The church seems like the last place that popularity should matter. After all, aren’t we all sinners, desperate for grace? Aren’t we all on equal footing as we wait for God’s very good gifts?
Unfortunately, it often seems or feels like there’s a hierarchy in both the church and the synod. It doesn’t take long for it to become clear that, just like in any group, there are the people who seem to be sought out, admired, looked up to — and those who aren’t. It can feel like we see the same names writing books and devotionals, the same faces leading the fellowship meal committees and hosting all of the holiday meals.
And with this hierarchy, real or perceived, can come the temptation to ask, “Why not me?”
Most of us (myself included) want to feel liked. We want to feel valued and appreciated — like our presence matters, as does our absence. Church may not be where we live, but it is a home for us and one that should come without hurt and pain and insecurity.
It hurts to be excluded. It really does. Sometimes that exlusion is intentional and cruel. Sometimes it’s not.
This struggle — this jealousy — is a hard one. Comparisons are rarely helpful for us — or our relationships with others. The sneaky nature of popularity in the church can ultimately be something that keeps us from church. When others are raised up instead of us, or when we feel like someone else is more important, it can lead to us avoiding the whole situation completely.
But anything that keeps us from church is a bad thing. Church isn’t some place just for the best or coolest or most relevant of us. It’s not some place we go to soak in the affirmations of others.
Church isn’t about bells and whistles and friendships. While friends and positions can be helpful and allow us, in turn, to help others, it’s still church without all of that. Church isn’t about climbing some social ladder. It’s not about book deals and notoriety. It’s not about any of that.
It’s about Jesus. It’s about forgiveness of sins. It’s about the Word and Sacraments.
So go and sing in the choir, even if you never get that solo you wanted (and would rock at). Go and sit in Bible Study even if you never answer questions (or have any to ask). Go sit in the pew, even if no one else slides in next to you with a happy smile.