duties of a church / corporate church service. We want to pack as many things into church services and events because we don’t want to venture in the murky waters of building authentic relationships with the people we do church (read: life) with.
Although we desire companionship, we are often fearful of the intimacy that comes with close fellowship, so we only engage on the surface or on our own terms. Inadvertently, we miss out on the joys of true fellowship with other believers.
This week don’t dip immediately. Wait after the service. Shoot your fellowship shot. Get plugged in.
*to dip: slang. To exit inconspicuously.
*serenre: slang. Unnecessary ceremony / time-wasting.
*No Tundes were harmed in the writing of this article.
Lola [Olukogbon] writes because she can and writes for City Church because they’re family. Navigating her faith in the appropriate context without relegating it to a part of her whole has been her biggest discovery so far! She also writes at www.thelolaexperience.com BUT if you’re interested in more off-the-cuff commentary, she’s on twitter — where all her tweets are uniquely inspired by carbs, Christianity and the city of Stresselence, Lagos. (@UnOfficialLola)