About six years ago, my wife and I left our church, hoping to find a body of believers that were in a similar life stage as us. We visited several churches, apprehensively going through the doors on Sundays and trying them out. It was a strange sensation – and uncomfortable one, as we nitpicked and wondered if these churches were right for us.
The new characters in Genshiken must feel the same awkwardness. Hato, Yajima, and Yoshitake are trying out the club, and the anxiety they feel (at the least for the latter two) is obvious. It mirrors Sasahara’s feelings of “Should I join or not?” in the very first episode of the original series.
The decision for the group is a big one, after all. This is the circle they’ll be spending time with throughout college. And in Genshiken and the other circles, you can’t be a background member. You’ll be spending time with these folks day after day and forging deep bonds with them. You’ll be preparing for and participating in events and be giving much of your youth to these people and this club. It’s a heavy commitment.
I wonder if many of us think of church in those terms. We attend, but are we committed? I remember making friends with this couple that attended our church a few years back, but eventually they left because of this specific reason: our pastor emphasized that we should all be involved, not merely attendees. They didn’t want to leap from the latter to the former.
Just as I mentioned that the Ogiue-led Genshiken should resemble a church, so should church resemble Genshiken. Simple attendance is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough.
There’s a passage in the Bible where Jesus, after the resurrection, talks to Peter, questioning the disciple about his love toward the Savior. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, and each time, Peter responds that he does, to which Jesus tells him to “feed my sheep.” There are a lot of things we can take away from this passage, particularly in context of the scene as Peter’s reinstatement after denying Christ three times, but one takeaway is this: if you say you love Christ, you’ll be all in.
In Genshiken, the members cosplay, analyze anime and manga, and go to Comiket with one another. In church, we partner with Christ in ministry. If we stay on the sidelines, attending church only for the blessing, we’re not feeding His sheep and thus, according to Christ, we are not loving him.
Instead, we’re using him.
In Genshiken, there’s no such thing as a nominal member. You can’t be halfway in. It’s the same with the church, because halfway in really means that you’re not in at all. There is no in between. If you love Him, you’ll feed his sheep.
So the question is this: are you all in…or are you all out?