Here are some thoughts on the idea of “fitting in”.
When I began working on my doctorate I attended what we would today call a megachurch. It wasn’t a United Methodist Church (UMC) but it did have a singles’ ministry and that is what I needed at that time.
But after awhile, I began to wonder if I had made the right decision. It seemed to me all this megachurch was interested in was being the biggest church in the city and people like me, going to graduate school instead of seeking wealth or upward mobility and wearing second hand suits, were really not welcome.
Eventually, when the church decided to spend a rather large sum of money on its television ministry in order to compete with another megachurch in town. Besides the feeling of really not fitting in, there was something about spending money on a television program when there were, at least to me, more important ways of spending that money in ministry (it must have been the teachings of John Wesley still in me). So I left and went looking for another United Methodist Church.
I found one close to the campus where I was in graduate school and after attending for a couple of weeks, I filled out a visitor’s card indicating that I was interested in joining the church.
A couple of Sundays later, the pastor invited some new members to come forward at the end of the service so that they could officially join the church. I thought that maybe I should have come forward but I was afraid of not fitting in, so I hesitated. After the service, I asked one of the ushers what I should do.
As it happened, this particular usher told me that he had been looking for me! I joined that church the very next week! I was a member of that church for three years. I can honestly say that I cried when I said my good-byes because that church had been a place where I fit in and where I knew the love of Christ. It was a place that invited visitors and outsiders to come and be a part of the community. It was that environment that I kept in my mind when I looked for a new church and what I wanted the churches I was a member to have.
Paul pointed out that each person is unique. Some are teachers, some are preachers, some are healers, and others take on the tasks that need to be done. In Christ’s community, there is a place for everyone.
But even with all of this uniqueness, we are one in Christ. It does not matter whether one is, as Paul pointed out, a Jew or a Gentile, free or slave, rich or poor. In Christ’s community, we are all one.
We live in a world that literally demands conformity and standardization, especially when growing up and often times in our churches. And when you make the decision to follow Christ, that sometimes makes it even harder to fit in.
People want to know Christ as they are, not as others would have them. It is in our uniqueness that we fit in. Time and time again, Jesus took those who didn’t fit in and brought them; are you helping to do that today?