By DANNY MINTON
Churches are made up of all kinds of people, people with various social status, people with a wide variety of financial stability, inherently kind-hearted people, people who worship God on Sunday and the ways of the world on Monday, spiritually strong people, people who struggle with their faith, people who are needy and asking for help and people who hurt quietly.
You can walk the halls or sit in the assembly and see people you want to be around, and others you in the back of your mind hope you won’t have to spend time with today. You hear from the complainers more often than those who sing praises for what’s happening in “church.” You hear problems from the same people over and over and enjoy the company of a select few each week.
We know all these people, and yet there is one group that is probably the most neglected in any church, especially as a congregation grows larger. You might think it’s what some think of as the “undesirables,” you know the ones people avoid or talk about when they aren’t around. Or maybe you think it’s the trouble makers; the ones who seem to keep things stirred up. But it’s actually neither of these. You’ve passed them in the hallways; you’ve sat near them in the assembly; some have probably brushed up against you or smiled at you.
Who is it? It’s the invisible people. Not physically invisible, just invisible to most people around. Ralph Ellison in a 1953 novel entitled “The Invisible Man” (not to be confused with the Sci-Fi story), when talking about a character’s place in society wrote:
“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allen Poe. Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids, and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me.”
One of my favorite stories of Jesus is John 9, and the story of the blind man. One thing that I’ve wondered happened before the story of John 9 takes place. I wonder how long the man had sat begging, but going unnoticed by the crowd. How many people had passed him by, brushed up against him or stood right in front of him talking with a friend and never noticed him sitting there? How many deaf ears were tuned out? How many eyes looked the other way? How many feet stepped on the hem of his garment? How many gates did he pass through going back and forth morning and evening without a word being spoken to him? To the majority of the city, he was simply “an invisible man.”
Churches are full of invisible people. People who slip in the door after services start and leave before it is over. People who stand around waiting for someone to notice them, then quietly leaving to be alone again or at least go somewhere where they are noticed. Part of their invisibility is their fault, they may not want to be seen or may not make themselves known. On the other hand, it is our calling as Christians to open our eyes and look for those who need to be brought into the warmth of the savior.
In John 4, Jesus tells his disciples to “open your eyes” and see the harvest that was coming toward them. Daniel prayed to God, “My God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair.”
As we sit in our pew, as we walk the hallways or as we step in or out of our car, we should open our eyes and look for the invisible people and when we see one meet them and talk with them and make them feel that they are a welcome part of the body.
The following scripture probably did not have this specifically in mind, but the thought is just as strong. I’ve personalized it in parenthesis, “for in him were all things (people) created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things (people who are) visible and things (people who are) invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things (people) have been created through him, and unto him.” Colossians 1:16
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ.