Doesn’t it bug you when you have an important matter to deal with (such as a medical concern) and you’re trying to get ahold of a person who can help you, but when you call you only get an automated answering service with a sweet friendly voice telling you “We value your call. Your call is very important to us. So please stay on the line for the next 37 minutes until we can get to you, because really—you are very important to us.” I usually make some cynical remark under my breath (or maybe sometimes out loud) that if they really valued me, they would have someone available to answer my call right away. Years ago, before all the booking of flights happened online, Southwest Airlines used to stand out above the crowd because every time you called, a live person would answer after only 1 ring. Now THAT was good service, because it was personal, not automated. They didn’t just tell you you’re important, they actually treated you as important by making sure your call was answered immediately by a person who could assist you.
Being waited on by a machine bugs me, but I certainly understand the reasons why that happens. Providing personal service is very time-consuming, and oftentimes inefficient. In our quest to lower the bottom line and to get the most work done with the fewest workers, we turn to automation. That makes sense in a business, but I don’t think that should be our same mindset in the church. When it comes to building up the Body of Christ, effectiveness should win out over efficiency, and “making it personal” should be a higher goal than “making it fast.”
Especially when we consider what it takes to be a welcoming and hospitable church family, we cannot sacrifice personal connection on the altar of efficiency. Each person in our church—whether a first-time guest or a long-time member—needs to know they are valuable, not just because we tell them that in some generic way, but because we demonstrate that in the time we take to minister personally to them. It is, after all, the very inefficiency of a personal touch that makes it so meaningful.
But there is only one way for that vision to become a reality: every one of us needs to be actively involved in reaching out and caring and ministering to others in the church family. There is no way that a few pastors can provide personal ministry to everyone in the church (no matter how much we would like to do so). But if each person makes the effort to give personal attention to the needs and concerns of a few others, then it can happen.
I'm so thankful that God’s goal was higher than mere efficiency: instead of just telling us he loved us He demonstrated His love for us in this—while we were still sinners Christ died for us! We have no better example of making it personal than that!