Once “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. OR the ominous call from the podium “Youths please wait behind after the service”. (and you know in Nigeria, a 40-year old is still youth, but I digress.) Whatever it may be, you are stuck in church, after the service, involuntarily.
You’re not patient. The only reason you haven’t left is because you can’t.
As we’ve grown older, we’ve vowed not to commit the same transgressions as our parents and their peers. We did not inherit our parents’ anyhowness. We have sought to eliminate the service after service because our time is precious. More importantly ‘what is so pressing that must be discussed immediately and can’t be sent in a message’? For some of us, it’s just that church is church and that’s it – we are methodical in our attendance. Come in. Get the Word. Maybe smile. Minimal 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.
Sometimes, we don’t engage in the serenre of service after service (SAS) for the sake of our sanity and self-preservation. We were the first ones in and last ones out, toiled fastidiously, confided in people innocently, wholly, made needless sacrifices. For nothing. When we needed our church family the most – they were nowhere to be found. It appeared, rather unceremoniously, that they didn’t care. This has 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 a 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 very difficult as it requires vulnerability and being open to being (unintentionally) offended. The church is made up of imperfect people who you may have nothing in common with but Christ. Our commonality in Christ should allows us 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 intimacy. Fellowshipping is where more nuanced personal needs are met. It allows you see how other Christians navigate life – up close and personal.
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. It’s misplaced to expect advice on investment choices or financial workshops especially when it’s not their area of expertise. 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 isolated 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.
I think we conflate the implications of being plugged into a Christian community and the duties of a church service. We want to pack as many things into these events because it is more convenient than building authentic relationships with our brethren /sistren in Christ.
Although we desire companionship, we are often fearful of the vulnerability and accountability 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.
When next you’re in church, wait after the service.
to dip: slang. To exit inconspicuously.
Serenre: Yoruba slang. Unnecessary ceremony / time-wasting.
**No Tundes were harmed in the writing of this article