Jump Start # 2084
Proverbs 13:7 “There is one who pretends to be rich, but has nothing; another pretends to be poor, but has great wealth.”
Our verse today is about impressions. We form decisions and judgments based upon what we see. We’ve been told not to judge a book by it’s cover, but we do. I’ve bought books just because of the cover. Great titles, but not so great reads.
Our verse is about misleading or false impressions. A poor guy pretends to be rich. How would one do that? He’d dress sharp. Wear what appears to be expensive clothes. Today, he’d have fine looking shoes, nice watch, and certainly, the latest and greatest phone. I knew a guy like that. He always paid for lunch. He had the greatest gadgets. He fooled all of us. He lost his house and later, I helped move him from apartment to apartment, because he didn’t have anything. He sure put on a good show. Why would someone do that? Someone who is poor, yet acts like he is rich? Esteem issues. He wants to impress people. He wants others to think that he is a success. His hope and identity lies in what others think about him, rather than what the Lord thinks about him.
Impressions are important. This is why a young man, who typically doesn’t care if his shirt is ironed or his hair is combed, will spend what seems like days in front of the bathroom mirror, looking his best before he goes out on that first date. He knows if he appears like a street bum that there probably won’t be a second date. Impressions are important. There was a time when people dressed up for job interviews. I’m hearing that some show up with dirty jeans and clothes you’d wear to work in the yard for an interview for a professional job. Is it any wonder they don’t get that job? Impressions. Many modern preachers today have ditched the tie and suit for Hawaiian shirts and flip flops. They want a casual approach. Forgetting that they stand before God, they want to fit in with the crowd. Impressions. If I’m in court, I don’t want my attorney wearing a Hawaiian shirt. If I go to the funeral home, I don’t want the funeral director to greet me in flip flops. I don’t want my insurance man wearing shorts, not when we are in his office, talking insurance. Impressions.
One area that we often over look in a discussion about impressions, is what our church buildings look to a first time visitor. Most congregations hunger for new faces and visitors to show up. But they don’t realize how important impressions are. Like that young man getting ready for a date, the wrong impressions can keep first time visitors from ever returning. We can easily dismiss all of this as, “it’s just a church building, it doesn’t matter.” But it does. Dirty restaurants is all it takes for us never to return again. When on the road, finding clean bathrooms can be a real challenge.
Here are a few thoughts:
First, is the church building inviting? From the parking lot to the front door, is the impression good, warm and welcoming? This involves signage on the street, parking lot, and lights. Does it look clean and taken care of? Is the yard trashy? Is there grass growing in the parking lot? Are the times of services easy to find and up to date? Which door should a person enter? Is that well marked? Where do visitors park, in the far corner of the parking lot? Is there anyone at the door? Should a person just walk in or should they knock? We laugh at that, but visitors don’t know.
Second, is there friendly faces to greet a visitor? Walmart has them. When I’m at Walmart and I can’t find what I need, which is most times for me, I look for someone in the blue vest. Someone coming to visit your congregation for the very first time, would they know where to go once they are inside? Do they know where the classes are? Does the place seem safe? That’s a concern anymore. Do visitors have to walk around groups of people who are engaged in conversations and are ignoring the people walking in? Immediately, does a person feel welcome or do they feel like they have crashed a private party and were not invited? Impressions. I have actually seen people turn around and walk out. I went to a place to eat not too long ago. Just my wife and myself. We stood in the entry way. No one came. We heard people in the back. I walked back there and saw people seated and eating. We waited. We waited. No one ever came. We left. Not a good impression.
Third, does the insides, the entry way, seem inviting. When someone walks in, will they know where to go to worship? Are there signs up? Are there places to find information? Is it up to date, attractive and appealing to visitors? I’ve walked into some church buildings and it was like walking in someone’s basement. There were stacks of paper, Bibles and all kinds of things piled up. Junky looking. We know what it is like to have company. We clean the house. We pick things up. Impression, remember? Some how that’s forgotten in some church buildings. Have you noticed walking into a major store, like Target, how bright it is, signs pointing to bathrooms, things to catch your eye and things to make your experience comfortable, easy and welcome. Next time you go to Target, stop in the doorway and just look around. Then go back to your church building and stand in the doorway and look. Do you see differences? Impressions. A fresh coat of paint, tossing junk, cleaning up the eyesores, hanging a few signs, putting out some attractive literature, sure can change impressions.
Now, some will think, “It’s just a church building. Our emphasis is upon the Lord.” Certainly. But have you ever noticed that in the Old Testament, when we talk about the Temple, it wasn’t some storage shed made out of plywood. Gold, gold, gold. It was magnificent. Then, fast forward, to the image of Heaven. Gold street. Peal gates. Beautiful. Now, the in between time, is when we have our church buildings. What do we see? I know places that has standing water in the basement when it rains. I was at one place and the mold was so bad, I had to walk outside. I could breathe. Dirty carpets. Old curtains. Dim lights. Bathrooms that need a lot of scrubbing. It leaves the feeling, the impression, that folks do not care. If they don’t care about the place where they worship, how can they care about the Lord?
Fourth, the friendliness of the church. That’s a huge impression. Some can overlook the crude they see in the building, but they won’t forget how the people treated them. Friendly? Rude? Can you imagine being a visitor, and you don’t know where to sit, so you find a spot and sit down. Soon a couple comes in and proclaims that you are sitting in their seat. How were you to know? You weren’t given a ticket or a seat number? What are you to do? The couple is waiting on you to move. Don’t be looking for that visitor back. He’s done. Even before the first song is sung, he’s done. I have been the guest preacher at places before, and walked in and no one said a word to me. Very awkward. Very strange. And somehow, my schedule is always booked when they ask me to return. Impressions.
Make a person feel welcome. Invite them to sit with you. Don’t talk just about yourself, but don’t quiz them with a thousand questions. Don’t use that moment to correct everything doctrinally that you hear them say. Just be glad that they came. Help them to find where things are. Put yourself in their shoes.
Becoming a church that welcomes is important. In today’s world, the visitor has already check a church out on the website before they came. That right there is enough to tell whether or not they will show up on a Sunday. Keep things fresh. Put some curb appeal on the outside and the inside as well as the website. Spend some time with the church, reminding them that how they conduct themselves with visitors can be a game changer.
In the movie, Field of Dreams, the line is, “if you build it, they will come.” They may come, but if the place looks and smells like a dump, they won’t stay long.
Impressions. You want to leave the right ones. You want to put your best foot forward. So, polish that foot and make it shine and put a smile on your face and warmth in your heart. Invite folks to come, but be ready for them when they do come.
Impressions—give this some thought.