Not long ago I shared an interesting conversation with a man at Starbucks. He apparently overheard a portion of my conversation and realized that I was a pastor. After asking me if that was true and a few things about the church I served, he went on to share a bit of his faith and how much he liked his church. Of course, I was very interested to know what he enjoyed about his house of worship, especially since it was a larger, growing church in our area. His answer amazed me.
“I like that I can be anonymous,” he said, “It is nice to be able to slip and out on Sunday morning and not really be noticed.”
I must admit that his response was very unexpected and gave me much to think about. I wondered if that level of isolation was really what God intended. Either way, it was clear that this gentleman chose to worship in a place where the DNA allowed anonymity.
The church I serve is not that church. In fact, our DNA is significantly different. We are a church that embraces the opportunity to be family and to connect with each other and our community. As our current slogan declares, we are a place where you can, “Come in and be loved.”
Last year, I met with a couple who was considering attending our church. They shared some of their interests and asked many questions about our beliefs and activities. Near the end of our time together, the husband said, “Well, I think we will just slip in a few times and check things out before we make a decision. Will that be okay?”
I said, “No.” I could tell my response shocked him and after he recovered, he asked if I meant they could not visit before they made a decision. I smiled and explained, “Oh no, you can visit as soon and as much as you desire. What you cannot do is just slip in. Not because it is unacceptable, but rather because it is impossible to do. You see, this is a very loving church and you will not make it to your seat without someone visiting with you and bye the time you leave, many of our people will celebrate the opportunity to simply love on you. There is no way to just slip in here.” After their first visit, they made a point to tell me I was right.
Now I know, like a parent with their children, I am more than a little biased, and I also know that the congregation I serve has its own areas for growth. Yet, I celebrate that our church family makes a point of sharing the love of God actively with one another and with those who visit us. I continually remind them not to let go of this gift, but to nurture it and help it to grow even more.
The Church of Jesus Christ should be a place where everyone experiences the love of God. That involves more than hearing about God and God's love and it is certainly more than just being nice. Sharing the love of God involves receiving his love; celebrating that love in our own lives, and then giving that same love away to others. People do not need cool programs, the best PowerPoint presentation, or the biggest building. People need a personal experience with the transforming love of Jesus, and we can help them have that experience when we live authentic, loving and grace-filled lives.
We are challenged to live our lives in such a way that others will see us and give glory to God. It is a challenge worth accepting and the results are worth our commitment to it.