With hundreds of people milling about, it’s a packed place. Just inside the door, a man approaches. “Have I met you before?” We assure him he hasn’t but he thinks he should know us anyway. He’s wearing an ear mic. I wonder if he’s the pastor, but if he is, he doesn’t say so, merely introducing himself as John. Almost all the ministers we’ve met attached their title to their name when they introduced themselves. John possesses neither the ego nor the insecurity to do so. I immediately like him.
Later, I’m not surprised when John walks up to the podium to give the message. He doesn’t preach a sermon as much as he teaches a lesson. He’s good, really good, the best we’ve heard on our journey. Though a couple of preachers have been more dynamic, he’s the most effective communicator. This all makes sense when we learn he’s a former seminary professor with a PhD in biblical history.
At one point John tells members to look around after the service for visitors to greet. Though he modeled this when he met us, no one followed his example then or his instruction now, not even the man sitting in front of us wearing a Deacon nametag; he looks right through us.
Only one couple approaches us; they look vaguely familiar. The wife recognized Candy; we attended the same church a quarter of a century ago. Aside from them and John, six or seven hundred other people ignore us, perhaps not caring or maybe assuming someone else will take the initiative to extend a welcome.
If you want to remain anonymous at church, a big one is where it can happen. And at this church, it’s painfully easy.