In part 1, we considered that we have only one opportunity to make a first impression. While first impressions can be undone over time, we often don't get a second chance to demonstrate focused attention to the person right in front of us. The same is true for churches and church leaders.
Reflections for Churches:
What is the impression of those who walk in your doors for the first time? Do you give the impression that you are processing numbers (i.e., people) so that you can get to the main show? Is “checking in” at your church like checking in at the airport or a ball game? “Get these people through so that we can get the show started!”
Corporate worship is vital–you can't have a church without it! But corporate worship apart from genuine care for the people there is merely a show. It's an excercise in “mini Christian celebrity.” The people on the platform are looked at from afar, as people are drawn (or not drawn) to the personalities on the stage.
Have you given intentional thought about how to welcome and incorporate those outside your church who are just getting a first impression of your church? Corporate worship is essential, but it's not sufficient for showing love to those who are part of your church body and for showing true Christian hospitality to those who come in from the outside.
Be on the lookout for ways to actively demonstrate genuine interest and care for those who walk in. Develop a strategy for church leaders and church members to demonstrate tangible love to those who come from the outside. Think about the way you'd like to be treated and welcomed. We often greet and welcome visitors in such an awkward way that it's no surprise they feel conspicuous!
Reflections for Church Leaders:
Brothers, do you demonstrate genuine care for the people in your church? Do you wish that your sheep weren't so obstinate and difficult to work with? It may do us some good to reflect that those we serve may have the same thoughts about us!
We should seek to be where we are, to care about the person right in front of us, to demonstrate to that person that we aren't thinking about the next person in line or the next project or the next element in the order of worship.
We should give intentional time to thinking through first impressions for those outside of our church body and continuing care for those inside our church body. We should repent of impatience and a lack of care for the people right in front of us. When we mess up–or sin outright–we should be willing to repent publicly (when appropriate) and privately. While people may be drawn to celebrity from a distance, the nature of true humility is much more winsome up close than airbrushed celebrity perfection is from afar.
Don't overestimate your value to your church or to the kingdom of God. Recognize that God is doing something much greater than making you and your church look awesome. Love the person right in front of you, and trust that God will grow His church, in spite of your imperfections. He built His church for centuries without you, and He will keep building HIS church when you are gone!